...courtesy of the Wi-Fi access at Central Frenos.
I nominate Paso Los Libertadores as the worst managed border crossing in the Southern Hemisphere, or the Americas, or what have you. Granted, it was a Saturday afternoon in one of the last Summer weekends South of the Equator. It took an hour of single-file crawling to pay toll at the only open booth at the entrance of the Cristo Redentor Tunnel. Then another two & a half hours for vehicle permits-- complicated, because Hans is still not a resident of Argentina, so there were a couple of extra triplicates to fill out, including one for my expected 50 peso multa--penalty-- for exceeding my three-month tourist visa by three whole days-- then, of course, we had to go through a thorough vehicle search on the Chilean side, with one official flummoxed that we had dared to transport seven boxes of books & papers as a favor to Hans's cousin-in-law, Ariel, without proper permits & paperwork...should I go on?
All told, a grueling but supremely scenic six hour drive stretched into a nine-&-a-half hour ordeal.
Wait, I´m just getting started! As a welcome to Hans's parents, their 14-hour flight jetlag has found no respite as they were welcomed to America by a flat tire in the rear train of Hans's '99 Land Rover 'Defender'. It's Sunday, today, folks. I forget how long it took us to find one lone, hard-working chileno with an open tire shop. But then, changing the tire, some hawkeyed onlooker noticed the brake pad was seriously worn. We had heard a hissing noise on downshifting & braking down the twisting switchbacks coming down the steep slope of the Andes after crossing into Chile. Another two hour (?) ordeal on a wild-goose chase for a brake shop. After we gave up & had a mediocre meal at a shopping mall restaurant (I had 'grilled' salmon that was supposed to arrive with some wok-sauteed veggies & when I complained they were missing from my plate, I had a plateful of butter drenched peas & corn added to the skimpy fish fillet...) we stumbled on this place, the one brake shop open on a Sunday, right by the giant mall, of course. Irony of ironies, their Maipú franchise was the original recommended location we found closed at the end of our labyrinthine ride. I had tried to lighten the mood without much success attempting a joke about leaving Maipú in Argentina to get lost in Maipú in Chile...
Víctor Hugo Mora, who's guest manager here today, wants me to mention him by name rather badly-- I Imagine he's working some long extra hours-- his home base is the central, downtown shop, in the Lira neighborhood of Santiago...¡gracias por toda tu ayuda, Víctor Hugo!
(I'm correcting this four days later, back in Maipú, Argentina. Debating whether I have time & energy at this point to bring some thematic threads up to date in a new post. I haven't had solid food since Tuesday evening, & that got flushed out in three installments of stinky, explosive diarrhoea before daybreak Wednesday morning-- very scary, as I had read about the environmental disaster in the making by the Norweigian salmon farming operations in Chile & had neglected to make a clearer, stronger mental note to myself about the possible health risks in consuming the product-- was it antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Toxic algae? Some sort of fungus?? European tests have found traces of illegal antifungal agents in examined shipments of salmon. Scary. I may be living on yogurt dip, full of garlic & lemon, for a few days yet...to be continued...)