Did you hear the one about the Australians watching an American movie set in Transylvania, dubbed in Spanish while crossing the Andes? Hotel Transylvania 2 helped pass some of the 12 hour journey but as you'll see, we needed more than one movie for this leg of the journey.
This is the fifth time we have bussed across the Andes and we have all vowed that we would rather ride alpacas with our wheelie suitcases carried by well paid porters than use a bus again.
We used the night bus this time to save on a hotel room. A night bus is like a day bus but nightier. The aisles fill with arms and legs as people drift in and out of consciousness while we twist and turn up the Andes in ever tightening bends until it feels like the front and the back of the bus have changed places and you don’t know if you’re heading to Argentina or back to Chile. One man was auditioning as a sound effects provider for a Steven Spielberg movie. I can’t wait for the release of Snoring Private Ryan, at least I know the sounds are authentic.
At about 2 a.m. we arrived at aduana (immigration/border crossing) and waited in the bus for around an hour. Even in the middle of summer, the Andes are rather chilly and when you have to stand around for an hour it can be a test of endurance. Our family seemed to be the only foreigners on the bus and we were taken aside by the Argentine side of the border. After some rapid fire conversation between the border guard and our conductor, our family was pulled aside because we had not pre-paid our reciprocity fee.
It pays to do your research. Underlined three times in bold with an asterisk next to it. Five years ago, we were not asked to pay a fee. It would appear this is a new one that came out only recently. The conductor asked if we could just pay but the guard said we had to do it via the web before crossing. yes you heard me correctly you have to pay to pass but there is nowhere to pay. Internet or nothing. If you’ve ever stood at the Andes crossing, there are not many net cafés, especially ones operating predawn. There was no way for us to return to a town and organise it so the guard took Talluah into a room and proceeded to go through the process of logging on, creating an account and password by entering each person’s details one at a time and proving that she wasn’t a robot. Of course Talluah’s not a robot. A robot would use heat seeking missiles to blow up reciprocity fees and then, fly over aduana releasing a string of empanadas to keep everyone warm on the inside while they wait around for two hours in the wind, which was blowing off the snow covered Andes. We were lucky as they are within their rights to turn you away. Mrs Aduana did give the bus driver a serve saying that they should make their customers aware of any necessary visas.
We arrived at Mendoza about 90 minutes late and felt like our eyeballs were on the following bus. Not only were our bums sore but so too were our wallets from paying $US500 to enter the country. Luckily the fee lasts for a year of multiple entries. After we stowed our bags in the bus terminal we hung out at Plaza Independencia for the day. We’re off again this evening on another overnight bus to Cordoba but this time without a border crossing and with an apartment waiting for us including showers and lounges that are not park benches.