Crossing the Border
The weekend had finally arrived. While it would have been nice to relax in Temuco after finishing work for the week, we instead had to finalize the Lemmy (PT Cruiser) purchase by driving to Argentina.
Wait, what? Why?
Well, basically, we have been driving Lemmy around under “permission” from the previous owners (through a “poder” – which is a notarized document saying we can drive the vehicle). While in the States, we were the official and registered owners of the vehicle, it wasn’t technically completed in South America at this point because it still had a temporary important permit (TIP), which was connected to the previous owner’s name, registration, and license plate. That TIP was expiring on January 17th, so we needed to get Lemmy out of the country before that time, otherwise, it would be impounded.
So, again, why did you have to cross the border? How does that “complete the purchase”?
Okay, well the plan is to leave Chile under the license plate and registration from the previous owners with a “poder” saying we can drive it. That way, we can get it out of the country prior to the TIP expiring. So we think we have the necessary paperwork to leave Chile. Once we leave Chile, before we get to another border (i.e., no man’s land), we need to jump out of the car and switch the license plates to the ones registered in our name. When we get to the other country, we show them the updated registration (which shows our name and is associated to the new plates), and then they should let us enter the country (under all our names). When we come back into Chile the next day, hopefully they don’t remember a couple of gringos driving a PT Cruiser that now magically has different license plates. Again, we show them our new registration, and they will give us a new TIP associated with our names, registration, license plate, etc. What could go wrong?
So now that you have some background as to why we needed to leave Chile this weekend, the next step was to determine where we wanted to go. Obviously, Argentina is the closest country, and since we needed to accomplish all of this on Saturday and Sunday to be back to work on Monday, we found identified the closest border crossing and then found the nearest cool looking town in Argentina to spend a night (rumor has it that border agents don’t really like when you just cross a border and then come back like an hour later, so we opted to stay a night). After some research, and finding out there was a decent “no man’s land” stretch at the border crossing near us, we opted to drive through the Icalma Pass and then head into Villa Pehuenia in Argentina. Also, since we brought camping equipment with us, we thought we’d put it to use and found a campsite called La Puente in that town. While the main impetus was the excursion was the get everything figured out with Lemmy, we wanted to have as much fun as possible doing it since it was also Sarah’s bday weekend (she’s a big fan of camping, so here we go!).
Okay, so we have our master plan. Leave Saturday morning, cross the borders, drive to Villa Pehuenia, camp for one night, and come back to Temuco crossing the borders again.
We headed out on Saturday morning on what appeared to be a 2.5 hour drive to Villa Pehuenia. We anticipated it taking a little longer with the border crossing. The drive was pretty straight forward until we got to the final 20km of Chile in which the road turned from pavement to gravel with lots of incline/decline. Again, we are driving a PT Cruiser, not a 4×4 SUV or anything more suitable for some of this terrain so we take it slow. We approach the Chilean border and enter the office and present all the paperwork. Long story short, it worked. They let us pass into Argentina after showing all paperwork and about 1km down the road, I pull over and hop out of the car and swap the plates. I would say I took about 35 seconds and harnessed the pit crews at the Indy 500. We only have plates on the back and keep the other one in the front windshield, so it was pretty easy. We get to the Argentina border and give them all the paperwork indicating we own the car with the new plates. Again, it works. Two of the agents were funny and made a big deal that our last name was Kennedy. They were asking if we were related to the famous Kennedys, etc. We just smiled and took the approach of “we’ll be whoever you want as long as you let us in.” They inspect our vehicle (note: the country you’re entering cares a lot more than the country that you’re leaving) and let us go ahead. BOOM. It worked. I guess you can trust the internet (and people that you may find on the internet who are interested in selling their PT Cruiser from the other side of the world).
We get into Villa Pehuenia (after about 4.5 hours vs. Google’s 2.5 estimation), which is a really cute town on a lake that looked to have lots of families on vacation. I wish we could have spent more time there. We got to the campsite, which we paid about $12 for the night (yes, I know, we probably got ripped off), and it was perfect for what we needed. Since we were still somewhat early in the day, we decided to set up the tent and then head into town to get some food and WIFI to figure out our next move. We had heard of a little a nearby crater but after some research, we opted to hold off on that until Sunday morning. Instead we toured around town stopping at random places and taking pictures (also, I was testing out WIFI networks to see if anything was strong enough to stream the Colts game later that evening). We then went back to our campsite to relax, play some rummy, and eventually take a little nap in our hammock. Very enjoyable.
Around 6 p.m., we went back into town and went to dinner at Estacion de la Montana – which was a bar/restaurant that was very “train” themed. It had two large train cars that you could dine in, but we opted for the bar area which had train tracks surrounding it and it would deliver your beers. Also, had great WIFI. So, the place was perfect. We stayed there for about 3 hours, the Colts got crushed by the Chiefs, but we had a good time. We went back to the campsite, enjoyed a beer and enjoyed looking out on a clear night sky. While it was going to get a little cold, we wanted to see stars by our tent so we folded over the rainfly so that we had a bit of a moon roof (while still blocking some of the wind).
The sun woke us up pretty early on Sunday, which was a good thing because we wanted to pack up camp and head to Batea Mahuida to do that hike I previously mentioned.
The google machine made it seem like you could drive up to the base and then hike from there. We were told it didn’t open until 10 a.m. but we got to the gate around 9:20 a.m. There was no one there, and there was no barrier blocking anything, so we decided to go ahead and said we’d pay the $4 entry fee on our way out. It was cool, we were the only people there and we drove up various roads getting closer to the crater until we realized that we probably couldn’t get any closer in a PT Cruiser. Again, there was no one there. As we started to hike (straight up) the hill, we saw two ladies who had come from a different direction. We talked with them a little bit and they had hiked from Chile (the crater is right on the border) and had been hiking for 3 hours, whereas Sarah and I had been hiking for about 5 minutes from our car. Anyways, we trudged our way up the hill and got to the top with sweeping views of the mountains on both Chile and Argentina sides and the lake-filled crater below. It was only us and the two other people at the top of this place and it was awesome. During our hike, we started to see a line full of cars entering the park (right around 10 a.m., when it officially opened), so we basically beat the crowd. We relaxed at the top a bit and then hiked back down. When we got back to our car, there were many other cars there and a tour of about 20 people getting ready to go up. We were really lucky/happy we went early. We left the park, gave the attendants the $4 on our way out, and went on our way to the border.
When we got to the Argentina border, we didn’t have any concerns (because, again, they don’t really care when you’re leaving the country). The same people were there working from Saturday and just said “Kennedy!” and laughed and it was business as usual. We then headed to the Chilean border to re-enter the country with our PT Cruiser that now has new plates on it. Ultimately, nothing bad/interesting happened and we got back into Chile. We feel great because we are now in Chile, with our car with all of our registration information, with plates that match everything, etc. TRANSACTION COMPLETE, WE OFFICALLY OWN THIS CAR.
The drive back was fairly uneventful (again, given that tough patch of 20km of sketchy gravel), and we stopped in Melipeuco for some lunch to break up the drive. Found a nice place and had a sandwich and completo, and then they just gave us some free sopaipillas (which were, as always, delicious). Also, there were some really good dogs just hanging with us during lunch – which is always a plus. We got back on the road, drove straight to Temuco, and now we’re back in our apartment, doing some Sunday laundry. Excellent weekend to accomplish some pretty important remaining tasks, celebrate Sarah’s bday some more, test out some camping equipment, and knock out some adventures. Looking forward to relaxing the rest of the evening, and getting lots accomplished this upcoming week at Chol Chol. Adios!