To Chile, and beyond
I'm so glad it had been teeming two days previously, causing me to turn around and go back to Villa La Agnostura and wait out the rain. Had I kept riding that day, I would have missed seeing some wonderful scenery, curtained by the gray rain.
I could easily have stayed longer at the delightful and relaxing Cabañas El Viejo Marquez, and hope to spend some time there when I return to South America in the future. But time was passing, and I had to make a move. What a day for photos - bright sunshine, little if any breeze, ample opportunity to stop safely, for a change - so I did.
It was less than 30km to the Argentina border post, and I was quickly processed out of the country, into "no man's land" for the next 20-odd km till I reached the Chilean border post. Crossing the "no man's land" was wonderful, sweeping and twisting through curve after curve, up and over the mountains, glorious vistas to each side. The physical border appeared, so there was the obligatory photo stop in the remoteness, with the eerie, almost complete, silence broken only by the soft breeze rustling through the trees in this cooler, high altitude setting. Then swooping and leaning through the bends, all the way to the border post.
Through Migracion with no problems, then on to the Aduana counter to check the bike into Chile. Ahhhh, no. No go! Apparently I was missing a necessary paper! It seems I'd not been given an essential document when I crossed through Chile down in the dogleg near Rio Grande. Being made to step aside and wait till the officer attended to all the other travellers, I used the time to jot down all the dates of when I'd entered and left Chile, 6 border crossings in all. I had niggling fears of being stuck in "no man's land" forever. Yuk!! But when he finally got back to me, he ummmed and ahhhhhed, questioned me further, and eventually filled out the requisite document, adding that he "hoped" he was doing the right thing. So did I!
I chatted with some travellers on a Harley and a Honda Shadow, holidaying briefly from Germany to visit family in Argentina, while the SAG officer inspected ALL my gear, including my camping bag (which was a first), looking for fruit, veggies and meat. Ummmmmmm, the only thing he didn't check was my tankbag, which just happened to contain tomatoes, lettuce and hardboiled eggs! Oops! It was a real pain having to remove the camping bag from under its security net, undo all the straps and clips, then let him dig through everything, all to no avail, then repack it all again. What a waste of time! But at least I got to chat, while I was repacking it.
Off into Chile, passing a couple on a UK R1200GS on their way to Ushuaia, at the final control point into Chile, but unfortunately there was no time to talk with them. On, down along more wonderfully scenic roads often lined with towering cottonwoods, their leaves flickering and flashing, reflecting the bright sunlight in the gently drifting breezes. There were many other species of shrubs and trees, too, among them pines, conifers and myrtles. Beautiful, dense myrtle forests, so reminiscient of the west coast and southwest of Tasmania. The roadsides were often draped in tall, slender, softly waving bamboo canes. The magnificent sights of snow draped mountain peaks, and the smells of the vegetation, of the decaying forest undergrowth and of the recently rain-dampened earth wafting on the breeze, were surely balm to the soul. It's times like these that make me believe it's good to be alive.
As I drew ever closer to the main highway, I rode past acres and acres of land under berry crops, strawberries and raspberries mainly, with many roadside stalls offering their wares as fresh fruit or jams and preserves - very tempting, but I resisted. I stopped at a tiny village store for an icecream and water. I prefer to stop at these little establishments, rather than the bigger places. Many families were taking advantage of the profusion of blackberries growing wild along the roadside, collecting them into bags and buckets. One assumes they are not sprayed with poisonous chemicals as a noxious weed, like in Tasmania.
All too soon, I was back on Ruta 5, the freeway to Puerto Montt, heading for Chiloe Island, 70 or so km south of Puerto Montt. It was restful crossing over to the island during the 30 minute ferry ride, although there was a moment when things were getting slightly out of hand. Picture this: me eating a banana (late lunch) with one hand, trying to hold the bike upright against the slight swell with the other, and trying to somehow get money out of my purse for the fare collector, all at the same time! Nope! I asked him to hold the bike while I went round the other side to balance it against the rocking of the swell, finished off the banana then sorted everything. I'm glad I did change sides, as the swell got higher, and the bike would surely have rocked over and fallen onto the righthand side had I not.