Six months ago my girlfriend and I went to South America. Her convincing me to go was quite a feat considering my fear of flying was no match for a trip that involved eleven plane rides. But after successive journeys from Boston, New York, Miami, and Buenos Aires, my screaming mechanism malfunctioned and for the first time in my life I was speechless. For her, this made for quite a relaxing trip to our first destination: Mendoza, Argentina. A small city close to the Chilean border, Mendoza’s outskirts consist mainly of wine country, boasting some of the best Malbec grapes in the region.
After a few days of enjoying some of the very best wine we’ve ever had, it was time to go to Valparaiso, Chile, a seaport city northwest of Santiago. Getting there would mean a bus ride through the Andes mountains, which form a partition of monolithic proportions between Argentina and Chile.
When my girlfriend and I travel together my input on planning is typically conservative and limited. Being the trusting, selfless type, I allow her to enjoy the work and spend the time planning our trajectory. In the process of boarding the bus, I asked her how long it would take to arrive in Valparaiso. Imagine my surprise when my trusted trip planner told me we’d be crammed into a bus with 40 people for the next 10 hours. “Why wasn’t I informed?” I demanded. I was then told the whole itinerary was explained in great detail months ago and the vigorous head nodding I demonstrated while staring at the baseball game on TV was all the confirmation she required.
So we broke out the snacks and settled into our mobile commune as it began to roll. Our seats were on the upper deck directly above the bus driver, a friendly, carefree man, or so I originally thought. As I proceeded to eat 2 days worth of snacks within 2 hours, my trip wizard surprised me yet again with another juicy piece of info. It seemed she had heard from friends that the trip we were now undertaking was a harrowing one. She couldn’t remember exactly why. I pondered that ominous comment for about 3 seconds as I unwrapped a chocolate bar.
Our gradual ascent into the Andes provided a wonderful introduction to the many visual splendors we’d later encounter, but it was obvious from viewing the vistas that we had climbed significantly above sea level. As we enjoyed our surroundings, a thought came to mind: what goes up must come down. Somehow this had an alarming ring to it.