Saturday, November 27, 2004

Week 22 - "Train Somewhere in Bolivia" to Santiago, Chile

November 20-26, 2004


Finished our train ride at 7am in Villazon, Bolivia. We walked across the border into Argentina.

The border crossing at La Quiaca was a bit busy but simple. La Quiaca is 5,321km (over 3,300mi) north of Ushuaia, Argentina's southernmost town located at the extreme tip of South America - just a hop from Antarctica.

We set our watches an hour ahead then caught a bus to Salta, Argentina. From Salta, we were lucky enough to get the last two seats on an overnight bus going to Mendoza -Argentina's wine capital set at the foothills of the Andes. Had to wait a few hours for our bus - got to make a phone call to South Range to wish Kiko´s brother, Fernando, a happy 31st birthday.

Sunday and Monday - MENDOZA, ARGENTINA

Mendoza - wide avenues, many trees, great weather, tons of parks filled with people, loads of mountain climbers…a very nice and charming city. It is Argentina's major westernmost city. It is the most used base city for climbing Aconcagua (click here for a cool site on Aconcagua with photos, etc.), the highest peak in ALL of the Americas at 6,959m (22,831ft). Stayed in this hotel, Huellas Andinas, with many who were there to climb.

We were lucky enough to catch an international festival involving foods, crafts, arts, music, and dance representing the various ethnic groups present in western Argentina.


Rode a bus to Uspallata where we spent the afternoon. Hitchhiked to an amazing small town in the Andes - "through a gorge of richly colored rock, surrounded by mountains of great grandeur."

This town, Puente del Inca, has a natural bridge and hot springs. The bridge is considered one of the wonders of South America. The overpass is ochre yellow, crosses the Rio Mendoza, is 19m high, 27m wide, and has a span of 21m. It is said that sulfur-bearing hot springs formed it. It is truly amazing. Click here to see a great photo of the bridge. In this photo you will also see the hot springs that were once part of a resort. Some still use it today (first photo below), but there is a natural site nearby that is used more (second photo below).

The town itself is smaller than Copper Harbor, maybe more like Atlantic Mine, or smaller...

Puente del Inca was set in the mountains – very close to the America’s tallest peak. It is one of the base camps for mountain climbers. Here you can see a mule train with all of the gear and supplies needed for people to reach the top.

Later in the evening, we soaked in the hot springs, at night, under the moonlit sky, between all of the snow capped mountains. Absolutely fabulous! Carlos joined us, the very FIRST Brazilian we met in our 22 weeks of traveling. Carlos is blond and has blue eyes. He is not your stereotypical Brazilian at all. He lives in Santa Catarina, which is an area in southern Brasil with many Germans. He said that he and his family only speak German in the house but Portuguese outside of the home. He hitchhiked from his town in Brasil to Argentina. He is a great guy and had many stories to tell. We hope to meet up with him again someday in Brasil.

We spent the night in an old army barrack. Our room had three bunk beds that were each stacked three high.

It was very cold even snowed during the night...

Wednesday to Friday - SANTIAGO, CHILE

We said goodbye to Carlos and hitchhiked to the border with Chile...and it was snowing...

After crossing the border, we hitchhiked again to a town an hour from Santiago. Our second Brazilian that we met picked us up - a guy taking a BRAND NEW Brazilian Busscar bus to Chile. Kiko and I rode in the co-pilot seat on this Scania, never-been-used machine! The views on this leg of the trip were stunning!! Curves around snow capped mountains. Amazing!

We got dropped off an hour from our destination, and caught a bus to Santiago. My brother, Kyle, met us at the metro station…so GREAT to see him!!! So great!

Santiago is a really pretty city. Other than going out for dinner and having beers to celebrate, we have not done much in the city. It is just nice to be with my brother, talking and catching up…very relaxing. So nice to see where he has been living for the past year and a half. His apartment is in a nice and convenient neighborhood, near Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Art Museum), with many beautiful parks, fountains, and restaurants. It is also a block from the metro stop.

We met one of his friends - a girl originally from Peru who has been living in Chile for 15 years.

Next week we get to meet his Chilean host-family with whom he stayed during his first year in Santiago. Kiko decided to get a bit "cleaned up" for the occasion as we have not really had to think about that kind of stuff while on the move...

We will also get to see where Kyle works. He is employed by the United Nations, and works in the office of the high commissioner for human rights.

I am really impressed with Santiago. Truly a wonderful city!

Kyle and I found the world's fluffiest puppy...or was it a stuffed animal?...

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