We just listened to Amy Pohler’s “Yes, Please” while driving down the Carretera Austral. There are many good points in this book. One of them being the obvious Yes Please idea. AJ and I have now adopted this into our daily lives, instead of saying no to each other we have been saying yes, please. This is not always beneficial, like when AJ asked if I would “please write a blog, already”. I had to answer, “Yes, please.” So here it is. I feel like I am a poor second after Mel’s brilliant blog post, and I guess the saying better late than never should also be applied. Another inspiration for this blog came when we pulled behind a big beautiful truck in Calafate, Argentina and it was from COLORADO! When we got to chatting with this awesome couple we found out that they had actually read this blog! What? There are people out there, other than my mom, that read this? I apologize, and I promise to try harder in the (near) future.
First, before I can write about our wonderful time in Northern Argentina, I have to write about that one time when we were illegal aliens and no one would accept us into their country. This is an email I wrote to Mel about the experience:
“Quick version of shit we just went through:We decided to leave Bolivia via the “Laguna Route” which is the one with the geyser and hot springs and tons of cool lakes just south of the Salar, remember? There’s a boarder crossing at the bottom of it where you can choose to head into Argentina or Chile, you just have to prepare yourself in Uyuni to have enough gas, food, etc because it gets really rugged for 3-4 days until you make it to your next country. So you know we did: beer, ramen, and we headed out. Our first night hit -15 and I woke up facing icicles on the fucking roof! No shit! The days were a pleasant 50 degrees with beautiful scenery but the nights were just brutal! I was ready for argentine wine country the second day. Fast forward three more nights to the border, they were so friendly and just waved us through. We decided to shoot over to the ocean and defrost in Chile for a couple nights. When much to our surprise they informed us that the Bolivian border was supposed to give us a paper for Alex. We told them we would just pop back over really quick (it was an 1 &1/2hr away) and they said no, not that one, the one you entered from. Just let that sink in, think back to Lake Titcaca. I got nauseous. We were literally on fumes and had used our extra gas tanks so they held me and Alex hostage while AJ found gas and we shot over to Argentina (it was actually a mountain pass-Paso de Jama- that took three hours) and arrived right before closing. We were so excited we made it in time! Until they informed us that they would not let us enter because we cannot purchase visas at the boarder, only online. They even pulled the site up on their computer and showed us but would not let us use it to buy them. This time I almost cried. Really, I’m sure you can imagine. So we only had one option and that was to go back to Bolivia. We headed back and made it to the boarder and interrupted the guards dinner (he lives in the hut) and begged to let us back in to Bolivia. He told us he would in the morning and let us camp out in the parking lot. In the morning we woke up surrounded by 20-30 land rovers stuffed with tourists and when we went in to get stamped through they told us our visas were only good for one time. There was a lot of back and forth until I pulled out our embassy and sat phone and it started ringing and then we were miraculously waved through on the condition we had to come back through this boarder because we were officially illegals. It was kind of exciting, we had no stamps in our passport and would have been screwed if we got pulled over! We drove like bats out of hell up to Uyni talked a vet into forging a paper for Alex purchased our damn visas and drove like crazies back. Oh, our brakes busted again on one of these roads so we were driving like bats out of hell with no brakes and illegal aliens to boot. And froze our asses off, I was wearing three layers with my down coat and every available blanket. Made it to Argentina,(where Chile made us stamp in and out) found our friends in wine country and went wine tasting, siesta’ing, and eating for three days.”
Things we learned from this boarder crossing:
*Argentina has two different currencies. There is the official one which varies from 8-10 pesos for every dollar. Then there is the black market, otherwise known as the Blue Dollar Exchange. If you bring american blue hundred dollar bills you can sell them for 14-16 pesos to the dollar. I’m still not certain why this is, but it has been amazing for us!
*Argentina charges a reciprocity fee of $150 usd to enter their country for Americans (we charge them the same to enter our country). This fee must be payed online and then printed out and shown with your passport upon arrival to Argentina.
*Bolivia sells two different visas for Americans. One is $60 usd and lasts 30 days and is one use only. The other is $160, lasts 10 years can be used as many times as you like. Visas are only needed for Americans.
*Chile loves paperwork, especially for Alex. This has been the only country that has caused us any hassle over traveling with a dog. Before entering Chile, we have to visit a vet in Argentina and then visit a government office called Sanasa to get appropriate paperwork (and we just did our fifth crossing into Chile). We’ve got it down to a science, and it has been pretty easy.