It was here at the border we ran into our first problems… apparently as we weren't Chilean residents they wouldn't let us take the car out of Chile without prior authorisation???? WHAT!! This being our 6th border crossing we couldn't understand why we suddenly needed this bit of paper from a notary (law office) to say that we weren't exporting the vehicle, even though we kind of were. However the PDI officer wouldn't budge despite our many many attempts, so we gave up and drove the 80km back into town to get the necessary paper work, quickly realising it was a Saturday and the only notary office in town wasn't open until Monday! We really didn't want to waste time in the tiny town that wasn't even mentioned in the guide book so we headed 500km north towards the next border of Paso San Fransico. Thinking this crossing might be the same we spent Sunday night in the larger town of Copiapó near the border and on Monday found the police who directed us to a nearby notary office. At the office the lady explained she couldn't give me the authorisation paper we needed as we had brought the car too long ago and in a different city, bloody hell what difference does that make we thought, but our Spanish wasn't good enough to argue the point. Will decided that notary offices might be as irregular as border crossings so we asked another policeman if there was more than one office and he directed us down the road where we queued in a mosh pit of forty Chileans for over an hour. Finally at the front of the queue were told by the lady not to look so worried as she can do this for us easy! Five minutes and $12 later we had the papers we needed and had also doctored our hand written insurance papers so the since expired second month read as the seventh month. So far we had not been asked for this so called composlary Argentinian insurance at all, but there is always a first time. We now had all the right paper work to cross the border, phew!
Once again we then headed to the border and they DIDN'T I repeat DIDN'T ask for the insurance or the authorisation paper!!!! But the lady had a small problem with our RUT's because we are not from Chile ours have different numbers than most but finally after a phone call and another guy checking it they let us pass. It was getting late now and the Argentina border entry was about 125km away over a very high pass so we decided to spend the night in no mans land between the two countries. We found some deserted natural hot pools abandoned probably because they weren't actually that hot. We knew we were also quite high around 4,400m and wanted to see how it affected us, walking resulted in puffing and we both had slight headaches. That night as we slept Will had problems and woke up twice for a walk in the freezing wind felling unwell, I was ok until dawn where my headache pain increased ten fold. We left quickly in the morning without breakfast though only after Will had a quick dip in the sulphur smelling pools. We were just talking about wether or not we could climb this volcano given the nights events when we came across a German hitchhiker in his sixties who had spent the night in a freezing shelter. In broken English, Spanish and German he asked for a lift down as he had had a bad night suffering from the effects of altitude. Glad we weren't the only ones we dropped him off at the border hut and we easily crossed into Argentina with out a single look at the car! Finally in the small town of Fiamballa and thirty degree heat we were feeling much better but our problems weren't over as the only ATM in town was out of cash and we were out of fuel luckily they accepted our emergency US dollars at a good exchange rate!
Rochelle & Will