Having crossed into Argentina from Chile twice prior to Futaleufu, we were expecting a smooth transition and to be on our way quickly to Bariloche. After crossing the Chilean boarder, we arrived at the Argentinian border and got our stamps before heading to the car import desk to get Alfonso into the country and this is when things got sticky…
Turns out we got the one gentleman who felt he knew the book inside and out. My passport and all of Alfonso’s papers were taken into a back office where they were looking at some large binders which I assume had rules in them. While one man was nice and trying to smile and reassure us, the other guy was giving us the stink eye. After a very lengthy conversation over Google Translate, we sat in the office for 2 hours waiting for this to be sorted out. Finally, gentleman-el-stink-eye said he was going to call his boss. He came back after not as long as I would have expected, and politely told us that we were headed back to Chile.
At this point I would have liked to be saying that cooler heads prevailed, and I graciously thanked him and walked away… this is not the case. We argued over Google Translate to a point where he mentioned that the van could be held from us. Serious power move on his part. Realizing I was not winning that fight, I walked. The anger was real, as he was essentially saying that the 2 times prior we made the trip into Argentina, his co-workers had no idea what they were doing.. and as I write this (spoiler) from Argentina, I guess some more of his co-workers don’t know what they’re doing… BURN!
After the whole debacle, we crossed the Chilean boarder again with some very confused looks and quite a few questions as to why we now had “CANCELLED” written across our new Argentina stamps in our passports. Fortunately, the Chilean customs agents let us through no problems (except that they took most of the fresh food we had just stocked up on).
At this point, with no clue as to what we were going to do, we formulated a crazy plan. Becca and I had to make a 3 hour drive to Chaiten, where we were going to catch a ferry the next day at 10am to Puerto Montt. We would then drive to the border crossing north of Bariloche and try our luck there, having heard that some people had been turned around at borders, only to go to another border and get through. Meanwhile, Ivan and Tash were going to bus across to Bariloche as they’re on a timeline, and Becca and I were not too sure if we were going to make the ferry OR if we’d be allowed back into Argentina with Alfonso. We had to say quick (and sad) goodbyes, as it was 5:30pm and we needed to get on the road to make it to Chaiten to get tickets and get the ferry the next morning, because it was the last ferry with space for us for a week.
The drive to Chaiten was actually quite lovely as well, and Becca and I are tearing through our Harry Potter audiobooks so it was a nice 3 and a half hours. We got to Chaiten late, had some serious trouble buying tickets online (took us 20 minutes to find wifi and then Becca’s credit card declined about 6 times) and then found a free camp close to the ferry port with a 6:50 alarm so we would get to the ferry with lots of time.
We did get to make a nice egg breakfast the next morning and got to the docks around 7:45, where we got in line to join the various trucks making the journey to Puerto Montt. We met a great couple from BC who again were disappointed that our van was from BC, but we weren’t. Turns out the ferry was 9 hours long, so we had lots of time read, watch movies, cut veggies for dinner (Becca ended up cutting her finger which was a real treat at this point in time), and stress about the whole situation, still unsure if we were going to get into Argentina.
We disembarked in Puerto Montt and tried to get some cash, gas and groceries, only to enjoy what might have been the most stressful driving of the trip. Alfonso doesn’t love cities (especially when they’re built on 90 degree angles), and neither does his driver. After about 2 hours, some horrid directions from Becca, and several disappointments from our GPS app, we finally managed to get gas and groceries (we abandoned the bank), and escape the city. We stayed in what can be compared to an OnRoute in Ontario, and it was lovely.
The next day, we picked up some French hitchhikers and ended up driving them all the way to Bariloche. Again, we made it through the Chilean border with no problems. The drive from the Chilean border to the Argentinian border is a 40km rollercoaster ride which ended up being a pretty fun and beautiful drive. The only downfall was that because the roads had a ton of switchbacks, somewhere along the way, our cooking oil that had been on the top shelf got knocked over. It spilled about half a litre of oil over some other food, all of our dishes, and the fridge. It was an absolute mess and the floor became quite slippery, even after we used an entire roll of toilet paper and a dish towel to try and wipe it up.
At the Argentinian border things got sketchy again. The first agent questioned why we had a cancelled stamp in our passport, so we said that “there was a problem with the papers”. When he asked if we had them fixed, we answered “yes, of course.” Next stop, get Alfonso through.
The agent we got spoke only Spanish and was extremely impatient and unwilling to let us explain our situation. We gave him the important papers for Alfonso, which are different than Chilean cars, because he’s an import. He immediately accused us of missing a paper from the Chilean border, but because Alfonso has Canadian plates, he didn’t actually need the paper that the boarder guard was asking us for. After 20 minutes speaking with another pushy agent that spoke a little English, we finally got the point across that the car is Canadian and just like that we were driving into Argentina. Nothing like a 48 hour stress marathon.