Sunday, February 3, 2013

Over the Andes

On Tuesday, January 29th, we checked out of the Terrantai Lodge and hiked the few blocks to the large parking area that serves as the San Pedro bus station. While waiting for our Andesmar bus to arrive, we struck up conversations with a backpacking German doctor currently working in Lima, Peru, and a older couple from Taiwan. The bus arrived about 30 minutes late for the 11 1/2 hour ride over the Andes to Salta, Argentina. Our first stop was at the Chilean border control on the edge of San Pedro, 160 km from the actual Chilean-Argentine border--this stop took about 30 minutes.

We then started the long, slow slog to the Jama Pass at 13800' msl. Entering Argentina meant taking all of luggage with us to clear immigration and customs. No problem with immigration (Argentina imposes a $160 visa reciprocity fee for US citizens--we had to pay this online before we left home), but the customs x-ray machine detected something in my luggage the customs officer did not like. After rooting around in my suitcase he came up a ziplock bag that contained all of our OUTDATED traveler's diarrhea medication! The pills for one of the medications was in foil packs and I assume this what triggered his curiosity. He looked at one of the packages and seemed to take great pride in showing me the 2010 expiration date! So on he went pointing out to me everything that a past due expiration date (this was medication we had for our 2008 India trip that we have never needed, but just toss into the luggage just in case). Guess it was time to dump it--one less thing for me to carry! We still have our Imodium and cipro is readily available here without a prescription. The border crossing and bus refueling took about 90 minutes and we soon were on our way to a maximum elevation of 15300' msl. The Jama Pass is the most northern crossing between Chile and Argentina and was opened in 1991 and finally fully paved in 2005.

Our Andesmar double-decker fueling in Jama

The road takes an incredible convoluted course for most of the crossing until we finally dropped into a river valley and our intermediate stop in Jujuy. We arrived in Salta about 2130 and after a short taxi ride were at the Hotel Aldaba for our six night stay.


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