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Old 13 Sep 2012
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Crossing the border from Chile to Mendoza, Argentina

Route: Santiago, Chile - Mendoza, Argentina
Distance: 365Km
Travel Time: 10 hours
Road Conditions: Good Tarmac
Weather: Freezing Cold, Very Windy
Terrain: Mountainous, Pass of 3175m
Food and Petrol: Los Andes, Uspallata, Mendoza
Accommodation: Chara Hostal, Mendoza

Santiago to Los Andes (avoiding the Autopista) and up to the Los Libertadores pass to Mendoza, a total distance of about 365Km. I was obviously thinking of about 4 hours journey time, with two more for breaks and customs/immigration. The Los Libertadores (also known as Christo Redentor) It’s about 3400m high and snowy. The road snakes up 29 or so serpentines and then reaches the Christo Redentor tunnel. It’s been closed for a few days due to bad weather (delaying us even more) so I’m checking for black ice but it’s fine – they seem to have strewn salt on the road. You get a view of Aconcagua on the the level stretch before the border police compound but it’s shrouded in clouds so we can only just see it.

We used the following web sites to check the state of the Chile – Argentina border crossings and weather conditions before travel:
Unidad de Pasos Fronterizos - Gono de Chile (Chile’s official border management page)
.::Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina::. (Argentina police border info page)
Highway border crossings between Chile and Argentina | GreenAsh (Independent info on various Chilean land borders)
Direcci�n Meteorol�gica de Chile (Chile meteorological website)
WindGURU: Weather forecasts for windsurfing, kitesurfing and other wind related sports (Detailed weather conditions including wind, precipitation etc)

At the Aduana (the customs & immigration checkpoint) we reach the back of a long queue of cars and buses. We park and I get chatting to the guy parked ahead of me. He suggests, why don’t I just take the bike through to the front of the queue. He recons that’ll be alright. Excellent, because we, not being in a car, are more likely to freeze to death waiting in line up here. We move forward and see a couple of bikers just a few cars from the entrance, so we park up near them and get talking. They’re Brazilian, have been on about a month’s journey from somewhere around Sao Paolo, West and into Northern Chile, down to Santiago and completing the loop back from here. Apparently they’ve been waiting for three hours already! (Good thing we moved ahead!)

Once in the Aduana building things again take time. Cars outside are regularly blowing their horns in frustration – sounds as if they’d just won the football or something. Finally we get to do the paperwork formalities and the customs folks start getting complicated about my RUT: it’s only valid for 3 months and, they say, this will be a problem if I want to re-enter Chile after three months time. (Strange, the guy I bought the bike from re-entered on an expired RUT, because he had to renew his to sell the bike.)

One of the Brazilians help us out with translation a bit. His advice to me is as follows: “When you’re biking through South America like this you have to learn to create problems for yourself and fix them later on the fly, otherwise you’ll never go anywhere.”

Eventually our paperwork gets stamped and we’re free to go. By the time we move on it’s nearly dark. We notice the temperature difference immediately as we move on. My fingers go numb in no time.

We pass some Argentinian soldiers, clearly enjoying their shift standing out here in the snow waiting for vehicles to pass, and continue our freezing journey down to Mendoza. We don’t like riding at night in any case, but this journey is terrible! It’s painfully cold and powerful gusts of wind threaten to blow us down every few hundred metres. I have to lean the bike into the wind as if taking a corner but still ride straight. Scary sh**! Thankfully we arrive ok.

Mendoza is ok but not what we expected. Just a big town and not very beautiful. It takes us a couple of hours to find our hostel (Chara Hostal). The road system is a pain in the arse – lots of one way streets and traffic lights. And they’re ALWAYS RED! We end up asking a taxi driver and he leads us to the correct street, about 500 metres away. I was going to give the guy some cash anyway, but the asshole points at his meter: 500 Pesos. I look at him quizzically, “50 US Dollars, don’t you think that’s a bit steep?”
He decides that he must have misread the meter, it must be 50 Pesos, but of course this is still way out of line, so I give him ten and send him on his way. In hind-sight, I should have just told him to go **** himself.

Pictures: Finally on the road! Crossing the Border from Chile to Mendoza, Argentina
Our Worldwide Motorbiking Experience Notes: India, Laos, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil
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chile to argentina, los libertadores, trip information

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