Bus, Bus, the Magic Bus

We spent this past weekend Getting from El Chaltén, Argentina, to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile, a distance of only 110 miles, point to point, but a bus ride of 350 miles taking, about nine hours, due to geography and the crossing of national borders.

We left El Chaltén Saturday in the early afternoon and took one of the big, double-decker buses to Calafate. We had originally been scheduled to take the later bus, but we had changed it to the early afternoon bus in order to get to Calafate in time to relax and in order to use the faster internet there. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with the travel agency in El Chaltén regarding our shuttles to and from the bus station from our accommodations at both ends, so we had to take taxis in order to make our bus connection.

While we waited for the shuttle that never came, one of the many dogs of El Chaltén, Rudolph, befriended Dale.

We arrived in Calafate in the late afternoon, checked in again at Posada Newenkelen, and had dinner at a hilltop parrilla while watching a gorgeous sunset.

The next morning, Sunday, we were picked up early by the shuttle bus arranged through the hotel that was our next destination, Hotel Las Torres Patagonia. Dale and I had front-row seats as we drove south from Calafate, up onto a plateau and across the pampas.

The road eventually turned west, toward Chile and the Andes Mountains…

…and we crossed the border into Chile a little before noon. That’s the border crossing at the foot of the hill in the picture, below:

We had been warned by our Argentine shuttle bus driver that clearing immigration in Chile could take hours, but it only took a few minutes. I think our driver intentionally exaggerated the difficulty of dealing with the Chilean border guards – Argentina and Chile have an odd relationship, something I hope to understand from the Chilean perspective while we’re in Torres del Paine, Chile.

At any rate, we did stop at the border crossing, right where the sign said to stop. And that sign, a “Stop” sign, is one we didn’t see much of while we were in Argentina.

At the border crossing, we had to change to a different shuttle bus and within minutes we passed into Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Since we were now in a Chilean national park and wildlife refuge, we started to encounter Patagonian wildlife.

Dale spotted a flock of wild flamingos in a lake, then a fox crossed the road right in front of us. Next we saw a couple rheas, ostrich-like birds, before coming upon several herds of guanacos, cousins of the lama.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing lots of these guys.

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