What is your favourite road trip on this planet? Highway One, Route 66, New Zealand’s West Coast, Australia’s Great Ocean Road … ? Well, let me add another famous road trip from South America: Crossing the Andes in the northernmost province of Argentina, near La Quebrada Canyon and Salta, in order to reach one of the driest and most spectacular deserts in the whole world: Atacama in Chile. Snow-capped peaks in the distance, endless “altiplano” plains, giant salt flats, rolling hills boasting all colours of the rainbow and an average cruising altitude of between 3.500 – 4.000 metres: For now, I am having the “road trip of a lifetime”!
So how do you “kill” 10 hours of road-tripping, completed by a two-hours delay “because the bus door broke down” … ? My personal tips from experience: Go wild about amazing landscape photography (yay!). Marvel at these amazing, unworldly surroundings. Listen to your favourite music. Talk and enjoy forging new friendships with fellow travellers from Korea, Norway or England. Take a deep breath every now and then in order to make up for less oxygen. Feel your body: During the first hour of the trip, we climb almost 2.000 metres (from 2.300 m to 4.200 m) resulting in frequent yawning, a wish to sleep (at 12.00 noon!) and an ever so slight feeling of headache … The best means to fight altitude sickness? Drink. Eat. Certainly, do not think about it. Luckily our bus company, Andesmar, has a few good movies to take your thoughts off the altitude …
Paso De Jama: High up in the Chilean-Argentinian Andes
Six o’clock in the afternoon. The sun is still deceivingly high up in the sky, while outside the grass has started growing again. Coldplay sweeps me down the altiplano highland and past two majestic volcanoes right before reaching the Chilean border control. My head starts spinning … north of the Tropic of Capricorn, a desert with an average altitude of over 4.000 metres and a landscape that is bizarre, unique, “out of this world” – including its climate who starts to take its toll on me. I hope that any signs of altitude sickness, “el soroche”, are not getting in the way of my Spanish language abilities as to explaining how I can possibly introduce three bottles of wine, olive oil, jam AND Mate herbs from Argentina into Chile … Oh no! 😉 In the end though, everything turns out to be fine and I arrive in Chile safe & sound!