FROM CHILE TO CHILLY
Carol Voderman would wet herself in the knowledge that, up until a week ago in Mendoza, Barnes and Carter had travelled just under 7,500 miles around South America at an average rate of 44.4mph*. However, in our most frenzied week yet we´ve probably managed to almost double that...
Our supposed 7 hour Thursday morning bus journey from Mendoza turned into an 11 hour crawl as traffic was snowed in across the Andes. There´s nothing worse than having white stuff blocking up your tunnel. The Chilean border crossing was unfriendly and disorganised; but in the eyes of their Government my occupation is now listed as ´Writer´ Victoria is apparently an ´Exotic Pole Dancer´.
All we saw of Santiago was the Bus Station. After exchanging our Argentine Pesos for Chilean ones it didn´t take a middle-aged maths whiz on a words and numbers based TV game show to work out that the city was going to be very expensive. Victoria took about 5 mins to decide that she didn´t care much for Santiago. Pehaps she´d prefer Puerto Montt, the random location in southern Chile that we decided to leave for immediately.
The sole person that spoke English in the bus station advised us that the next departure to Puerto Montt was at 10pm. Glancing at the time (I think I looked at my watch, could´ve been a clock though...sorry to forget vital detail) we realised it was 9.55pm. Cue a rushed transaction, a bit of running, and we managed to just catch the Linea Azul service. Only then did we ask how long the journey would be....
13 hours with a pack of biscuits, 2 apples (yeah, sod you Chilean Fruit and Veg Control) and no toilet paper. Socks are reasonably absorbant as an alternative! No food service on the Bus either, but there was a conductor who looked like Gizmo from the Gremlins who enjoyed wiping the condensation from our window whilst rubbing his groin on my knee and looking down Victoria´s top.
Monsoon season seemed to have hit puerto Montt when we arrived; we never tried shifting the backpacks whilst standing under Iguazu Falls, but I imagine it to be a similar experience. Victoria took about 5 minutes to decide she didn´t care too much for Puerto Montt or Chile in general. So, after booking into an overpriced hostel we swam back to the bus station and booked ourselves on the early morning coach (had to say coach because I´ve said bus too much) to Argentina. The green mould in the Philadelphia we bought from the supermarket that night almost tipped us over the edge.
Bariloche is a resort town in South West Argentina, bounded by snowy mountains and perched next to the beautiful Lake Haupi. We were aware that it was high ski season but convinced ourselves that it wouldn´t be that busy (bit like saying a Free Big Mac day in Texas would only get passing interest). The guy at our first hostel told us for a fact that we were lucky to get a room at all in Bariloche. I wanted to tell him for a fact that Coca Cola would be green if colouring wasn´t added but I didn´t think it would help the situation. The only room for the next few days that we could find was in Cerro Catedral, which is actually within the nearby ski resort. When we arrived the next morning it transpired that the owner had ballsed up our internet booking and could only offer us one night rather than three. His form of compensation was to offer us free ski rental for the next day.
´When in Rome, do as the Romans do´; but rather than wipe our backsides with rags on sticks (we´ve got socks for that) or go and watch some gladiators, we decided to go skiing, having only to pay for our ´Beginners Base´ passes. Highlights of our winter sporting pursuit included: Tom falling over on button lifts (twice) followed by Victoria laughing, Tom falling over whilst standing still and falling through orange mesh barrier folowed by Victoria laughing, Tom skiing directly through an under 7´s ski school and almost destroying a few young lives followed by Victoria laughing.
Victoria has decided after 3 days that she kind of likes Bariloche, but we must leave soon to work our way back to Santiago and get some socks cleaned.
Victoria and Tom xxx