We’ve missed you! We’re now in Argentina. How can we fit all our updates in one post? Here are the highlights. You can click to learn more about each, or simply scroll down.
- We got a taste of traditional (and Italian) cuisine in Chiloé, Chile.
- Holly got stopped at the border crossing.
- We’re currently in Bariloche, but we’re moving again tomorrow.
We stayed with an Italian couple who built a house on one of the smaller islands off Chiloé, called Isla Lemuy. Probably the best way we could have ended our time in Chile. The island was quiet, the food was amazing, and we got to make pasta and try their homemade limoncello.
Chiloé is known for its wooden churches, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Isla Lemuy had several beautiful ones.
We also happened to be in Chiloé during its big heritage festival, and got to experience some authentic Chilote (what people who live on Chiloé call themselves) cuisine. This side dish, called chochoca, is made of potato dough and chicharron, slow cooked on a log.
We also visited Chiloé National Park, which had great views, but wimpy day hikes.
It’s a beautiful four-hour drive from Isla Lemuy back to the city of Puerto Montt, which includes two car ferries. So we left at 7:30am to drop off our rental car, then catch a taxi to the bus terminal.
The bus ride from Puerto Montt to Bariloche was absolutely beautiful, winding through the Andes and through Nahuel Huapi National Park. I didn’t take any photos because it was too difficult while we were moving and we just wanted to soak in the experience. It’s the most beautiful bus ride we’ve ever taken.
Which took an abrupt turn when Holly got stopped at the border.
Let me rewind. We don’t sneak Holly on buses — but we do practice a sort of don’t ask, don’t tell policy. When we saw another woman get on the bus with her cat in a crate, we breathed a sigh of relief. But then, a few miles away from the border, the bus stopped and at first ONLY she got off after being waved out by the bus driver.
After some quick weighing of pros and cons, Chris and I let the bus driver know that whatever that lady was doing we needed to do because we also had a pet with us. He fortunately wasn’t too unhappy about it, but he wasn’t happy either. He then informed us that we were stopped because Chilean immigration needed to put exit stamps in everyone’s passports and the lady with the cat was a police officer who worked there; she wasn’t doing anything to prepare to bring her cat across the border. Oops.
So the bus keeps going and eventually we cross into Argentina and stop at immigration and customs, but not before the bus driver stops and gives some snacks to a stranded hitchhiker. Nice guy. We clear immigration just fine and the bus driver flags down a guy from SENASA, Argentina’s USDA-equivalent, who looks like Gael García Bernal but with lighter hair.
He took one look at our paperwork and said, “I can’t let her through.”
We broke our own rule about not trusting local veterinarians about requirements for international dog travel. But this vet was in a tourist town, Puerto Varas, close to the Argentine border. So when he said all we needed was a signed health certificate from him, we took him at his word. “It’s easy — much easier than getting into Chile,” he said. But Gael García Bernal lookalike said we needed an official certificate from the Chilean government.
We took a deep breath, tried not to freak out, and walked him through all the documentation we had for her vaccinations. We had all the proper documentation except the official certificate from Chile saying that the Chilean government says we have the proper documentation. He started nodding his head and, after a nudge from one of his colleagues who said something that sounded like “oh, come on” in Spanish, he let us through. Everyone gave Holly a little scratch on the head. Phew. Lesson learned.
When we arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche, usually just referred to as Bariloche, it was already past 10:00pm and very dark. So you can imagine we were happy to see this in the morning.
Bariloche sits right on Lake Nahuel Huapi and is home to outdoor activities galore in summer and winter. We thought it would be a great place to find an apartment/room/cottage for a month to explore the outdoors and focus on our projects again after three weeks of being constantly on the move. (And, quite frankly, spending more money than we’d anticipated. Staying in one place equals savings.)
Our amazing Airbnb host showed us a couple different places she had available for the month. While on the drive, she told us about Bariloche and how it’s seen a lot of growth recently, but the growth wasn’t well-regulated. As a result, it’s feeling less and less like a quaint mountain town — which is why everyone loves it — and big condo buildings are popping up.
She also told us about her work, aside from her interior design business, to help people in Bariloche alto, the neighborhoods up in the hills. While the lower part of Bariloche along the lake is a thriving tourist community, the people in the hills are really struggling. In many ways, it’s the same old story of poverty: lack of education, poor health, violence. I told her that there are many communities in the US that struggle with poverty too. She mentioned that a lot of people just donate clothing and then think that’s all they have to do. What I didn’t say is that I think a lot of people just donate clothing because they don’t know what else they can do. It’s one of the reasons I think I got burned out on social-change work: it all felt so intangible.
In the end, we’ve decided that Bariloche, while beautiful, is a little bit too touristy for us. Tomorrow, we’re hopping on a bus to San Martín de los Andes. It’s about four hours north of here and much smaller, so fingers crossed. See you there.