Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fly Fishing Patagonia Argentina: Finally, I am in Argentina

Day 14: 137 days left.
Day 15: 136 days left

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors.  I am doing my best to put my best English forward, but I simply do not have the time to thoroughly edit/review everything I would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

It seems like a year ago since my last entry. A lot has happened and as usual, life has a funny of way of happening in South America.  Here is what has happened in the last 2-3 days.

Just before I left Santiago, I had my last and final encounter with Alex.  All I can say is that I don't remember how it happened, but I picked him up and slammed him to the floor.  If you recall, he borrowed $40 USD from me and promised to pay me back.  He was supposed to pay me back on Monday and he failed to do so.  As a result, I decided to keep his prized chef knife, that he left in my truck.  It's a large carving knife from Ikea, so I figured it was of equal value.  He did not like this one bit and demanded that I give him back his cherished knife, immediately.  My reply, when you pay me my money, you'll get your knife; otherwise we are done.  The next day, Tuesday, just before my departure, he approached me and offered to give me two silver coins...the kind that is minted in the USA and sold late night on the Home Shopping Network.  Despite his claims, telling me that both coins were worth hundreds of dollars, I said NO THANKS...WE ARE DONE!  Again, he didn't not like this and said something that obviously set me off.  He soon was airborne, on the ground, and as I stood above him like an MMA fighter, with my hands grasped just below his neck, I picked him up again and slammed him to the floor.  This technique; brute force vs. his verbal bullshit (he said he did not have the $$$), seemed to work because he then came to his senses, paid me my money, and it was over.  Now, days later, on the same day my UFC-Santiago match with Alex was held, I have been told he was kicked out of the hostel for not paying for 3-4 nights.  Further, we have learned that he was kicked out of another hostel for not paying.  So, for any of you who may think I am a vicious beast, sometimes people need to understand that there are rules, values and morals in life and some people do not like to be F'd with..  Enough said, time to leave Santiago.

Joining me on my trip to Argentina was Nico, from Greece.  He plans to ride his bike all the way to Tierra del Fuego! (you can see his mnt. bike strapped to the roof rack).  We knew the border crossing would be a long wait.  Why?  There is summer road construction going on and traffic is one-way in the A.M. and one-way in the P.M.  What this means, we arrived four hours early and waited till the police allowed us to pass into Argentina. The total time of waiting, going through customs and then finally arriving in Argentina, took eight hours!  That's a big downer for anyone, anywhere.  But, the best thing about this process was the crossing over a 10,000 foot, Andean Mountain pass.

We arrived 4 hours early to ensure that we would cross into Argentina.  Watched Condors fly above us!

Despite being allowed to move forward, we had several stops, before making the 10,000ft cross.

For some reason, Nico loves my license plate.  His mountain bike, easily fits atop the handmade, marine wood, Mark Seymour roof rack.

So, once we started moving, I decided to put the pedal to the metal, and ended up blowing by dozens of cars, struggling to get over the pass (love the 7.3 Diesel Power-Stroke).  Atop the pass is a lake and ski resort, called Lago Portillo (Google for Pics, it's pretty amazing); and a thought...who puts a ski resort atop a 10,000ft mountain pass?  Must be pretty cold and difficult to drive up and down the road, during the winter.  The final leg of the border crossing entailed the need/requirement for me to buy seguro (auto insurance).  This is how it works:

If you import your 'used-private' car to Chile or Argentina, and if you and your vehicle are traveling under a 90 day tourist visa, you are not 'technically' required to buy auto insurance (at least that is what I have been told, thus far); and, you avoid importation tax (this why I shipped my own vehicle...again, to avoid the tax).  Why? Auto insurance sold via an intra-Chilean or Argentina company, is not available for foreigners; in this case, a person like me who imports a used vehicle for their own personal use.  However, I have been recently informed that you can buy auto insurance via an international agency that offers insurance via the MercoSur  agreement (  The company to contact for such insurance is  I will be contacting them soon to explore long term auto insurance options.  Why?  In the below photo, I am buying auto insurance, which by law, allows me to cross the border; and the insurance is good for 30 days only. An idea for future way around the need to buy long term insurance is too simply keep crossing borders and buying 30 days seguro (seguro = auto insurance).  I can't imagine the insurance being worth much because it only cost $18,000 Cl Pesos, or $40 USD.  The last step in this process was receiving a document that states that I can keep my truck in Argentina for up to eight months.  This piece of the puzzle was new information for me, and I was quite happy.  So, if you do the math, I have a standard 90 day tourist visa and an 8 month permit to keep my truck in Argentina (if I don't take my truck out of Argentina, before the eight permit expires, I will have to pay the importation tax and local tariffs).  What does this mean?  It means that in 90 days or less,  because I physically need to leave Argentina, I will have to travel to Chile for one day, return to Argentina that same day or at least spend one day in Chile, and  upon my return to Argentina, I will receive another 90 days travel visa.  In this process, I am hopeful that my truck will receive another eight months permit.  The other way to drive your own personal vehicles in Chile or Argentina, and have the ability to obtain a local title, registration, plates and insurance, and most importantly avoid the need to make border crossing every 90 days...

  1. Buy a 'new' vehicle in the USA, with less than 500 Kilometers on it.  Any vehicle with more than 500 kilometers, will be considered used.  
  2. Ship it to your desire destination, either Ro-Ro service or Container (container is the safest because it is locked)
  3. Pay the importation tax:  in Chile it is 19% of the value and in Argentina, is 21.5%, plus local tariffs, adding up to 50%.  If you really want to know more info, you can Google or visit
  4. Note: you do not have to hire a lawyer to complete this process.  If you are resourceful and speak, at the very least a little spanish, it can be done.  Allow 2 weeks for legal documents to process.

The other way:

  1. Buy a new or used vehicle in the country.  From my experience, buy in Chile.  Why? It's more expensive than the USA, but much less than Argentina; and the bureaucracy in Argentina will fry your mind and wallet!
  2. By buying a new or used vehicle in the country, you will be entitled to a legal title, registration, plates, auto-insurance, etc.  
  3. Note: you do not have to hire a lawyer to complete this process.  If you are resourceful and speak, at the very least a little spanish, it can be done.  Allow 2 weeks for legal documents to process.

The bottom line, there are essentially three options on how to go about driving your vehicle in Chile and Argentina; and perhaps other countries, around the globe.  Much of what I have written here comes from the combination of personal experience and visiting many ExPat websites (the amount of info on Google is truly amazing).

Never thought I would buy auto insurance at 10,000 feet.

Last photo in Chile...dam that beard is ugly!

Moving along...we drove for a few miles and ended up sleeping in a ski resort parking lot, at about 9,000 ft.   It was not the ideal spot, as trucks drove by all night.  But, with earplugs, I slept from 1am till about 7am.  We were on the road at 7am and I drove for 12 hours, till just outside of Neuquen, Argentina. Leaving the Andes, looking back, and with a clear morning, I could see the 22,841 ft, Mt. Aconcagua (I never get tired of seeing this mountain).  As we approached Neuquen, Nico was asking me questions about my truck.  The discussion centered upon pre-trip preparations, or in other words, fixing everything that needed to be fixed.  I kid you not, about 5 minutes after we finished the discussion, my left front tire began making an awful noise.  The noise sounded like a rock was stuck in the brake calipers, thus making a grinding noise upon each revolution of the tire. We pulled over and did a quick look see, but nothing could be found wrong...please no more problems! We drove for another 10 miles, and some how, with luck, happened upon a diesel truck mechanic (as it turns out, he is the best in the area...Tengo Suerte!).  The mechanic, Alfredo, took the truck for a spin and came back to the shop within a few minutes.  He lifted the truck, and with his hands only, he could tilt the tire...not a good sign.  He then grabbed the brake rotor, and once again, only with his hands, he could easily tilt the entire rotor...a worse sign. He then poked around the back of the brake drum and immediately showed me a gooey substance and miniature metal shavings.  At this point, prior to sending my truck to Chile, I remembered telling my USA mechanic to check the truck from bumper to bumper, and then do it again...making sure there would be nothing wrong when I arrive in Chile (beter luck next time, I guess).  Alfredo said he could fix the problem, but it would have to be fix the next morning (it was 8pm, closing time).  So, Nico and I stayed a the closest hotel, treated ourselves to a swim, hot shower and complimentary full breakfast, the next morning.  I will spare you the details, but the next day, after spending $605 USD for the new brake drum, and $300 USD for labor, I was back on the road, heading to Juin de los Andes (remind me to thank my mechanic when I get home; or this could have been due to the trucks age, 10 years old with less than 75K miles).  Six hours later, we arrived in Junin de los Andes at 10pm, and parked/camped next to the middle section of the Rio Chimehuin.

Before Shot: Alfredo Jr. looks just like the main character in the movie "Office Space."
New vs. Old.  FYI, Ford is a global company = cars/truck engines are different, but the parts are all the same.

99% complete
Rio Alumine...40 minutes from Junin de los Andes.

As we drove the last hour, following Rio Collon Cura and before entering Junin de los Andes, we could see European Reg Stag, wild boar, flamingos, and various ducks/geese along the felt good to be back!

Hasta Luego Amigos.

PS. There is a pleasure in the pathless woods; There is rapture on the lonely shore; There is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but nature more. -Lord Byron

In plain language...can't wait to go fishing and can't wait to listen to the river...both are my religion and always will be.