Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR       03/07/11       Mileage: 221

I made some coffee and walked out a bit further on the outcropping just in time to catch the sunrise over the high peaks of the Andes.

Some wild horses were nearby as well…

I lingered a bit to take it all in, then packed up and continued up to the Valle Nevado ski are to have a look. As a die-hard skier, I’ve always wanted to ski in South America in Chile and Argentina, so even though it’s not ski season I’m still drawn here like a spanning salmon.

The resort sites on a knife ridge with spectacular views in every direction…and it’s only an hour ride from Santiago…pretty cool.

I also swung by La Parva on the way back down to Santiago.

Back in Santiago I went to draw out more pesos but three different ATM’s said there was a problem with my card…damn! So I stopped into a Starbucks and used the wifi to call my bank, and they said my card was disabled because a merchant I bought something from(they couldn’t say which one) back in the states got hacked, so they disabled every credit and debit card ever used at that merchant. I know that’s for my own protection, but what a pain in the ass for me. I only had around $8 in pesos left which wasn’t going to last long…Chile is as expensive as the US. The banks were already closed, I couldn’t change any of my US dollars….so I decided to use my remaining pesos to buy gas and head for the border into Argentina….country number 16. It took about 90 minutes to get there and the road climbed up a scenic mountain pass past the ski area of Portillo.

Now that is a twisty road!

The immigration and customs for Chile and Argentina were both in a combined building in Argentina…..brilliant! When you pulled up, you gave your passport to the Chile official who stamps you out, then they slide it over to the Argentina official sitting right next to them, who stamps you in…20 seconds tops! Same for the customs, an official from each country sits right next to each other, so they processed the bike in and out at the same time. There were no money changers at the border, so I continued down the valley to the town of Uspallata….a cool little place that seems to be a base for trekking, rafting and other outdoor activities.

 The bank was already closed, so I tried to change money at 2 pharmacies, a gas station, 2 restaurants, a market and the casino…and nobody would change or accept US dollars. Next I went into a hotel and they said no as well, but I pleaded my case. They said it was illegal to change anything other than Chilean pesos, which I had none of either, but in the end they helped me out and changed $100. I thanked them for breaking the law and now I had money for gas a food. It was already dark by this point, but I rolled south in search of a stealthy place to camp. The road was pinched between cliffs and a river so finding a spot to camp proved difficult, but I did muscle the bike down onto a small embankment about 30 yards from the road by the river. I’d like to be farther from the road, but at least I was well hidden given the pitch black darkness. I had a quick bite to eat and then crashed.

4 Responses to Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR

  1. Arlene says:

    Thank God that the place changed your $100.00 bill. You could of really been stuck and have to pan handle for food and bed. You seem to feel comfortable sleeping “out” lately. Is it because the places are more expensive??? I realize when you were with Megan and Marshall there was no where else to stay but tent and you sure good a good spot and had all the right equipment.

    Lenny, the pictures are magnificient and you are truly seeeing the world. Were any guests up by the ski slope hotels or are they closed. Doesn’t look like there is much to do up there if you don’t go skiing???

    Hope you get the new card tomorrow!!!!!! Be well and safe and enjoy. Love, Mom

    • Lenny says:

      It is partly because Chile and Argentina are more expensive, but mainly it’s because the weather is good and camping is an accepted recreation here unlike most other countries in Latin America. It’s also easier just to ride until it gets dark and plop down wherever you are given the enormous distances between towns(and hotels) here. Yeah, there isn’t much going on at those ski areas in the summer…a bit of mountain biking, but that’s about it.

  2. aqueel suleman says:

    on average how much has it cost to enter each country? in USD. How many miles per day do you think is reasonably possible in Latin and south America?

    We’re planning some trips (all KLRs of course) and were trying to gauge how long it would take to ride the coast of south america starting from Atlanta, GA.

    • Lenny says:

      Hey Aqueel!

      So far every border in South America was free or almost free except for Bolivia, which requires a $135 visa now for US citizens in reciprocity for the US charging its citizens. Brazil also now requires a visa for US citizens, also as reciprocity. Central America cost between $15-60 per border for various reasons…could be fumigation, insurance, exit stamps, temporary bike import permit, etc..etc… This is a very small percentage of the cost of the trip…you’ll spend the bulk of your money on lodging, food and gas.

      Generally, with the exception of the Pan American Highway in South America, you will not be able to travel near the distance of what is possible in the US in a day. In Central America, figure on 150-300 miles on average. It of course all depends highly on your route. Stick to the Pan American and you’ll be in Ushuaia in 2 months or less, but won’t see anything. Stay in the mountains and on the dirt the whole time and it will take you a year.

      Hope that helps!


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