Above the Andes (It’s Bumpy and Beautiful)

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This was actually a flight I was looking forward to: the short jump across the Andes, from Mendoza to Santiago de Chile. Yes, we are back in Chile. Don’t ask. It really wasn’t in our original plans: we were going to stay in Brazil, maybe take a side trip to Argentina. “Santiago is far!” we had said. “We take it easy this time, we stay in one place and relax.”

But we are complicated people and we tend to change our plans and do the opposite of what we said we would.

I had loved our time in Chile last year, so I was very happy to go back. But I was also looking forward to the flight itself because the idea of being a few meters above the longest continental mountain range in the world is quite appealing. You get the stunning view without the masochist experience mountaineering is to me eyes.

“Well, good thing we are leaving today!” I announced after a quick trip downstairs at the hotel. Nothing seemed open on Sunday in Mendoza and it was raining. It would have been a long day for us. Instead, we jumped into a taxi, straight to the airport, early enough for the 1 p.m. flight. Escaping 101, the luxury of backpackers.

At the airport, there was a long lineup in front of the two LAN counters, including the one for ticket purchase. “Is it always this busy?” I asked the employee who checked us in. “No, it’s just that the Mendoza-Santiago road is flooded today.” Still, I was surprised to see so many people traveling between the two countries on a regular Sunday.

There seemed to be only two destinations from Mendoza’s airport: east to Buenos Aires (waiting room full) and west to Chile (waiting room also full).

We boarded late and the plane was packed despite the fact there had been another departure for Santiago just an hour earlier. I thought it was a one-hour flight but the pilot announced 35 minutes.

Indeed, it was quick. And brutal. This was the kind of flight were the seat belt sign stays on for the entire time and no one walks around, including flight attendants (I kissed my cup of coffee goodbye…).

We took off, went through the thick layer of clouds and sped. Mark started to complain that there were no movies, Feng got dizzy and I was trying to capture the scenery. For about ten minutes, we were suspended above the mountains. Then it got bumpy again and we went down. Fast. Like, really fast.

“Holy shit!” I sighed when we touched down. “That was…”

Feng shook his head, still dizzy.

Once again, we went through the motion. Migración. Backpacks. Taxi.

Chile. Here we are. Another chapter in this trip?

Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport Aeropuerto Internacional de Mendoza

Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport Aeropuerto Internacional de Mendoza

Tunnel through the Andes, model at the airport

Tunnel through the Andes, model at the airport

Tunnel through the Andes, model at the airport

Tunnel through the Andes, model at the airport

Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport Aeropuerto Internacional de Mendoza

Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport Aeropuerto Internacional de Mendoza

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

Above the Andes, crossing to Chile

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French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

6 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    So, there is a tunnel under the Andes (and a truck in the ditch), which looks like the Channel Tunnel.
    Naturally, if the road was flooded, it was a better idea to cross the border in plane.
    I would be curious to know what kind of job a truck driver does there. Only small runs on regular routes (regional job, always in the same 1000km radius circle), or for the ones willing to do it going from north of Brazil/Peru to south of Chile/Argentina.

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