Tuesday, December 9, 2014

U-Turn Border Run - Chile to Argentina

Coming up on the end of our 90-day visa in Chile, we studied the map trying to find the most logical pass to cross the Andes into Argentina. We had planned on driving back and forth across the border in one day to get another 90-day visa. Rather than being a chore, it turned out to be an amazing drive along the Rio Maule on a newly paved road. We ended up spending 5 days camping and exploring the uninhabited area.

For a few minutes, the Rio Maule looked like a lava flow

The only chore was paying our $160 (!) per person entry fee to Argentina while we were near internet. It's an odd process - you have to pay for your entry visa ONLINE, only online, and print the receipt before you cross. If you cross somewhere that offers no internet (like the border crossing we were heading to), you will be turned away.

Before we started the drive, we met a local guy who told us about a secret hot spring along a tributary to the Rio Maule. I was doubtful we would find it, but excited about the possibility. He gave us vague directions, but we were able to pinpoint a possible location with our GPS. We found the parking/camping spot and even found the trail up the river to the hot springs. One problem... the hot springs were across a swollen, raging river that we couldn't cross. We tried for 3 days to figure out how to get over to the hot springs. Everyday, they taunted us with their steamy pools.

Even though we couldn't reach the hot springs we got to enjoy an amazing camping spot right next to the river. The roar of the river lulled us to sleep each night (picture below).

Camping next to the Rio Maule near the Argentinian border

When we arrived to the Chilean border post (30 miles from the actual physical border), we told them our plans of  driving to Argentina and immediately returning - queremos recargar nuestros visas. The nice immigration official told us we didn't need to drive 60 miles to the Argentinian office, and that we could simply drive around the building to get our new 90-day Chilean visa and vehicle permit. That made our day! What a relief.

Interesting formations along the drive

We drove around the building and began the re-entry process (passport stamp, forms, declarations, etc., etc.). Chile is notorious for their over-the-top agricultural rules at the border - no food (beans, nuts, cheese, meat, fruits, veggies, pet food, spices, etc.). They ask you to declare any restriced items. We were a little confused about how to handle this since everything we had came from Chile, given that we had never left. Anyhow, we declared a few items just to not look suspicious - firewood Scott had cut 10 minutes prior, cabbage, and a few other things. Despite our many attempts to explain to the inspectors that W E  H A D  N E V E R  L E F T  T H E  C O U N T R Y, they still took our stuff. Oh well, at least they didn't find all the fresh fruits and veggies that I had hid throughout the truck - neener neener.

I guess we paid $320 entry into Argentina a little early. Good thing it lasts 10 years.

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