Tornado Tour of South America – Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil
A scenic and at times nerve-racking El Rapido bus from Mendoza to Santiago through the Andes with a border crossing at Los Libertadores.
After a tour of Mendoza, a friend and I set off on a 6 hour bus journey to Santiago, Chile. With tickets purchased online a night in advance and passports in hand, we were set for the ride. The whole journey costs 338 Argentine pesos (~$41.50 or less with the blue rate).
From Mendoza’s main bus terminal we boarded the yellow El Rapido bus after dropping off our luggage in the belly of the beast.
We had great seats in the second row of the second floor right in front of the stairs, meaning we could lean our seats back as much as we wanted.
The bus left on time at 1 p.m. and we were on our way.
Passing through the city center, we were soon surrounded by large vineyards on both sides of the bus. The large plots of land support the wine industry of the area.
Soon we entered the Andes mountain range. New snow capped peaks appeared around every corner. The scenery was as beautiful as I had imagined and reminiscent of my bus ride from Puno to Chivay.
As I was busy snapping away at the scenery, the ride seemed pretty quick and we were at the state line before we knew it.
Los Libertadores Border Crossing
Arriving at the border, we all disembarked the bus and waited around for instructions. Passengers sat for a smoke, took pictures of the mountains and bought food from the small shops. We also purchased a bland ham sandwich.
Soon we were instructed to line up and go through Argentina’s immigration. After that, we lined up to go through Chile’s immigration at the next window. They actually were asking to tourists to show proof of onward travel which we luckily had. Some other tourists had to go print a ticket out which seemed like a real hassle.
Then we got back on the bus to drive ten feet, before we had to get off again with our bags. We went into this room and stood in two lines as they randomly picked people to go through their luggage. Most bags were put through the X-ray machine.
It was an awkward process to say the least. Overall the process took about 45 minutes to an hour. Slow but not nearly as bad as some other land border crossings (like Paso Canoas in Panama).
Eventually we were loaded back onto the bus with our luggage and continued the trip.
The culmination of traversing the Andes was the 29 hairpin turns to descend from the mountain.
Each turn was intense with the bus’ wheels only inches from the edge of a vertical drop. Staring down from the window on a turn was unsettling to say the least. We also drove through several tunnels on the way down which seemed to have low ceilings that our large bus barely fit under.
Soon we entered Santiago and arrived at the main bus terminal a little after 7 p.m. Grabbing a taxi to our hotel, we ended the journey with a Pisco Sour at the bar.
Touring Santiago was next on the schedule!