or how not to try to go to Chile
12.07.2008 - 15.07.2008 23 °C
So you will see from the map included above that we went to Chile... the map lies. It's not that we didn't try to go to Chile, but rather that our attempts were unsuccessful, finding us instead shivering around a tiny village asking anything that moved if it could provide us with accommodation for the night..
To go to Chile, one must cross the Andes, and during winter the border is closed after rather-early-o'clock.. and so our first failure in our grand Chile adventure was somewhat our own fault - oversleeping and a lingering lunch, to be exact - and we arrived at the bus station 15 minutes after the last bus left for the border. We spent several hours debating whether to have a go or not, and in the end settled for a bus halfway to the border, a little town called Uspallata. Upon arrival, it turned out that Uspallata is something of a ski resort, and that Argentinos are on holiday, so we had a nightmare finding a place to stay, and marched from hostal to hotel to hostal willing to pay anything to escape from the cold. We even started asking in shops, and one shop directed us to a Farmacia, who in turn directed us to a ski-hire place, where help was finally had in the form of Belen, an Argentina girl about my age from Buenos Aires. We had a lovely warm room for the night in the ski company's little hostel, thankfully, and when we woke early for breakfast we finally saw Uspallata's surroundings - the Andes at their best, dramatic rocks, covered in snow and glowing pink from the sunrise. Belen walked us to the bus station, where our second Chile failure took place - overnight snowfall had closed the mountain pass where border formalities take place, no buses to Chile. Fate had said her piece, and so we decided to go for a walk outside Uspallata instead, taking in the dramatic scenery and attempting to capture it all on camera. We walked a good 2 hours in the direction of the border, and passed a parking area in the middle of nowhere just off the road where buses and cars were waiting for the border to open, the inhabitants of the vehicles looking bored and anxious. We figured that Chile might not have been such a good idea after all - what if the border closure had taken place on our return, making us miss our bus to Buenos Aires, and perhaps even our flight home...
Anyway, we returned for lunch, and eventually back to Mendoza. Oh, and another novel piece of trivia for you - parts of the Brad Pitt film 'Seven years in Tibet' was shot in Uspallata. Random eh?
So here I am in Buenos Aires, only days away from my return home, both eager to see family and friends, and also really sad to say goodbye once again to Latin America.
Today we took part in Argentina's national sport: protesting. Argentinos protest with vigour and style, and today thousands turned out to support the President, Cristina Fernandez de la Kirchener in her ongoing battle with the Ruralistas - farming giants. The show-down has resulted from an export tax intended to redistribute wealth and ensure food availability in Argentina, in the face of a global food shortage. The ruralistas say that the taxes will hurt poor farmers (the ruralistas are billionaires, and the poor farmers are in support of the taxes), but I think it's more about the fact that their exports can make more money abroad than they could in Argentina. That said, the redistribution of wealth promised by CFK's government has yet to materialise..
All the same, banner in one hand and camera in the other we joined the masses, who were beating funky drum rhythms, waving images of Che and letting off ear-splitting banger things into the air. When in Rome.. right?
Later on I dropped my card down a slot in the cash machine. Not the slot one is supposed to put the card in, but another one. I know, a really special moment, and after a moment of 'oh.my.god', Lucy managed to pull back a layer of plastic to allow me to retrieve it, my hand emerging triumphant card in hand and covered in machinery grease. I do wonder at myself sometimes, really I do.
Fortunately the weather has picked up dramatically, and right now it's a slightly humid 23 degrees C.. much better than the rainy 0 degrees I experienced back in May/June..
So, until what will probably be the last blog.. Chao