As soon as we arrived in Santiago (Chile), Dan, Liraz, Onit, and I bought tickets for the next bus to Mendoza (Argentina). We only had to wait about forty minutes, and we were on our way. The border crossing going from Chile to Argentina is MUCH simpler than the crossing from Argentina to Chile. It was nice no to have to spend an hour and a half at the border while everyone`s bags were searched.
The mountain passes, besides being nauseating, were also quite majestic. The mountains are so desolate, and yet so colorful. It`s amazing. For those of you from Wyoming, the whole road up the Chile side switchbacks just like the road coming out of the Bighorns on the Worland side. Only it`s 35 switchbacks instead of three. On the Argentina side, the leaves in the vineyards were all changing colors. It was beautiful, and also funny to see all these grapes growing right along side the cacti.
When we pulled into the Mendoza station and unloaded, I had one of those, “I`m so glad I`m travelling alone” experiences. I really like to do things my way, and I have pretty specific standards as far as how things should be done. One of which is reading your guide book BEFORE you get to a city and deciding where you`re going to stay and what you`re going to do so that you don`t have to spend an hour being hassled by the people awaiting the un-informed tourists at the station. The last time I was in Mendoza, I had stayed at a hostel that was wonderfully close to the bus station. Liraz and Onit, however wanted to stay somewhere that was a few blocks closer to the centro. So, while they tried to decide where they wanted to go and figure out how to get there, we were hassled non-stop by people wanting us to go to their hostel or hotel. Since I was the only one in the group who spoke Spanish, I had to listen to and present all the proposals to the the two women while I longed desperately for the shower that had evaded me for three days. Finally, I got them to agree to at least start MOVING towards the town. We stopped and checked out the place I stayed before, but the only space available was unacceptably crowded according to Dan, Liraz, and Onit. So, we went back to the bus station to find a woman who was offering space in her home. It ended up being a few blocks farther from the centro, but she was great and the house was really nice. She was so helpful and kind, and sent us to dinner at the cheapest, highest quality buffet I`ve ever seen.
For six bucks, you get all you can eat steak, pasta, salads, pizza, lasagna desserts, ice cream, fish, really anything you can imagine. They had chinese food, american food, more options than I could stomach (literally). It was SO good. Unfortunately, I ate too fast, and I have a pretty unique reaction to doing so. (If you get grossed out easily, skip to the next paragraph.) Most of you have seen it before. It started in high school… I think I have an extremely small esophagus or something. If I swallow a bite of dense food (meat and starchy foods will do it every time), it gets stuck. It happens really fast… almost instantaneous. It won`t go down, I can`t breathe, I can`t swallow, and it hurts like hell. I had thought about telling Dan about it in Pucòn before we sat down to eat our steak and pasta dinner, but decided to opt for the slow-eating method instead. The second my bite of delicious steak from the buffet got itself stuck, I regretted not warning them previously. It`s always so embarrassing whenever this happens. Because I can`t breathe very well, I can`t really talk, except to raspily assure all the horrified spectators that I`m fine before I go running to the bathroom to wait out the pain. Of course no one believes that I`m okay, so I am always trailed to the bathroom by at least one person who stands by, worried that I`m about to die or something, while I try by best to convince them that this is actually a completely normal experience for me, and they should just go back to enjoying their meal. Best case scenario, I puke and happily go back to eating. Worst case scenario, I wait for more than an hour for the food to painfully work itself down while spitting the saliva I can`t swallow into the toilet. This time was a cross between the two. It took me forever to assure Liraz that I was going to be fine (she barely speaks English), and Dan stood guard outside the bathroom door for over twenty minutes. ACK! Note to self: chew food thoroughly and eat slowly, no matter how hungry you are.
Have a bus ticket in my pocket for Tucumàn in NW Argentina for tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. I`m actually headed to Cafayate to do some mountain biking in the desert, but am going to get into Tucumàn way too late to catch any bus. Wish me luck!