20 January 2010

Crossing Borders, Pt. 2

Follow up to my earlier blog on Cochamó Valley:
Last week Kristin and I hiked from Chile to Argentina. We had enough food for 7+ days and all of our stuff for the next 6 months. The packs were relatively heavy, but still half the size of anybody else's. With the heavy rains, no trail markings, and horribly planned trail, we spent a few days hanging out in the Valley hoping for a break in the weather.

(Somewhere under that mud is my shoe)

The day we left, the Valley was cloudy and only slightly rainy. Still, that was better than the downpours of the prior week. Beyond the mud, we were also slowed by the complete lack of trail markings. At one point, I followed a trail that a prior hiker had hacked through a bamboo forest. It was the most promising trail we had found, but after two hours of forging ahead, we returned to our lunch spot to find the proper trail. At other times, the trail was up a river slot that had walls 2-3 meters deep. I asked Kristin if she thought the river or the trail came first. Her reply? She hoped the trail came first, for her sanity's sake. Who would put a trail up a muddy river slots? By the end of the trip, our clothes and packs and shoes were mere molecules held together by dirt. But we made it.

View from our campsite on a rare clear afternoon.

Same mountain on a more typical day.

Yes, we made it to the border crossing. Which leads me to a follow up of another blog post:
In my last border crossing, I was nearly held hostage for carrying millet, a benign edible seed. In walking accross the border this time, I was hopeful that it wouldn´t be as bad. Going into Argentina never has been.

However, getting out of Chile was really just a continuation of last month´s border fiasco. It seems that in the hours long argument, red tape, and quadruplicate citiation, they forget to take one of the copies of my immigration form. At this latest border crossing, which was a house in the middle of nowhere and 3km from the actual border, my friendly border crossing agent was perplexed as to why I had this extra sheet. He scolded me for having an extra sheet and he didn´t know what to do about it. Now, had I "lost" this sheet in a trashcan, everything would have been OK. But somehow having it was criminal. After using my best broken spanish to argue our case, he eventually let us through. However, he first gave me a 10 minute diatribe on being careful with this very important official paperwork.

After an hour of hiking we made it to the Argentinian border. Upon inspection, the Argentinian border guard inquired as to why my passport wasn´t stamped by the Chilean agent. Wait, what? After all that talk, the agent didn´t actually stamp my passport. Seriously? Mr. Argentina told me I´d have to hike back to get it stamped. I argued more, told him it wasn´t my fault and that it shouldn´t matter to Argentina. It´s obvious I just came from Chile AND I had the proper amount of paperwork. I told him to go call Mr. Chile and verify it. The not-so-happy agent eventually left the office. Five minutes later, without any explanation, he stamped my passport. We were legally in Argentina. I don´t know what will happen when I try to go back to Chile next time. More fun, I suppose. Can´t wait!

Now that we´re in Argentina, we had 50-60km to the nearest town and apparently no shuttle or legal way to get there. So we started hiking. Traffic was very sparse. So limited, in fact, that we seriously discussed stealing cows or horses and riding to town. Eventually a pickup truck stopped. It was 4 twenty-somethings from Buenos Aires. They could squeeze us in and take us to a nearby camp.

During that ride, we became friends. We shared crackers and Yerba Mate and jokes and advice on where to travel. This led them to invite us to ride with them to El Bolsón, which is where we wanted to go anyway. Hours later, we arrived at our destination with four new friends and four places to stay in Buenos Aires.

Using ropes to help us on a steep, exposed, slippery slab during a day hike.

Playing around on Pared Saco (literally Dry Wall) at the end of the day.

Super sketchy stream crossings. At least it cleaned the mud off!

Along the hike we found our dream cabin.

Yes, that is the actual trail.

As we approached the border, we found a few hardy folk who were willing to brave the isolation and frigid winters. They are certainly rewarded with excellent summers. I think that these people were given land in exchange for working the land. This has more to do with Chile wanting to secure this land against Argentina. Sharing a 4000km border, there are bound to be disputes and it is only within the last two decades that the border has become more or less agreed upon.

On a bridge, looking into Argentina. We´re almost there . . .

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