The Road from Heaven and on up to Hell

29 Apr 2004 12:58 pm

Road from Salta to San Pedro

Buses from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile leave only at 6 am. L I we had a big asado (BBQ) at the hostel the night before and I only got to bed at 4:30. With just 1 hour of sleep, I boarded my deluxe semi-cama sleeper bus for the 10 hour trip to San Pedro. Wow! No travelers told me how beautiful this route is. At Purmamarca we turned off the main highway and onto a newly paved road for a windy trip over the Andes to Chile. By far the most beautiful high desert scenery I’ve ever seen. Huge vistas of mountains, salt lakes, shallow rivers, guanaco (the local deer), horses, mules and cattle grazing in the multicolored mountains.

We went up and up and up for hours and hours and hours and the trip just wouldn’t end. We were winding in and out of mountain passes at about 14,000 feet. I suffered two headaches that felt as thick as the mountains we passed. One from excess wine the night before and the other from altitude. I really had to pee but the bathroom was occupied for hours by people getting sick from the altitude. What began as the most beautiful ride of my life turned to the ride from hell. At about 4 pm we arrived at Argentine customs. It took 2 hours to process our bus. The elevation was taking it’s toll. One woman suffering terribly from the altitude was given oxygen. After two hours standing around in Argentine immigration we piled back into the bus for more off-roading through no mans land between Argentina and Chile. The landscape was even more beautiful but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open – I felt like shit. FINALLY we arrived at Chilean immigration which also turned out to be the town of San Pedro, yeah! I was one of the first to be processed and then I walked the rest of the way to town with two new Swiss friends. We found a really shit hostel, took several asprin and went to bed.

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