Well this calls for a celebration: we made it to Argentina!
We spent Sunday morning prepping the van so it was clean, organized, and without any contraband (produce, meat, etc) for our border crossing into Argentina. We were a little nervous because it was our first land-based border crossing and didn’t really know what to expect during the process, but everything went smoothly (aside from the usual communication issues caused by my lack of Spanish and my stage-fright when it comes to actually attempting to speak it).
When leaving Chile, we drove up to a booth and recieved a ticket with our license plate number and the number of passengers in the vehicle. Then we proceeded to a parking lot to park the van and go inside a building to get the ticket stamped by a Chilean immigration agent, then by a Chilean customs agent. The next step was to return to the vehicle and drive to another booth where we handed in the ticket and were sent on to Argentina.
There is a surprisingly long drive between the Chilean border control and the Argentinian border control. Once at the Argentinean side the initial ticketing process was the same as in Chile, but now we had an added step of a vehicle search. Our customs agent was professional and pleasant, gave us no grief, and only spent a couple minutes looking through one storage compartment in the van. It almost felt too easy, but none of the authority figures came after us as we drove away so we just kept on driving.
We entered Patagonia and found a lovely campsite, Pichi Traful, for our first two nights in the country. We celebrated the ease of the day with a hearty dinner and (budget-friendly) red wine.
The next morning (Monday) we went for a hike to a nearby waterfall, Cascada Nivinco, and were both surprised by the amount of bamboo in the forested areas. There were also interesting looking bugs and birds, and a general feel of the woods being more jungle-like than what we’re used to in the Cascades. Having to ford a river to get to the other side of the trail, however, is just as mind-numbingly cold as it is in the mountains back home.
When we returned to the campsite after our hike we discovered someone had stolen our clothesline and the towels that were hanging on it. I don’t know why someone would want our stinky towels, but if that’s the worst thing that happens to us we’re in pretty good shape.