South America – Part 7 (Highway To Hell)

The plan after Chile was to head back in to Argentina, to Mendoza.

The wine region, Jack and I were back in Argentina and almost back on the “the gringo trail” and you could tell, we were bumping in to more and more Brits

Jack and I booked ourselves on to a wine tasting tour where we’d visit a few locations and try some delicious Argentine Malbec, it was very backpacky but to disrupt that theme we booked in to a luxurious air bnb, for the expensive total of 25 pound a night.

We turned up for our wine trip and there was about 10 on our bus, we were given the history of the area and after about 39 minutes we were at our first farm, we sampled the products, not just wine but olive oil as well….who knew. Walking around our second farm our guide was much more chatty and started asking where we are from and things like that and when a boy and a girl in our group said “London” jack and I laughed out loud, thinking what are the chances of running to people from London. We struck up conversation where abouts in London “north west” ahhh shit no way, same, where abouts “Watford” ahhhh shit no way same, where about “well actually it’s bushey” ahhhhhh shit, same (jack said) where abouts and it turned out she lived near the Avenue. Buoyed by our new found friendship we chatted all the way to the third location essentially just name dropping mutual friends was about as far as the conversation got.

At the next location we met another wine tasting group full of young English guys, we got talking and it turns out they were from London too, like previous boys we’d met on our trip (think back to Ihle Grande) it turns out these were part of the Jewish community. We got talking to them about football, Tottenham fans, shock I know…… and we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet later that night. The rest of the wine tasting was uneventful, we purchased a bottle of expensive (looking) red wine and went back to our Air BnB.

At the air BnB we cooked a lovely pasta meal and cracked open the bottom of red. Our night was interrupted by the buzzing of the phone where our new found friend was trying to get us out.

The most exclusive air BnB

Had a night out with them after finally finding them (Mendoza is like a maze) then went back to our apartment as once again we had a very early coach to catch which is becoming a trend. In the morning we went to the coach station thankfully preparing for one of our shorter coach trips only 14 hours…..if I’m honest I can barely remember the coach trips but this one stood out, Jack and I upgraded to VIP which meant we got free wine and on top of that we played bingo on the bus with the winner getting a bottle of wine and guess who won…..ME. Jack and I got very drunk before falling asleep on the long journey.

Salta was a lovely city, Jack and I walked around for a bit and interrupted what seemed like a fairly raucous protest, or football march, or band march just something that made a lot of noise neither mine or Jacks Spanish was advanced enough to work out what they were actually saying. We stopped off and got some lunch and were FaceTimed by the guys, they seemed in errr somewhat “fun” state of mind and after our chat with them we went back to our hostel. We were only going to be in Salta for two nights then we had a 7 o clock coach journey. Salta was only supposed to be a stop off, just break up the journey of Mendoza to Bolivia and the first night went to plan, we had one or two beers on the roof top and went to bed. The second day followed the the pattern of the first and we wandered around aimlessly just trying to spend zero money… evening approached our plans of a quiet nice were slowly being replaced, the hostel were having a night on the roof and everyone was going and Jack and I refused numerous times but were slowly turning in to the killjoys…..I went out and bought some beers and agreed we would stay out until everyone left to go out in to the town, the beers I bought were obviously too much for me and Jack because it got to the time when people were leaving and we couldn’t resist. We went out and had a mutual agreement to come home at 1……We didn’t……We went out till very late and regretted it deeply when we had to make our 7 o clock bus ride, it was a good night and it was made all worth while when We both conked out on the front seat and slept until the Bolivian border.

The Bolivian border, OH EM GEE, my final country (you’ll be pleased to know) uhhh Bolivia that’s where the fun started and I think if I’m honest the reason I’ve been determined to finish this story, that same “determination” which lead to this taking more than a year to finish this blog. The Bolivian border set the tone for the whole country, or at least my experience of the country, this border crossing was the WORST border crossing….I wish I could draw a diagram to explain.

The border which took about 3 hours to cross, was not so much a border just a queue from one country in to the next. Once we crossed we got in to a little mini bus and told them to take us to the town. The mini bus was small, but not as small as the the town we arrived in. In the town we bought our bus ticket and went and bought some food from someone’s front room.

After we left the very small town we started our journey to Uyuni. We waited an hour and then boarded, the bus smelt of wet dog, then more people boarded. Jack and I were head counting and thinking we’d be leaving soon because of, you know, bus capacity but that is not how things work in Bolivia it transpires. More people were boarding and before we knew it people were sitting on our feet and on the floor in the aisle, it was like the trains in Delhi all over again.

Jack and I securely in our seat, we finally set off feeling ever so slightly bad for those sitting on the floor for the next 8 hours but little did we know that we would all suffer, eventually. We’d been prepared for a bumpy road and Bolivia is notorious for bad roads and drunk drivers, when the sun set it seemed to bring about the all these hazards in one go and after a few hours of driving in the dark and fearing for our lives at every turn the speed slowed and before long we had stopped. Jack tuned his Spanish ear just in time to hear the bus driver telling us to get off. Confused because we were only 4 hours in to our 8 hour journey, jack and I, being British, naturally done what we were told without question. Once the bus was empty we started speaking to the Colombian floor sitters (not a gang, just the guys sitting in the aisle) and they informed us that the bus had a puncture. We waited around in the cold night and waited for the drunk driver-cum-mechanic to change the tyre. Not at all worried that this drunk man just changed our bus’ tyre with still 4 hours left of an already perilous journey, we boarded the bus and continued our journey to Unuyi but unfortunately … and the bus never made it to Unuyi but I am still here to finish this story so don’t worry. And I will finish the journey and the story next time.

There was a lot of travel on this post and not many pictures…..which is never fun.


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