A 30 passenger, VW bus took us across the Snow covered Andies today, the first time since arr in S Am. We have seen snow in Andies...all other times were mtns w/ ice largely. Left at 9 am, sunny and cool...the aftermath of fierce storm (they call it a zonda wind) which closed the 3200 mtr pass yesterday. The agency bus is O'Higgins Intl., nice Latin Am name don't you think?! Reached top of pass about noon after waiting in the 3.7 km long tunnel for over an hour due to backed up traffic on Chile side. Once thru we encountered a single lane (due to snow/construction/both?) which explains the wait...trucks, buses, cars...over 40 of them lined up to enter tunnel towards Argentina side. Our driver, who has been driving this pass since 1980, said this was due to the shut down yesterday which backed up traffic.
Once we arr at the actual border crossing it didn't help that the staff took lunch in the middle of this jam up (see pics), also a huge number (10+) of tractor trailers hauling majorly big, new Hyundai excavating equipment was heading into Argentina as well! Lots of traffic to say the very least...our busiest border yet on this trip! The snow was awesome, I see why they had to close the pass yesterday. Great scenic vistas on both sides (see pics) altho we did not arr in Santiago until past 6pm, more than 3 hours late! Sat in a McDs to decide on ON places to call, ended up in Terra Extremus Hostel, very friendly Mario, at desk helped make our decision but also having a 'get south' guidebook w/ 10% discount also was a
Sleep in, late start...some discontent since we were supposed to get info and make plans for Easter I. and rest
of itinerary and since Bon's been a bit under the weather nada.
By noon we had not really accomplished anything, hostel folks don't have any info, tour agency we were hoping would help was out of business and so we headed directly to LAN airlines (only one that goes to Easter I). Luckily, the Metro system here is very good so getting around is easy and not too pricey. Sure enuf, by 2 pm we had tickets but not for this month as we had expected to. No availability for 4 of us from now until first week in Jan except business class which are very pricey! Tickets are for the 10th thru the 16th of Jan. so we can now set down/fill out the rest of our itinerary such as it is until then.
We 'celebrated' by going to a half price movie...kind of dumb one with Robt Downey Jr, title was in Spanish so can't remember the English one, like all of them the literal translation makes no sense. Finished the day touring city center, plaza de armas and an hermitage turned fort turned park/art museum. Also bought tickets for La Serena up N. of here leaving on 12th.