My next big stop was El Chaltén to do some proper trekking. To get there I had to cross the border via Chile Chico which was more took longer than I hoped. For those of you attempting it I’ll explain below.
The day after the glacier trek was a complete washout, making me glad I took advantage of the weather for the marble caves when I could. The bus did not leave Puerto Rio Tranquilo until 4pm so I had the whole day to plan. Unfortunately the internet had other ideas and it didn’t work for anyone in the town that day.
I bundled on to the “bus” more of a stretch 4×4. Our bags were strapped to the roof rack and I met my buddies for the next few days. I immediately learnt that the border closes on the Chillan side at 8pm (it closes on the Argentinian side at 9:30 so don’t cross late or you’ll be stuck in no mans land-more below).
There was a 4 hour ride to Chile Chico on the most deserted and perilous roads I’ve seen so far. The Carretera Austral becomes much smaller, bumpier and less maintained the further south. We turned off to a smaller road that wound it’s way along the south of Lago Gral Carrera, mostly along steep cliff tops which are dangerously close to the edge. If it wasn’t such a grey misty day I’m sure the views would have been beautiful and terrifying. We came across a truck stuck in the road. I have no idea how the driver got this far but it was saved by a digger.
Arriving in Chile Chico we were dropped off outside the bus companies offices after the border had closed we managed to find a hostel and I got my second private room. I think the colours are better here.
I met Ricardo and Roberto, from Venezuela who lived in the US and we agreed to cross early. I realised I had left my water bottle on the bus but was reunited at the office due to my Spanish speaking friends and pure coincidence.
The Border Crossing
The crossing to Los Antiguos is not straightforward. The Argentinian side has levelled a heavy fee on busses crossing the border so there is no official public transport that takes you across. On the Chilean side there is an unofficial “mini bus”, so we jumped in the van and were driven the 3km to the border. At this point we had to exit, go through passport control, and then continue waking until the van met us again. We were then driven a further 3km into no mans land and he had to stop before he reached Argentina. It was then a further 3k walk to the Argentinian border, but with beautiful views.
We saw few cars and a few people walking but no one was picking up hitchers. We were stamped in at Argentina and then it was another 3k walk to the bus terminal which is handily the opposite side of town. Be warned that if you are taking this route you might have to walk 12k with all your bags. It’s unlikely as you should get picked up on the Chilean side, but this is unofficial.
If you are travelling in the opposite direction you will most likely have to walk from Los Antiguos to the border post, you might be able to grab a taxi, then you will have to walk the 6k through no mans land. You might be lucky and see the van at the 3km mark-look for the Chile/Argentina signs as in the photos above. The bus for Puerto Rio Tranquilo leaves in the morning. I’m afraid I don’t know the time but I think it’s before 10am.
At the bus station we were told the bus left at 8pm to arrive in El Chaltén for 6am so we had a day to kill. Leaving our bags at the offices we wondered around Los Antiguos which seemed deserted, windy and had a lot of cherry trees-but sadly no cherries.
We found a great empanada place and decided to stock up there for the journey ahead.
Arriving back at the bus station we met everyone who has been on the bus the previous day and pretty much had 4 seats each as we headed off to El Chaltén.
Currently Reading – Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency