. In my head I'm trying to think of a color that is not represented here and I can't think of one. But it only gets more magnificent. There are ridges up the valley lined with vivid and diverse stripes of color, concentrated over short distances...it looks as though someone has painted them with a fine paintbrush to awe the passers-by like myself...they simply could not be naturally occurring. Every color and gradation is included here. And then there are chasms whose divide shows off the horizonation in stereo They are showing movies on the screen in the bus but I can't imagine anything more magnificent than what is offered out of the window.
And it goes on for hours. Only interrupted by the rather too frequent Aduano checks....which take a few different forms.. There are the simple stops...the officer chats with the bus driver...all is well...we move on with little upheaval. Then there are the Aduano walk thru the bus checks....everybody's passport or ID is checked....then we move on. But we've had a few of the everybody off the bus with your bags, line up and have an officer with latex gloves go through them. The most extensive check happens en route to Argentina. Not only do we have to take our bags off the bus but even our luggage that's precisely packed into the storage area of the bus. We carry it into this Quonset hut....and this is about 60 people doing this I might add...
. They have us form lines waiting to be checked out. Then the announcement....everybody leave your bags right where they are and walk to the other side of the room....so the dog can check them...I ask someone next to me what exactly the officer said and her response is - Shhhhhh!! Everybody seems to be holding their breath and waiting in dead silence. I scan the room and wonder who is it here that might have some illegal substance...and there's some twisted part of me that would like to see some crazy scenario unfold.... But the dogs to me seem preoccupied. Like I wonder, would they actually find drugs if they were there? The officer even has his assistant hide a tainted towel under someone's suitcase - which happens to be Lisa's at the moment - perhaps to see if the dog is on the ball. We're all watching in anxious anticipation....will the dog find the towel? Well that dog, who looks like a pretty goofy yellow lab to me, seems to walk by that towel a few times until, and with a few cues from the Aduano officer, he gets excited and pulls it out from under the suitcase. Personally I think a lot of this may be for show...just to scare the potential drug carrier. The process is slow and dramatic.., it's all carried out with great seriousness.... I'm certainly not carrying any drugs and I feel anxious as though they could find something in my bags.... Anyway, the search is finally over, we get to hang around for about an hour while they repack the bus with all the suitcases from 60 people so that we can move on
. I load up my pockets with candy and chocolate, getting rid of my left over Chilean money before I cross the border. And it's back to the beautiful scenery.
The cuts are sharper now, the ridges look as though someone took a trowel and made geometric designs in the strata. We're winding up and down mountainsides and valleys. At least 3 people near me are feeling sick...I think it's the continuous change in altitude....for some reason I haven't felt that kind of sickness yet during this trip....I'm glad...it doesn't look good on these other people.
The landscape beauty is only interrupted by nightfall...the shades darken and we've still got 3 more hours left. And what a wild ride that is! The thrill of the scenery is replaced by a roller coaster of a bus ride. We're way in the back and maybe that's why we're feeling it so much but I've never been in this bouncy of a bus. I find myself flying up out of my seat as we bounce along. And it doesn't let up...until we eventually get to Salta...it's late...no hostel yet....but there's lots of characters waving things at us outside the bus....they're looking to fill those last rooms...looks like we've got plenty of options.
Long bus rides are one of my favorite things... if you get the right, seat it's like an effortless tour...you're comfortable (generally), and all you have to do is look out the window for hours...and this is definitely one of the best rides....in terms of the view. We're driving from San Pedro de Atacama, the Chilean desert town, to Salta, Argentina. Which means we're going through a high altitude desert in the Andes. There are people on this bus with oxygen tanks to assist their breathing so I know we're crossing some high passes. This is about a 12 hour ride and really just about every minute is filled with views. We start off with swirling sand of tans and browns which later on, includes rusts and then reds and oranges. But as we keep going the colors take on a wider range of hues. I see purples and greens and then even turquoises. In clear structures in the rock and then as swooshes of brilliance interwoven with each other taking the forms of the mountains underneath them