Driving deeper into the sun
Trip Start Oct 06, 2010
14Trip End Dec 14, 2010
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Another backlog entry... but these bus rides are worth talking about!
We arrived in to Salta exhausted. I was kept awake by the rattling air conditioning behind the full cama seats (the expensive ones!), we could not even hear the sound on the movie (mind you in was in Spanish anyway), and when I tried to sleep the rumbling sound was penetrating through my ear plugs. It was so noisy that I had to move to the second floor of the bus to get some rest in the cheaper semi cama seats. Sam reluctantly moved with me.
...that was until the on board waiter (seriously they have a man bring food and drinks to you during the journey) decided to play Bus Bingo! The man stood right next to Sam´s seat, yelling out Spanish numbers in to a microphone (I have no idea what they call for 88, two fat ladies), the mic wire was draped over Sam´s head..
We were in sophisticated Salta for only one night, we spent the time looking around town square. It has lovely plaza-side cafés and and beautiful colonial style buildings. It’s the most touristy spot in northwest Argentina. The next morning we caught a 7am bus to Chile. We had organised our trip around doing this much talked about 10-hour bus ride from Salta in Argentina across the Andes to San Pedro de Atacama in Northern Chile. We were not disappointed, what a journey it was! There were times when we were looking out the window and thought we had been transported to another planet, as the landscapes were so surreal, so unearthly.
Enormous tree covered mountains towering over the lush green valley was the first dramatic scene we journeyed through. There was fruit orchids and quaint towns with mud brick shacks dotted along the route. So very pretty. With the introduction of cacti, we noticed the landscape becoming dryer as we passed stunning multi-coloured mountains and gigantic rocky cliffs with amazing stripes from reds, yellows and blues
As we drove higher towards the Altiplano and around the sharp turns, Sam became queasy and did not dare look out the window at the steep drop on my right. The bus slowed down as we were ascending to higher altitude quickly. At this point our heads started throbbing, we felt nauseous and struggled to breath easily. A sure sign of the high altitude! We reached a height of about 5000m above sea level before reaching the barren Altiplano. The landscape here was raw and out of this world. We glided passed beautiful white salt plains, prickly yellow scrub and blue lagoons, being watched in the distance by jagged red rock mountains.
Then in the middle of nowhere we spotted a couple of yellow sand brick buildings with tin roofs. This was passport control at the Argentine border. Incredible. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. As we were queuing outside the shack, we watched as a huge sand whirlwind was building speed in the distance. It was coming straight for us and within seconds it whipped through us - everyone covered their faces quickly and we all stood firm with our backs to the strength of the whirlwind
Spying the small spec of green in the distance of the Altiplano, we weren’t sure if it was yet another desert mirage or the little oasis of San Pedro de Atacama. The bus drove steadily down the winding road along the base of the spectacular Volcano Licancabur, skirting the border with Bolivia. We had arrived at our destination. That bus trip was probably the most spectacular we’ve ever experienced. Better than an open top bus tour around central London! The most amazing thing was the dramatic changes in the scenery throughout the entire journey. It was breathtaking.