After finally deciding we needed to make a move, Becca and I found ourselves driving back towards Calama at 15km/h up the hill out of San Pedro de Atacama because that was all that Alfonso could muster. Driving up a 15km long road at that speed takes some patience, especially when double decker passenger buses are screaming past us… on the up hill! In Calama after some back and forth with Vito, our potential buyer in Viña Del Mar, we finally decided to book a flight for the next day to Santiago and get this paperwork process going. Vito was an absolute legend at this point, paying for our flights down to Santiago and paying for the transport for Alfonso.
We got to Viña late Saturday after a full day of travel and were pretty spent. Vito had also offered to put us up in his house for the couple of nights that we were planning on being down there. Hard to refuse that offer especially after finding out that he was a home brewer and was happy to let us sample some ambers and stouts as well as a mead which was delicious! Unfortunately nothing is open on Sundays so we hang out at Vito’s and planned for the next day.
The next morning Vito and I were on a micro bus at 8am on the way to Valparaiso with all the paperwork we had and hope. After I sat in the waiting room of a Customs Agency for 20min I was asking into the meeting where things seemed stalled, no one had a solid answer, about anything. The main concern was if Vito would be able to import Alfonso in the first place, the second was if we would be able to cancel the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) which had my name and passport tied to it. I had read that if the TIP wasn’t cancelled people had trouble re-entering Chile in the future or had to pay massive fines. I’m starting to quite like Chile so I assume I’ll be back and don’t want to ruin those chances. Finally a “boss” came into the meeting and said that the TIP was no problem and I’d be all good to keep moving and any return trip would be fine, so that was great!
The rest of the day after the meeting, Becca and I explored Viña with Vito, checking out the local markets, Becca finally bought a Chilean toaster, and we got Bolivians for our upcoming trip into Bolivia (apparently the cash converters in San Pedro take 30% off the top because tourists are trapped needing Bolivians for the salt flat tours). We stopped by a butcher that specializes in horse meat and got a kilo because Vito said he would make us burgers. I was nervous but when in Viña, you know the rest.
That night we drove to a rendezvous point to pick up Alfonso and backing him up out of a semi-trailer was a pretty cool experience. It was also sad to know that this was going to be our last drive in Alfonso, however, as if he knew it was the last, he performed so admirably and drove better than he had in weeks. We drove him to Vito’s business partner, Jason’s house. Jason is an American ex-pat who now lives in Con-Con in an amazing house he built mostly himself out of adobe (mostly local dirt and materials). We sat around sharing wine and stories from the road while Vito cooked the most amazing horse burgers I shall ever consume. Then Jason made a cool dessert using cocoa powder from Peru and Becca and I were stuffed.
We had already booked a flight back to Calama for the next morning and said our final goodbyes to Alfonso…next stop the Bolivian Salt Flats!