Terminal Santiago del Sur was busy on Sunday morning. We found Andesmar ticket office after asking around a bit, showed the tickets and were told that our bus is leaving from platforms 40 to 49.
The waiting space around the platforms wad packed with locals. Sitting on their packs, caring old sacks and half broken suitcases, boxes with presents for their relatives or purchases they're bringing home from the city. Most dressed very simply and modestly. Among them a few tourists, very few.
After our bus pulled in, and everyone disembarked, all the passengers lined up to get their luggage loaded. One stalky man in his 40s did all the loading and gave everyone luggage tickets. We boarded the bus and departed 15 min behind the schedule. Got on the highway and left the city. Adios Santiago.
Our seats were on the top floor, semi-reclinable and quite comfortable. It was a clear sunny day and out of the window we could see miles of almost barren landscape, hills scarcely covered in low bush. As the road winded deeper into the foothills of Andean range separating Chile and Argentina the low bush was gradually replaced by outcrops of rusty rock that were growing more and more pronounced, as if the earth was blown more and more off the face of the rock the deeper we got into the mountains. The road weaved through a deep valley surrounded by rusty black cliffs, closely following a shallow stream. Huge boulders covered the bottom of the valley and surrounding slopes.
At some point a high mountain pass blocked our way and the road cut steeply up the slope turning into a serpentine and taking the breath out of us. About 40 curves later we got out onto a highland plateau and headed straight through a valley, crossing the boarder between Chile and Argentina without any adventures. It started raining.
About 20min later we got to a large hangar built on the road. Passport control and customs. 5-6 buses in front of us, looks like we are stuck here for a while. Many got off the bus while waiting, to drink smoke and stretch. Lady sitting behind us got a Coke, it sounded like she was drowning while drinking it, loudly burping and trying to catch her breath in-between the gulps and the burps. We cleared the customs without incidents, no one got thoroughly checked, but it took over 2 hrs anyway.
The road continued running, snaking gently along the north wall of the wide valley, gradually getting lower and lower. The mountains still stood as tall on either side, but their color changed from dark volcanic to lighter brown mix of basalt and sedimentary rock. In some spots layers of rock stood almost vertically, as if marking the battles between Nazca and South American plates.
Half an hour later we were out of the mountains. The view have opened up in all the directions and we could see distant signs of civilization. Another half an hour later we arrived in Mendoza...
1. If you are booking top floor seats don't bother with front row - the window is usually covered with semi-transparent commercials so you won't see much ahead
2. Booking the low floor take the back seats - further away from the toilet 😉