Day 20 - Crossing the Andes
Crossing the Andes by bus from Argentina to Chile is a fantastic experience.
Its a seven hour journey from Mendoza to Santiago. We'd done the trip along the Alta Montana highway as far as Puente del Inca by car just a couple of days earlier, the bus trip took us on to the Los Libertadores pass, the main crossing between Argentina and Chile, and through the Cristo Redentor tunnel that cuts right through the mountain at 3, 170 metres
The ascent is quite gentle on this side of the mountains, the scenery stunning all the way as the road passes through the Upsallata Valley, past the gorgeous, multi-hued rock of the Sierra de Upsallata, past the ski resort of Los Penitentes and on to Puente del Inca with its strange sulphur-encrusted rocks and deserted hotel. Aconcagua, the Andes' highest peak, is in view for much of the way. Higher and higher, the scenery more bleakly dramatic now - the gorgeous coloured rocks of the Sierra de Uspallata far behind, all around is an icy waste of snow-streaked grey until we saw the Cristo Redentor Tunnel ahead. A 3km journey through the tunnel and we were in Chile and in for a hair-razing ride down a seemingly interminable switchback road.
Sitting in the front seat of the top deck of the bus afforded uninterrupted views all the way - great going up though rather more hair-raising on the descent - the gradient is much, much steeper on the Chilean side!