We didn't do much while in San Pedro, slept in and tried to plan our time in Salta.
The only thing we had planned was going on a stargazing tour, which are supposed to be spectacular. Unfortunately, San Pedro had had a week of very heavy storms, one so bad that it ripped parts of the roof off our hostel just a few days before our arrival. This caused our tour to be cancelled each night.
While we were disappointed, we knew San Pedro was just a stop over for us, so we enjoyed the tourist town before heading over the Andes to Salta.
Our bus to Salta left at 9:30 am and the bus station is only 2 blocks from our hostel, so we didn't feel super rushed. But, by the time we both had showered and finished packing, we were rushing out the door. We also realized we hadn't paid yet.
Of course, the computer system isn't turned on and the CC machine isn't working. Finally, the card went through, but the receipt didn't print fully. Brian snapped a picture as we hustled out the door to get to the station by 9:20.
Turns out there should have been no rush at all. No bus at the station. No one at the closed office. So we all waited. Finally, the office opened and I went to talk to the woman, who had to make a phone call to get someone to arrive. 15 minutes she said.
The bus finally showed up, and by the time we packed up, we were an hour late.
The good thing is the drive out of Chile and into Argentina is a beautiful one. We drove through snow covered mountains to the customs station in the desert.
This is when the process went south. After experiencing Bolivian customs, we were sure customs between the two most developed countries in South America would be much easy. Ha!
Upon arrival, we waited outside the "compound" for 30 minutes before the bus could enter. Once we entered, we were allowed to get off to use the bathroom, but not line up. We were finally allowed to line up to be stamped out of Chile, but only 2-3 people were permitted entry at a time.
We finally realized once we got into the building that all the agents stay the same, but they do an exit cycle and then an entry cycle.
We got stamped out of Chile and then got back in line to wait for the agents to change to entry windows. We realized our bus guide hadn't given us any paperwork for entry, he just didn't make it to the top of the bus to pass out the papers. Great. We hurriedly filled out our papers before making it the window.
Then it was back outside to grab our bags that had just been dumped out of the bus onto the pavement to drag back inside and have Xrayed. Put your bags on the belt and they just tumble out the other side, all on top of each other. There was an old woman in front of us with 6 bags, most of them heavy and Brian had to help her put them on the belt.
We grabbed our bags and took them back out to the bus which had now been permitted to cross into Argentina. Loading all the bags back on turned out to be a Tetris mission no one could figure out. Nearly 3 hours later, we were finally back on the road to finish our 6 hour drive.
The redeeming factor of the drive is the stunning scenery. It in incredible to see the mountains and their colors. They look like technicolor mountains rising along side the muddy waters of the Rio Grande. We drove down into the valley, with the bus making hairpin turns for at least an hour.
Once we finally arrived in Salta, we were beat and the process of getting our luggage wasn't the easiest, as they tried to pull out people's luggage as they yelled for it. Finally retrieving ours, we went in search of a money exchange or an ATM. No luck. When we finally found one, our card wouldn't work. Luckily, the almighty dollar always works and when we told our taxi driver we didn't have pesos only dollars, his face lit up with a smile and said, "Es MEJOR!"
Our hostel was an old house and Pilar met us at the gate around 10 pm and showed us around. It was in a prime location - only two blocks from Plaza 9 de Julio. Starving, we dropped our stuff and headed back out for a Friday evening in Salta.