May 2023 – Chile/Argentina
Leaving Santiago did not turn out to be as simple as we had hoped. Several aspects of the situation kept us tethered to our city street campsite for many weeks. But finally we made it out. We left for a small community outside the city and parked in a yard with some other campers so Mike could do a little maintenance on the truck.
Have you ever considered offering parking to overlanders? A little corner of your yard, some water for their tanks, maybe a shower or a washing machine? So many travelers, like us, would be grateful for this. Or if you don’t have the space you can offer a spot on the city street. Then give them access to a bathroom or your back yard? If this is something you would be interested in, contact us to help you set it up. Hosting strangers is not for everyone. But some of you might enjoy it within your parameters of comfort.
With new brake pads on the rear of the truck, we were ready to tackle the steepest mountain pass of the Andes. First we went through a small town, and visited a church and former convent. The displays told the tales of nuns who helped the handicapped and had some handicaps of their own. The old, wooden and rope elevator was fascinating to Geneva. It was created to haul the wheelchair passengers up and down the two floors in the convent.
After saying our blessings and prayers at the church, we were ready to approach the road out of Chile. This highway is called “Los Caracols” or “The Snails”. This is due to the winding patterned that is formed as the extreme elevation change in a relatively short distance. This screen shot illustrates the twists and turns of the snails.
Nearing the foothills of the Andes we began to notice a lot of truckers parked along the highway. Asking around a bit revealed that the highway was closed due to snow and ice conditions. So going up the mountain was impossible for a few days. Argentina would have to wait.
We settled in to a huge truck parking area on the banks of a glacial river. We weren’t sure if we would be here for a few nights or weeks. Mike used his drone to film the parking area. We enjoyed meals with the employees. We watched more and more trucks pull in and park, to wait for the road to clear.
Even the dogs became comfortable with their junk yard style surroundings. We walked in to the nearby town. We played board games, took truckers showers and read books. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Although it was sunny and sort of warm, we knew that the top of the highway was a snowy mess.
One of the trucks had some artwork that really caught our eye.
What do you think of it?
Then one morning we got the word that the snow was gone and the ice had melted so the road was open. All the trucks began to come to life again. So did we. It was time to tackle The Caracols, along with hundreds of trucks! Here is a link to some details about the road https://mycols.app/col/los-caracoles
Winding upward, very slowly was incredible. The mountains lost all color and the clouds began to settle closer to the roadway. Near the top, a tiny bit of sun shone through and illuminated the highest peak in this section of the Andes. (14,793 ft) The sunshine and blue skies above the blue clouds was brilliant contrast to the dull, grey colors below the clouds. The straining sounds of heavy trucks working their way up the steep grade became the music of this border crossing.
But finally we reached the flat area in a small valley that had been utilized as a border outpost station. Aduana, migracion, agriculture and a handful of tiendas had set up to meet the needs of border crossers. The truck, the dogs and the humans checked out of Chile and complete the paperwork to enter Argentina. We added our stickers to the window of traveler records and joined ranks with those who had driven The Caracols.
Then it was time to drop down into Argentina. The road on the Argentina side was much less interesting, less steep, less winding. Descending from the Andes is much more gradual on the Argentina side. But a few tunnels amused us as we passed through. This is a photo of friends passing through the tunnel ahead of us.
We are back in Argentina!