Back in 2009, I found myself on a bus in Tanzania, headed to Swahili Language School in Iringa. The bus flew around hairpin curves, going well above the speed limit, with no brake bars on the side. I promised myself that if I got back to Dar es Salaam (in one piece!), I would never, ever take a long distance bus again.
Well…fast forward to the end of 2018, nearly a decade since that promise to myself, and where do I find myself? On a long distance bus in Chile!
While planning our unusual getaway to Chile, we had our hearts set on going to San Pedro de Atacama. In fact, I booked lodging reservations before even firming-up how we’d get there from Santiago. Unfortunately, I quickly realized a “Road Trip” was simply out of the question. 26+ years of marriage has given us the blessing of knowing each other’s travel limits. Mine include avoiding 8 hours a day of driving in a country to which we had never been.
While we could have flown, our instincts were proven right when we got to the Calama Airport to pick up our truck for the short drive from Calama to San Pedro. While my husband had flown from JFK to Santiago on Aerolíneas Argentinas, I had flown Emirates from Seoul via Dubai. This included the 20 Hour transit via São Paulo, Brazil. A regional puddle jumper was not how I envisioned spending our vacation.
What to do?
While preparing for the trip to Chile, I had begun listening to Podcasts about the country. One good one was Passport Joy. In their podcast they mentioned how the wished they had taken a bus. Their description of the bus and the excellent infrastructure in Chile made me question my complete ban on long distance buses. And I am so glad I did. We found Turbus!
In less than 24 hours, you can board a bus in Santiago and be in Calama, the closest large town to San Pedro. If you book Premium – you are given a Layflat Seat, a comfortable pillow and blanket, and time to relax and enjoy the trip to the Atacama.
Light snacks were provided on the bus, with an occasional “local” hopping on and off to sell Empanadas. But, most importantly, it gave us time to acclimatize, in our attempts to avoid Altitude Sickness. While I had thankfully never experienced Altitude Sickness, in 2004 during a vacation in Sante Fe, New Mexico, my husband had. We knew to be extremely cautious.
And, sure enough, sitting on the bus, gradually ascending to the Atacama, religiously drinking water we had brought with us, we thankfully were not stricken with Altitude Sickness. We credit that in part to taking the bus.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. Chile has long distance bus travel down. This was an extremely relaxing way to traverse the extraordinarily long country that is Chile. My husband and I had a chance to chat, enjoy being with each other, and try something we had not done together in our 26+ years of marriage – take a long distance bus ride together.
So, I did something I swore I would never do again and loved it. Thank you Turbus and Chile for such a great experience!