A Travellerspoint blog

Crossing the Andes back into Argentina

sunny 20 °C
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Today is another big day, since the whole reason why we used a travel agency for this part of the trip was not to get stuck in San pedro because something might not workout with th bus transfer to salta.

The public bus is crossing the mountains, 3 times a week, for which one is in need of a ticket in advance.  The hotel reception had handed us a letter with the reservations codes, which we were supposed to exchange into tickets on the day in their office.  No problem, the reception said, since it's a five minute walk... Now, we didn't plan to walk to the office in the morning with all our luggage, an then searching the bus, so I was agreed we were taken to the office, fetching the tickets, and then driven to the bus.  Now, on the day, the office when we arrived their was closed, and opened not earlier than 15min before the bus was supposed to arrive, somewhere else in the village.  Now, the driver got nervous and us as well, when the lady arrived who opened the office, switched in th computer, and couldn't print the tickets.  She also tried to make some calls, but only managed to deconstruct her mobile, but was also nicely telling us, tranquillo ... Tranquillo,  will get the bus, as the bus will stop by the office anyway !?!, and then she will tell the driver.  The hotel had sent meanwhile another driver to the busstop, to hold the bus, since they really wanted to have us leaving, no doubt. Even the hotel manager came to the office to manage the situation, very kind, we were kind of famous at that time, keeping half the hotel stuff busy with driving, translating, or searching the Internet for information on the buscompany (Pullman).  But all went well, the bus came, and we headed of to the official passenger collection point, where we arrived, the chauffeur driven couple, among 20 or more people with backpacks only.  

We were the last to board, since we were getting off earlier than the rest in purmamarca, after allegedly 5 hours drive, ... We saw us already in the pool by 5pm... 

The bus left, with us, and we were happy, sitting upstairs, first row, panoramic view, not much space for neither legs, or bags, but it's only a short drive....

The bus stopped 5 min later at the border control, the chilenean boarder itself is 200 km away, but the control is in San Pedro.  All deboarding, queuing, getting a stamp, and then we drive on, finally leaving San Pedro behind us.

It goes steep up the mountains, gorgeous views, snow capped mountains, reddish earth, nearly no vegetation, and within an hour we're on 4000 m.  The pictures tell what we see, the road goes meander like through the high plateau for nearly 2 hours up to the Argentinian border, where the bus stops first.

We are not the only one in the bus queue, and later than probably expected, since we left a little late.  It takes 2 hours, the control at the Entrada, first the stamp, and then the whole luggage scanned, the bus emptied completely, it's an ordeal, we experience it now for the second time, some other travellers for the n-th time, but everybody quite kind and calm, aside from some French who didn't understand to take their handluggage out, and suddenly saw it thrown out on the street in the sand.  

We board again, hopefully last time, and drive on.  It's another 4 hours to Purmamarca, and we're unlikely there before 8pm, which makes this a 12 hours travelday. 

But the views are still amazing, we pass through more valleys, see higher mountains, and finally reach the highest spot of the pass at 4800m, from which I goes down within 20km to the village at 2500m.  The serpentines wont end, it starts above the clouds, goes through them, and at around. 3500m we're below the again.  It really pays sitting in the front on a double decker bus, left side, so to say in each curve, we're above the cliff.  Slobodan tries to make some movies on the iPhone, but gets so dizzy, that he stops ... It's an experience ... Sometimes the hairneedle bends are covers in wet pebbles, which adds to our excitement, but we trust the driver, there is anyway nothing else to be down, then shaking...

After another hour, we had earlier wondered why the last 20km as indicated on the road should take 60 min, but now we know, anyway we reach the village, jump off the bus, with our our luggage, and unexpectedly, a driver pops up out of nowhere greeting us and taking us to the hotel, 1min back the main road from Purmamarca.

We inspect the room, since we're in the cheap section of the hotel, the is only a little window to be opened, but a nice view into the mountains, and we get feeling of having reached a different, not that touristic, more by locals driven hotel.  To our delight, they don't speak English, and our marginal English skills get us to their diner tables, as well around the hotel, since they were supposed to have a lovely pool.

We try Tamal as a starter, which is a mix of quinoa, corn flour, wrapped in a corn plants leaf and some lamb grilled on rice.  Slobodan has the natural vegetarian dish, some noodles, but our verdict isn't too good, so we plan to go into the village the next evening, after our planned excursion.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 08:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

El Tatio geysers

sunny 29 °C
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Early wake up call, 4:30, since today the highlight of the atacama desert, which is actually not in the desert, is on the agenda: El Tatio geysers.  The tour starts bumpy, four guest, a guide, and the driver in one vehicle, as everyday.  We're asked to sleep for the first hour, since it's dark anyway.

Slobodan hates the bumpy ride.  The road is really muddy, washed away from floods of water during the last rain, a few days ago, some diversions are inevitable.  Two times, I thought the car would get stuck in the floods of water around us, but the driver managed, and we also didn't really feel asleep.  After 2 hours driving, horrible for slobodan, we arrive at the geysers.  The sun just tries to get over the mountains, which are >6000m high here, since we're on 4300m now, it's quite windy, very cold, and we see in the distance some smoke like silhouettes appearing from the ground.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 10:29 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Atacam: atiplanico lakes

sunny 28 °C
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The first time to go above 4000m is today, so we need to be prepared ... UploadedFile2.jpg ... I'm the only one not taking it, out of the group of six today, two Brasilienos, two French, and us. The street is spiralling up to a beautiful lake/mountain association, I haven't seen before. It's a magical place, and as everyday, the driver and the guide prepare lunch, outside, while we stroll around the lake. The French girls get lost with flamingos, and since we're all a little dizzy, the focus is not on the food, but rather on inhaling the landscape.

After an hour we're driving back 50km, and after passing some more lamas, we turn up again to the highest point, the xxx lakes, which were 1 Mio year ago only one, but one of the many Vulcan eruptions have separated them into to, only dinosaur could have enjoyed not climbing from one to the other. The weather is changing, clouds appear, even some drops of rain. The drivers getting nervous, so we head back the 100km to San pedro.

Since we both don't feel too well today, might be the altitude, or the food at the hotel, who knows, we have some light dinner and head to bed, since start tomorrow is very early, 4:30am.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 10:21 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Down the sea and up the elevators

sunny 28 °C
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Fish is the theme of the day, since we're now in search of the fish market again. The first one so rundown we didn't see the fish, the second one demolished by the last earthquake 7 years ago, and now in search of the last and biggest one on the way to viña del mar. But not quite there probably because the rich and fancy from viña want to get the impression of an exciting excursion to Valpo since they don't have that in viña... A concrete construction by the see, see lions (!) in front of it in the water, not much fish around anymore, but 5 restaurants to choose from. We like the one with the sodden tables, again not the recommendation of the hotel, and find a table next to 6 older ladies being entertained by a man with guitar, and soon another table, of 6 young man, identifying us quickly, as of their colour, but to shy to start a conversation. We enjoy the seafood, Slobodan his shellfish (!!), and soon we head back to valpo in search of the obligatory coffee. Driving to Bellavista, which we learned must have been a hort of resistance during the Pinochet times, and also should hold some coffee shops. We walk up and down the lovely road, UploadedFile3.jpg, matching the colours partly, and finally find an upstairs coffee, with a wonderful small terrace overlooking the whole harbour. The coffee is basic, and the coke gets some chocolate to look more fancy, but we can't complain, having that view.

It's time to head back since we leave tomorrow, and the luggage arrangements will take some time, since departure is already at 5am to Santiago airport.

But first, after all the walking, we need some food and head into conception again, another of those many alternative places, a bistro type of institution, with a Dutch/American serving us a sandwich, after a real coffee, without a view. And as so often, only foreigners in the place, some of the, knowing each other already, either because they take the same routes through South America, or trying to survive in Valpo.

Anyway, we pack shortly afterwards and fall to sleep, last time in our room with a window AND a view.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 16:00 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Valpo second day

Exploring the city

29 °C
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It's hot, since the room has huge windows, with no withstanding curtains, and is going east, the sun cuts merciless through the blinds, and heats up the room and us in less than 20 min.  After having breakfast we head into town, exploring the hill we've seen only in the dark, and then down from Paso Jugoslavo, passing a closed museum, and the closed main passage towards a small staircase holding a few guys, which make Slobodan waiting impatiently for me, me foto opportunities not wanting to miss, but also trying to grasp why people trying to life here on the steep hill site, in quite strenuous conditions, considering that everything needs to be carried by hand, probably even water in the past.

We get to that main square eventually identifying easily the three buildings which need to be fotographed, and start searching a coffee.  The 3 building are the finance ministry, partly demolished,at least closed, but an Art Deco structure from the 20th, a Bauhaus shaped building containing now a Centro Cultoral, and the military head quarter, the latter the only one lovely maintained.  And then there is the Potemkin facade of the recently reopened xxx hotel.  We don't dare to leave the Soto Mayor square towards the east, looking for a coffee shop, on the square we study the few art journals to see what's currently ongoing in chile, but it's more the international art being advertised, Leonardo in London, some Matta in Santiago we have missed.

As said we're not up for the shabby part, the most original obviously yet, so we follow the more modern squared layout of the lower part of the town. You feel the town had some good times, we went into the burse which is still open, but contains only some screens presenting the up and down, an older gentlemn trying to convince us that business is still ongoing. We leave, and find around the corner the first of those funny elevators which can bring you up the hill. But we're now in search of some food, and end up in the heat on the next square which offers the most famous chilenean ice parlours, and some places to eat. But since we're late for the chilenean lunch times we get only a risotto/paella mix, and head of for the ice parlour, not before having looked at all their historical books,

Posted by LutzAndBobo 15:20 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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