not happening as planned
14.01.2010 - 14.01.2010 32 °C
Well everyone has to share a BAD travel day and this was ours. From our earlier post, we were at the airport waiting for our flight. Well, after a horrendous flight – turbulence for 2 hours, we arrived in Santiago and headed to our car rental place and YEP they had our rental agreement but they did not have our request for Argentina travel permission documentation so we could take a rental vehicle to Argentina. The girl at the counter did not know about this request and indicated we had to wait 24 hours to get the documents. Darwin pulled some magic and she finally indicated they would be done by 7:00pm and we landed at 13:00. (Kim you need to check with car rental before client arrives to make sure the paperwork is waiting at airport. BIG hassle to drive downtown to office to pick it up)
We had reservations in Mendoza Argentina, a 400 km drive over the Andes Mountains so told them that we would not be able to make our reservations. Thank goodness I had bookmarked a hostel in town, so we called them and luckily they had a free room available for the night.
So we drove to the Alamo main office and waited for our papers. (it costs $300 to get the papers completed and insurance coverage). The drive to the main office was very frustrating. I managed to pick up a tourist map of Santiago at the airport but it did not have all streets labelled and we could not find a store that sold maps at the airport AND the cell provider (Movistar) did not have any cell cards left at the airport. Combine all of these together and we were frustrated.
You can just IMAGINE how many “F” words were coming from our Suzuki Vitterra (sp) as we made our way through downtown Santiago.
At the renatl main office we showed at 20 to 4 and Darwin said we were a bit early to pick up the papers promised for 5:00 pm ( 1700 hrs – playing games with the 7:00 pm ) anyway they sped up two hours and documentation in hand, we made our way across town in rush hour traffic to our hostel www.happyhousehostel.com. Once again the cursing was at a high level, but we made it safely. We were very impressed with the hostel (private room, shared bathroom/shower $59US).
Darwin decided we had to stock up on supplies after a long day on the road, so off we went AGAIN in prime traffic and finally found the mall he/kim/kev went to before our cruise. This is one interesting mall. So we loaded up on supplies (except my summer dress that was nowhere to be found in a mall due to the fall clothes starting to arrive) and headed back to the hostel. We were greeted with a welcome drink (white wine and peaches....very very yummy). We then headed downstairs to the pizzeria next door and I enjoyed one of my best spaghetti dinners in years and Darwin had pizza. It was 23:00 by the time we ordered food. We were exhausted but famished. Back to the hostel for some sleep but up early to start our adventure.
Oh yea... side note....our stocking up included Darwin loading up on every piece of technology map equipment you can imagine. New Garmin GPS system including a new map of Argentina for our trip across the Andes. I was laughing to myself that the Canada Arm Satellite is probably beeping some code because it isn’t used to seeing so much equipment in a rental vehicle in this part of the world. But after our day of hell around the City, Darwin wanted to make sure we were properly equipped like Albertans should be.
So we easily made it to the highway leading us to Mendoza. We needed gas before we crossed the Andes, so we headed into Los Andes to fill up on gas. Then into town as the GPS card we bought for Argentina did not fit the new GPS model. Darwin searched for another device to adapt, and then we went back to the car and realized it worked..... oops.
So back on the road and for some reason our GPS was telling us to go in another direction. We persevered the way we were going and YEP the GPS was right. We finally got onto the right road and then headed towards the border. We stopped at our first post and some guy gave us these papers stating we had a rental vehicle. We then drove a few kilometres and thought we were at customs. WRONG. This was just a currency exchange and washroom trailer. This is the Chile border area for returning and we continued our drive. Well what a drive. We thought we had switch backs in North America....the Logan Pass doesn’t come close to this. We believe we did 23 switch backs that climbed 3105 metres to the summit. This was an amazing drive. We will post some photos but it DOES NOT do this area justice. It is hard to describe some of the scenery but to say it’s the colour of the grand canyon, at the scale of the Rockies. It was absolutely breathtaking.
But we were not through customs yet. The next stop, we received small piece of paper with a stamp on it and the attendant told us to report 16km down the road. So down the road we went and then we had a line-up and what a line-up it was. We spent 3 hours waiting to get across the border. Obviously the locals are used to this, so they have lunches packed, soccer games going on outside while everyone waits to get cleared from customs. I was proud of myself as I managed to walk to one of the 3 food booths outside the customs building and actually ordered a hamburger and hotdog with no problems. When you approach the security booth, it is the passenger who gets out to present papers. There are two men in the booth together and the first one is CHILE police who clear you from their country. Then Argent ina immigration clears you to their country. We went through that and then had to go to another booth and they check your vehicle. We presented our rental agreement to the officers and then they took off for 20 minutes and reviewed our documentation. We finally got cleared through customs but had to present that small piece of paper stamped earlier (now stamped two more times) to another control booth 16km away.
So.....it is quite the process to clear customs here. As Darwin said “it was a cluster......” south America is one of the top gateways for drug movement in the world and all they do here is a visual inspection of the car. It was a very PAINFUL process but we endured and laughed about it.
Once we were finally cleared we enjoyed 100km of pure nature at it’s best. This is definitely one of the top 3 drives in our lives (Rocky Mountains/Moab Desert) but this one combined the two drives into one. The reds were amazing and the copper in the ranges was breathtaking. And we thought the painted desert in California was nice! NO COMPARISON.
We had booked a B&B a week ago for Mendoza and Mercedes (the owner) was glad to see us when we arrived at 21:00. She immediately said the border took longer than expected. Mercedes took the next hour booking tours and suggesting restaurants for us. She convinced us to stay in the area for 5 nights
and then head back to Chile via the same pass. She indicated we could cross back to Chile south of here, but there are not major cities in the area and not alot to do. This lady knows her stuff and we immediately trusted her. For our friends/family in Drumheller – we met Dorothy Bergos of Argentina. This lady knew everything and Darwin looked at me and said “here’s our Dorothy”. So it’s set, we are now here for 5 nights (unfortunately the plazia italia is booked so she has made arrangements for us to stay at Argentina Hotel the next 4 nights). We have 2 wine tours booked, a horseback riding day and one free day to roam the area. (Kim you MUST send clients here. She is better than our place in Seattle this summer for hospitality).
Off we went to Azafran for some food. Now this is a neat little spot. They run a wine store and also happen to have a restaurant. In their menu they indicate they would rather show their wine in the cellar than list it in a menu.... very cool. So off you go to the store area and pick your wine for dinner. We tried a Borado (grape from Spain) and it was delicious. We are looking forward to our tour tomorrow.
Need to get some sleep as we are getting picked up in 6 hours. I will try and post some photos tomorrow.