Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A trip to Los Antiguos

Having already received a three month extension in Comodoro Rivadavia back in June, it was necessary to physically leave the country to be able to get another 90 day visa. After checking out our maps, looking at hotels to stay with Winston and talking to friends, we decided to go to Chile Chico to renew our visas. Also, we were getting a little “cabin fever” hanging around Rada Tilly everyday so it was a welcome break. The five hour drive took us past some of the oil wells that supply Argentina with much of its oil and plenty of sheep farms. Our plan was to spend the night in Chile Chico, do a little sightseeing and then drive home. We were driving Mariano and Marcela’s jeep and they had supplied us with all the car documents and a notarized permission letter to take the vehicle out of Argentina. However at the border, the Argentinean Aduana (customs) said we could not take the vehicle out of the country. Although our Spanish at this point is passable, we still get somewhat confused when there is rapid legal talk to translate. Fortunately a very nice man called Ignacio was behind us who spoke excellent English and was able to translate. After a great deal of explanations back and forth as to what we needed and why, the customs officer was unrelenting. He was very sorry but we could not drive the jeep to Chile, however we needed to leave to be able to get another 90 days visa. Ignacio, who had been to the nearby town of Los Antiguos for lunch and was returning home to Chile Chico kindly offered to help. He would drive us to the Chilean part of the border, about 2 mile away, assist us in getting an entry and exit stamp from the Chileans and then drive us back to the Argentinean side to re-enter. Again, we have found by chance another Good Samaritan. Within 30 minutes we had left Argentina, entered and exited Chile and were back on the Argentinean side with the same officials who happily stamped our passports and wished us well. We then followed Ignacio into town and a beautiful hotel on the lake which was dog-friendly. Los Antiguos is a pretty town, located on the south shore of Lago Buenos Aires at the foot of the Andes. Due to its microclimate, it is an agricultural oasis, renowned for growing all types of fruit in particular cherries. There is even a three day cherry festival held in January (the height of summer in the southern hemisphere). Our room at the hotel overlooked the lake with the snow capped mountains and had a superb dining room offering traditional Patagonian food – asado (barbeque), lamb and fresh fish - it was an ideal getaway for us. Since dining in Argentina does not start until 9pm, we had plenty of time to settle in, feed Winston and walk on the promenade bordering the lake. After the cold and fierce winds which ravage Rada Tilly in the winter, the warm gentle breezes coming from Lake Buenos Aires made the walking a delightful experience. By 9pm, Winston was settled in the room on his bed and we made our way to the dining room, ravenous. Our table for two by the window gave us views of the mountains and lake now twinkling with lights and as we sipped on red Patagonian wine, we reflected our day. We had accomplished what we needed to do, namely getting our visas renewed. We had also discovered that we cannot take the jeep out of the country, saving us finding this out when we would go to Punta Arenas which is much further away and we had met Ignacio to whom we will be eternally grateful for helping us. It had been a good day topped off with a meal that lived up to all expectations.

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