It was an early wakeup at 6 AM. Ugh. Another early bus ride to another foreign country and after all that fun of paragliding, but oh well. That was life. What can you do about it? Whine and complain? Want some cheese with that whine? No, that wasn’t going to help at all. Just suck it up and drive on. But hey, no sweat. No problems except expecting a 6 hour bus drive from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile along with spending an hour or two at the border crossing for customs and paperwork. But wow, the view was exceptional going into Chile in that mountain pass along with some weaving roads that reminded me of coming down from Machu Picchu.
But it was that long border crossing that required a long wait to get into the country of Chile that was the long part. The worst part was going on a bus so that meant everyone and their luggage got checked via x-ray with some random checks of suitcases and bags as Chile has a strict importation of any kind of contraband that included certain plants and animal products. The country is very protective of its agriculture, ecology, and livelihood of its country as it has one of the better economies in Latin America. Chile is even considered to be stronger economically than its next door neighbor, Argentina despite its smaller size.
One funny thing happened while we were going through customs. Karen and I didn’t have any problems with the border officials which was probably due to the fact we came from Westernized countries (Australia and USA). It was Lupe who had some problems. I remembered I got my passport back and was waiting for Lupe to be finished so we could grab our bags (since they were grouped together) in case customs wanted to see them. Well, I watched Lupe and the border official speaking in Spanish where I understood the entire conservation that he was not going to let her in the country, probably because she was Peruvian. I was thinking, “great, Lupe was going to get detained at the border while Karen and I go on without her.” I don’t know why he was giving her a hard time (and the Thai guy who went before her) but apparently, if you were from a non-Western country, Chilean officials would be more cautious in that matter. Eventually, Lupe got her entrance granted but it was just funny to see the whole fiasco go off. Apparently, there’s quite a bit of racism that occurs in South America but it only happens within the people themselves. For example, it would be Bolivians being harassed in Argentina or Cubans in Ecuador or Paraguayans in Chile. Thank god, I have a US passport and I look like I’m Westernized because otherwise I’d probably get harassed myself for giving this impression that I was a poor person looking for work or something. Oh well, off to the bags for customs.
And as luck had it at customs, I happened to be one of the un-lucky ones that got the bags checked and the border guards took a look at my backpack and found something interesting. I was initially worried about my packaged coffee from Panama and Ecuador that I was carrying as gifts for my friends but instead, the customs official wanted to look at something else – my vitamins. I got my vitamins from GNC back home in the US and they were packaged in these vita-paks which one pack meant one day’s worth of vitamins and supplements. I could see why they looked weird as the guard showed me on the x-ray and asked what they were. I told him what they were which he responded if he could see them. No problem. Just show them what they want and poof! No problems. That’s exactly what I did, showing him my non-contraband and I was allowed to pass. Once everyone got checked and the bus got searched, all the luggage and passengers could go back on the bus, all of us were on our merry way. We’re now in Chile!
I could see it was pretty dry at some places and even cloudy on the Chilean side for some reason. But it was going into Santiago that I could see the pollution of smog that would be a big concern. Due to its location, Santiago has a difficult problem with its pollution as the winds have nowhere to go to push it out. But the bigger problem was that the winds could not get into the city in the first place meaning the pollution was going nowhere. Upon checking into the hostel, I decided to look around for a bit before going back to sleep as any long ride in any vehicle tend to make me tired.
There were definitely some interesting things to see in this city.
But it wasn’t until the next day that I was going to see what each interesting building or point meant as I signed up to go on a walking tour of the city itself, mainly concentrated on downtown. This also meant the end of the first leg of the Intrepid trip as 6 more people would come on board for more of Chile and Argentina.
One more thing that I have to add-on about Chile is that their empanadas are much bigger than Argentina’s. An empanada is kind of like a burrito and contains inside either a mix of various types of meat and vegetables. They’re best when they’re served hot and the ones in Argentina are bite-sized ones but Chile takes it to the next level and made them big.