It all started with a visa run.
Natasha had to leave Chile to re-new her visa. Quick two day trip into Argentina was the plan, and I decided to tag along to keep her company and to see the beauty of Mendoza.
We left Valparaiso early Tuesday morning. The road to Los Andes,the last major town to get to the border, was beautiful. Snow caped Andes looked over us from a distance, and the trees had autumnal colours dressing them. A chill, but somehow delightful wind hit us as we stepped off the bus. Since neither one of us is loaded with money, we decided it would be an adventure to…. hitchhike to Argentina.
So we did. Patiently waiting by the road for someone to pick us up, we laughed and admired the scenery around us. The total of 48km awaited us to reach the border. Car nr.1 stopped after a good 40 minutes. A lovely man named Juan gave us a lift for a good 15 of them. We still had ways to go, so the thumbs went up in the air again, and shortly car nr.2 took pity on us. Felipe drove us for about 10km before stopping as he had to take a turn to go home. The sun was slowly setting and painting the Andes with pink tones when we managed to hitch a ride on a public bus for free. That let us off at the last gas station before the border crossing. We then persuaded Victoriano and Ivan, two chileans going to Argentina for work to take us. We were incredibly lucky that they took us all the way to Mendoza, stopping at a proper Argentinian steakhouse along the way. God, meat is good.
Mendoza was all about buying loads of mate, Fernet, cheap tobacco, toothpaste (the last one in Chile is irrationally expensive, okay?!) and exploring a small fraction of the charming city. It was then time to turn around and head back to Chile. This is where the locura (madness) began.
We walked all the way to the highway to start hitchhiking back. After playing Frogger for a good 10 min in the middle of traffic and realizing we had no chance of crossing to the opposite side of the road without getting run over, we had to walk another half hour find a safe spot to cross. It took us two cars, one truck and one very creepy van driver to make our way back to Uspallata, the last town before the mountain pass. It was here where we learnt that…the pass has just recently closed due to a severe snow storm in the Andes. Bueno.
After swearing for abit in English, Spanish and Lithuanian, we decided on a place to spend the night, with hope that the border control will open tomorrow. We walked the next morning to the nearest truck control point, only to be met by a friendly border officer telling us the pass is still closed. There was nothing left to do, but walk back to Uspallata, drink hot drinks, pet stray dogs and wait. We also encountered Victoriano and Ivan again, that too couldn’t make it pass to Chile, so at least we all had each other.
We hadn’t lost hope that the passage might open up later in the day. The sun was shinning stronger than ever, and crystal clear blue skies made everything seem possible.
At about 3pm we received the fantastic news that they had just opened the crossing. All four of us took of, driving down the twisty roads through the magnificent scenery of the Andean valleys and mountains. We arrived at the first control stop just 30min away from Chile. Now, I have a slight eye infection, which kind of makes it seem like I’ve done nothing but smoke weed for the past week. The control official asked me that exact question as he searched my bag and stared with suspicion at all the visas in my passport. But we were set free after a while and continued our journey up the mountains.
We were greeted with chill winds, snow, and the most beautiful sunset over the mountain scenery as we arrived at the border control. The sun was casting a golden honey like glow on the icy Andes, making the scene even more magical by painting the few clouds that were around us purple. The coldness of the air going straight into my lungs felt heavenly.
After another 5 hours we managed to get back to Valpo. Our entire family greeted us with hugs, more so than anything because they knew we brought them about 3kg of mate and Fernet. Ah, it’s good to be back home.