Crossing The Andes
Crossing The Andes

We got up at 4:45 am, cold and tired, having slept barely a few hours. We packed in the dark. I brushed my teeth quickly and decided to skip washing my face with some expensive French product, for once. The water was freezing and of course, no hot water.

We got to the bus station sleepy and cranky. Once the “use of bus terminal” fee paid, we had just enough bolivianos for a bottle of water. We boarded the bus, still dark outside, leaving La Paz behind us. Crossing the Andes, again, to Chile.

I was wearing pretty much all of my clothes: thick socks, pants, a tee shirt, a sweater, the jacket I bought in Perú (which, according to Feng, makes me look like a “biker chick”), and a scarf I bought in Bolivia. I put the sweater’s hood on and adjust my Ipod headphones, in a desperate attempt to block the noise from outside. I must have looked like a moody teen.

The bus climbed in the mountains. La Paz is already almost 4,000 meters above sea level, and we were going higher. We passed through dirty suburbs, houses half destroyed or half built, dirt roads, people sleeping in the streets. The sun rose above the mountains.

We entered Bolivia’s highlands, dry and dramatic scenery. A few patches of grass here and there and miles and miles of flat land. In the background, huge volcanoes, above 6,000 meters high, their snowy peaks contrasting with the crisp blue sky. Amazing. Lamas, flamingoes, volcanoes, more flat land, and not a single village to be seen.

We reached the Bolivian border after a few hours and everybody got off the bus. We were under strict instruction to not bring any drug (duh) and fruits and veggies to Chile, as the bus co-pilot repeated many times. “Nothing animal or vegetal”, he started yelling in the bus, a few kilometers before the border. Everybody nodded, but suddenly, many passengers were opening their bags and discovering mate de coca, coca leaves, weird leaves mixtures etc. It took forever to clear them. We just waited in line, to get our exit stamp from Bolivia.

We drove a few more kilometers and reached the Chilean border. What a scenery! The border crossing is almost 5,000 meters above sea level, with mountains and volcanoes in the background. We left our backpacks with the police (searched for drugs), got our Chilean entry stamp, we back for the bags, X-ray, some more searches and finally we were able to go take pictures.

We were on top of the Andes… and now, we had to go down. Arica, our first stop in Chile, is an oasis in the middle of the desert, close to the Pacific Ocean. It took over 6 hours to finally be a sea level, 6 hours of closing our eyes as the driver, probably tired, was pushing the bus to its limits, each time closer to the cliff. The road was extremely narrow and we feared we would not make it.

Of course, we did. And sweaty, tired, and hungry, we arrived in Arica, our first Chilean city.

Two Volcanoes
Two Volcanoes

Dry Land At 4,800 Meters
Dry Land At 4,800 Meters

Bolivian Border
Bolivian Border

Arriving In Chile
Arriving In Chile

Volcanoes And Snowy Peaks
Volcanoes And Snowy Peaks

Flamingoes In The Lakes
Flamingoes In The Lakes
 

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14 Comments

  1. Larry Gambone January 23, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Great! You are in Chile. Hope you can go to San Pedro de Atacama. We were there in 1998.

    Reply
  2. Bluefish January 23, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Beautiful place! I envy you~

    Reply
  3. Sidney January 23, 2009 at 3:41 am

    The bus looks OK 🙂
    You and your companion look OK 🙂
    The landscape is breathtaking !
    Enjoy the journey !

    Reply
  4. Khengsiong January 23, 2009 at 4:43 am

    The scenery is great!
    Of course, it takes a good photographer to capture the scenes 😉

    But I can’t see the flamingos.

    Reply
  5. Brenda January 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Wow, it’s stunning!! I love your description of the bus ride. Stay safe, have a great time!!

    Reply
  6. Zhu January 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    @Larry Gambone – We took another route actually… the landscape we had in Boivia is pretty much the same as in San Pedro, so we figured we would experience something different.

    @Bluefish – I sent you an email, not sure you got it… connexion is a bit weird here.

    @Sidney – Yes, the bus was fine… at least the outside! 😆 The inside is a bit more rundown.

    @Khengsiong – The flamingoes are in the water. They are quite small… I will upload the larger pictures on Flickr as soon as I get a good internet connexion 🙂

    @Brenda – Defibitely the best border crossing ever. The most scenic one.

    Reply
  7. Agnes January 23, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    My goodness these pictures are breathtaking! You guys are so lucky!! 😀

    Reply
  8. kyh January 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Wow… The Andes up close! The volcanoes are a sight to behold, ain’t it? 😉

    Chile is a beautiful country. It has deserts, mountains, and the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. I wish I could vsit there some day!

    Reply
  9. barbara January 24, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Salut Zhu,

    This road trip is something that you have to merit, it seems to me.But, I think that it was worth it . It’s amazing to hear about the scenery you go through.
    I think that few people travel and go both above and below sea level in a same trip !
    Gorgeous volcanoes… I just love “les neiges eternenelles” 🙂

    Keep on going strong.
    Bises

    Reply
  10. DianeCA January 24, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Boy the security is really tight there, glad you got your camera in!! They must be protecting the beauty. Sounds like an amazing trip.

    Reply
  11. Zhu January 25, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    @Agnes – This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been!

    @kyh – Chile, as well as Bolivia and Argentina, has just about every season and every kind of lanscape. Makes it really unique.

    @barbara – It is quite unique! We crossed the Andes many times, and will cross them more in the future. Beautiful mountains… but twisty ride!

    @DianeCA – I can understand though, drugs are everywhere… sadly. Chileans are also concerned with food disease.

    Reply
  12. Gail at Large January 26, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Flamingos, lakes, and mountains in the same photo? I so wish I was there!

    Reply
  13. Max Coutinho January 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Chile is beautiful! But it looks cold as hell! Hell no!!

    You guys look great! 😀

    Cheers

    Reply
  14. Adem January 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

    That first photo is absolutely amazing. I’m looking to get into my photography a little more and things liek this always give me great inspriration…. Now if only there was something like that near me as I doubt I’m going to get to the Andes anytime soon.

    Reply

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