Kristin's family visited us for the holidays. As you've read, we spent Christmas in Mendoza and Uspallata, Argentina. On the already-long bus ride from Uspallata to Valparaiso, Chile, we had the bonus opportunity to wait on the bus for 2 hours. This was just before the border and we couldn't get off of the bus. Eventually we were able to check out of Argentina, then check into Chile, and then go through Chilean customs. They are atypically stringent on the Chilean side. I didn't think I had anything to declare, but they check out bags regardless. I had fun trying to describe why I had so much muesli, oatmeal, 10-grain cereal, and Clif Bars. I maintained that I was vegetarian and it was hard to find these foods in Chile (not so true, except for Clif Bars, which are non-existent in South America). The customs agent also found a bag of millet, which I argued was like oatmeal even though I didn't know the Spanish word for millet. Twenty minutes and much discussion later, they had determined that millet is a seed, that I did not declare that I had seeds, and I had therefore lied on my official entry documents. Fuuuuuudge. Another ten minutes of argueing (still in my broken Spanish) and I found myself in a backroom office, no windows, trying to further explain my way out of this situation. Kristin didn't know why I was taken away, nor where I was going.
The first agent filled out four very official looking documents, all in triplicate, which needed my signature to certify that my contraband was: brought in by me, taken by the authorities, and then destroyed. After the fun was over, my new friend left the office. A few minutes later I made a new acquaintance. This agent was going to fill out the paperwork for my citation and fine. When we got to the part about why I brought seeds and didn't declare them, I tried to explain my desire (need?) for a special diet. Eventually it was easiest to say that I am diabetic. The agent perked up a bit when I told him that. He added that tidbit to my confession, then went to see el jefe (the boss). Some more waiting. Finally, he returned and said that I would only get a citation and no fine. Yay for diabetes! My brother Neil worked for the American Diabetes Association for three years. He'd be proud that I am still raising awareness around the world.
Anyways, more paperwork, my waiting, more signature, copies made, red tape, and finally I was released. Only an hour gone and I was back on the bus, which had been waiting for ME this whole time. The bus passengers applauded when I finally boarded. The bus driver was gunning it before I even got to my seat.
Lesson learned: don't eat seeds.
Second lesson learned: Argentina is better than Chile
Third lesson learned: don't cross borders with other people, it just complicates things. So, to ensure this doesn't happen again, Kristin and I are taking a bus to Cochamo Valley (2 hrs east of here) and then hiking for an estimated 6 days across the border into Argentina. This is totally legit as there are no roads leading through this section of the Andes. We'll see how it goes. We are in Patagonia and the weather is supposed to be fantastically wet. If all works well, we'll end up in the hippie town of El Bolson. Then north to Bariloche for more hiking and chocolate.
Stuffing my pockets as I run from the authorities.