‘Paso de Mendoza es cerrado!’ These few little words put to bed our first attempt to cross from Santiago into Mendoza. We needed to cross the Andes and as the pass had experienced its first heavy snowfall for the season, it was closed until further notice.
And so we were stranded at the bus stop. It was 8am on a major public holiday in Santiago (May 1). The streets were dead, aside from a heavy police presence, and we had no idea what to do. Mendoza was a must visit for John and I, as we’d been talking about visiting ever since we’d arrived in Argentina almost 6 months ago. And it was even more of a must go for Erin and Craig, as they were flying out of Mendoza in 5 days time. With no other way to get there, we decided to cross our fingers and hope the snow would have cleared in a couple of days time, so we could at least spend our last few days together in Mendoza.
First things first, we were currently homeless and needed a place to stay. Crossing our fingers, we messaged our contact in town – a lovely lady called Doris, who we had rented our Santiago apartment through. In the 10 days or so we stayed in Santiago, it became a joke that Doris was my new best friend, as we messaged each other a couple of times a day. She liked to touch base with us to check everything was OK, and I liked the opportunity to practice my Spanish. My Santiago BFF didn’t let us down, despite how early it was, within the hour she’d sorted us out another apartment in the same building which was now starting to feel like home.
In the end, we arrived back where we’d started 5 hours after we’d left. Exhausted and frustrated at how the morning had panned out, we were a bit concerned about supplies, with nothing at all open due to the public holiday. We were sorted for food as we had the snacks we’d bought for the bus ride, but more important than food, we needed wine after our stressful morning.
After an unsuccessful scouting mission around town by the boys, the building concierge told us there was a place open selling wine just around the corner. It sounded too good to be true, so we tried not to get our hopes up. We found the shop and seeing the shutters down outside felt our hopes dashed, until we peered inside. We were in luck – there were signs of life (and wine)! Feeling like we were purchasing alcohol during the prohibition, we made the exchange through a small gap underneath the shutter. Feeling pretty pleased with our luck, we headed back to apartment to settle in and relax for the afternoon.
We spent the next few days doing not much at all – and it was fabulous. We finally launched this blog, we read books, watched movies and played cards. There might have even been a Pitch Perfect sing-along/drinking game in there somewhere.
2 days later we headed to the bus stop to try again. This time we had more luck, but we were leaving with mixed feelings. We were excited to be finally headed to Mendoza, but also sad that our time traveling with Erin and Craig was coming to an end.
The journey from Santiago to Mendoza deserves a special mention, not because we actually made it across, but because it must be one of the most beautiful journeys in the world. The drive takes you high up across the Andes through some of the most picturesque mountain scenery I’d ever seen, with the recent snowfall only increasing the beauty of the mountains.
With stunning scenery in all directions, the bus slowly made its way up and down the many switchbacks and winding roads, while we gazed out the windows at the snow covered mountains towering above us and sheer drops below.
But with the highs, there is usually also the lows. And in our case, we then reached customs.
At this point in our trip we’d crossed the border between Chile and Argentina 5 or 6 times, each time we’d crossed quickly and efficiently without issue and we thought this crossing would be the same. We were wrong. It took over 3 hours to pass through customs, where it was like everything was done in slow motion. We don’t why things were so slow but whatever the reason for the delay, we were eventually given another stamp into Argentina and were finally on route to one of the worlds best-known wine regions. Better late than never!