After a massive lay in yesterday, Juliet and I decided to get up and try and prebuy our bus tickets for that evening to travel to Argentina. (We also needed to buy the guys, whose apartment we’ve been living in, a present as we left their last one on the bus back from Valparaiso. It actually turned out to be a very good thing, but there were no busses to Mendoza, Argentina, that day and so we booked one for early the next morning (today). When we were back at the apartment everyone was finally awake (it was about 4pm) and so we watched the Prestige. Later the guys made us a really lovely dinner, as it was our last night, of prawn cocktail for starter and then steak and chips with lots of red wine! And it was delicious – so much better than anything Juliet and I have cooked while travelling!
This morning at 8.40am we boarded the bus to Argentina and I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up a couple of hours later I looked out the window to see we were surrounded by beautiful snow tipped hills and mountains, bright blue sky and sun streaming through the windows.
After we’d had our passports stamped and our customs forms checked for both leaving Chile and entering Argentina, we then had to get all of our bags off the bus and take them to a huge table, open. I actually tripped and fell off the bus which was so embarrassing, especially since all the men ran over to try and help, but we’re going to skim over that incident…
A couple on our bus had a huge amount of luggage, all tightly wrapped in bin liners and the man spread the bags around all the different tables, placing some behind, some underneath tables, none where him and his partner we’re standing – he was hiding them. (They also left some of their luggage on the bus) All of our suitcases then got put through a security belt while the customs men quickly looked into our hand luggage to check for fruit, he actually asked me if I had fruita but I didn’t hear properly and bizarrely I thought he said books and I replied “no but I have a kindle”… mortified for the second time! Anyways going back to the luggage couple, when the bus got searched, their other bags left on there were found and so obviously searched. The customs men then searched their bag that they had with them and one they’d hid under that table. When they were opening the bags I couldn’t tell what the problem was but someone explained it to me. Their five suitcases that had been searched all contained every single type of alpaca clothing you can think of, jumpers, scarves, hats, socks, blankets, all in bulk, some still packaged. The customs man then spotted anther suitcase hidden under our table, one under the table next to us, one behind the door, one by the bus, more, more, more, all FULL of the alpaca clothing. Basically these items are made in Peru and sold in markets in South America, the customs men said that it was impossible that all of this stuff was for personal use (obviously as they had mass packages of socks in packets as sets and more items than anyone could ever need). The customs men said it was clear that they were trying to smuggle the items through, to then sell them once they got to Argentina – apparently this is illegal – and so are making them pay tax on every single item.
It’s now 2pm, five and a half hours after we left and we’re still at the customs terminal, waiting for the luggage couple who apparently are refusing to pay. The sun is still shining through the windows, blue sky and where we’re sitting we have an amazing view down the valley of the mountains and hills – and they’re playing English films on the bus, at the moment it’s The Counsellor, so all in all it’s quite exciting and we’re very happy!
After driving round the whole city in a taxi trying to find an ATM that works so that we can pay our taxi driver, we’re finally at our hostel. It’s 6.30pm. Whoever said the bus journey is between four and seven hours probably needed to add the two numbers together, but we’re here and we’re organised! What an eventful day.