South America Drive

Post Delayed Due to Problem at the Border

Sorry that I missed a few days. We had an unplanned problem at the border. Let me explain . . .
There is a border crossing 1 ½ hours from our home. We were approaching our 90-day limit on our visa and wanted to check out the ferry schedule at this crossing. We did this same crossing 2 years ago. It would be a quick run without dogs or a car full of stuff. We knew we may need to cross here if we decide in the next month to ship our car out of Chile.
Let me start by saying we have crossed into Argentina 7 times prior to this without any real problems.
We got up early, let the dogs out, fed them, and made sure they had plenty of water. We had already talked with Laura, our property manager, about taking care of the dogs in case of an emergency.
We left the house around 8:30 am. We arrived at the border at 10 am. Looking back, the first hint that there might be a problem was the fact that the border guy gave us a hard time about being close to our 90 days. However, he let us proceed knowing that we were returning later that day. We crossed out of Argentina at 10:30 am.
DSC01482Our crossing into Chile went smoothly. Just a few miles past the border station the road ends at a lake. It is here that you can take a ferry across the lake to continue on into Chile. We took a picture of the schedule, noting that the number of ferry runs doubled starting December 1. At this time, there were only 2 runs: 2 pm and 6 pm. We used up what little Chilean Pesos we had eating lunch at the tiny café with the grumpy lady . . . she was grumpy two years ago, too.
At 2:00, we headed back to our home in Argentina. Within 10 minutes, we were through the Chile station and arrived at the Argentine border at 2:30 pm. Now . . . hint #2, the guy immediately started saying we should have gotten a visa extension before we left Argentina. He continued, still without looking at our passports, to ask about vehicle insurance. There was hint #3. At EVERY border crossing our visa stamp is processed first, then we usually proceed to another window to do the vehicle paperwork. With our passports still unopened in his hand, the agent went on to warn us that we would be stopped and asked by the police for proof of vehicle insurance. We said we did not have proof of insurance with us. Also, we honestly said we have been stopped MANY times by the police, but we had never been asked for insurance. The next thing he did was to motion over three guys in fully military attire who had been standing close by listening. He continued by informing us that he could not let us re-enter Argentina without insurance. He suggested we return to Chile and buy insurance online. We started to question him.  Out of the corner of our eye we watched the military guys draw closer, their hands resting on their hips near their guns. We decided to head back to Chile.
We reached the Chilean border and explained the problem. One agent was incredulous why they were making this a big issue since we had just crossed through their border with the full knowledge that we were returning within a few hours. He nicely took us into his room and sat with us at the computer trying to buy insurance. After trying 4 or 5 places, he explained that it was impossible to buy insurance for a vehicle with a US (Minnesota) license plate. He got in his car and drove to the Argentine border to talk with them. An hour later, he returned apologizing, saying there was nothing more he could do.
Since we had used up our Chilean Pesos at lunch, we needed more to pay for the ferry. However, we only had Argentine pesos with us. No one wants a currency that is so volatile. Eventually, we agreed to pay a premium to make the exchange. We were just relieved someone would do it.
DSC01486We arrived in time to catch the last ferry. The next one did not leave until 2 pm the next day.
The ferry landed at 8 pm. We emailed Laura to please take care of the dogs and ate a quick bite. Chris started driving. He drove until 2 am and then slept for a few hours.  At 8:30 we arrived at a different border crossing. We were nervous that the first agent may have made a notation on the computer about us. Luckily, we crossed with no problems.
Sadly, we know the first guy was just being a jerk. We were unsure if we should have tried paying a bribe. But we had heard horror stories of that backfiring. With the 3 military guys crowding around us, it seemed unwise.
We arrived home at 10:30 am . . . exhausted, needing a toothbrush, a shower, and some sleep.
We are sorry this happened. We have loved Argentina mainly due to the people. We will not let one person ruin it, but it has made us miss home. The whole bribery thing is exhausting.

DSC01503At least we got a nice view of Volcan Lanin. It shares the same fault line as Chile’s Volcan Villarica. The last eruption is unknown, but it is figured to have erupted within the last 10,000 years.

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