No Man’s Land ~ Argentina or Chile

24 March, 2018

This post could have just as easily been entitled “Are We Nuts?” 

One of the biggest challenges when doing your own planning for a trip to Patagonia is connecting all the transportation dots. Given its remoteness, this is not a task to take on lightly. Even during peak season, bus and ferry schedules can be a bit sketchy in the interior of Chile, but move into the shoulder season and it is anyone’s guess if the bus or ferry lines run on time, if there is a bus or boat running more than once a week, or if there will be one available at all when you arrive at your destination. Since we both wanted to venture into the interior and travel some of the infamous Carretera Austral, it was particularly important to connect the dots so as not to get stranded. Complicating this matter is that you can literally read through countless websites and forums and get conflicting information.

Planes, trains, automobiles, and boats is Terry’s specialty when planning our trips. He will tell you I don’t know which way is up most days so he just refuses to relinquish this part of the duty. I am relegated to accommodations and activities, which frankly I think is a lot more fun to plan anyway.

While doing some research during a very windy, rainy day in El Calafate (have I said how wild the Patagonian weather can be?), Terry got a somewhat panicked look on his face. Upon reading yet another website, it appeared there was no public transportation available from Los Antiguos, Argentina to Chile Chico, Chile.  Los Antiguos is a remote border crossing so it seems the only way to move from one country to another is on foot or putting out your thumb. We had often read that hitchhiking is commonplace in Patagonia, but I had said this wasn’t something I wanted to do. Seems I was about to reconsider that decision.

But I digress for a moment…

While planning our trip, we packed no less than three separate times, using various bags, whenever our route changed. Since we weren’t able to book the refugios we wanted in Torres del Paine National Park, I set aside my backpack, opting for a roomier bag that still allowed for shoulder straps, although not near as comfortable as one’s own fitted backpack. One of our travel rules has been that if one of us wants to bring something that the other might find unnecessary, that person bears the burden of carrying said item(s). For me it was our vitamins and some creams and lotions I couldn’t leave behind. For Terry it was the electric toothbrush. My choices necessitated a roomier bag. When I discovered I might be carrying all my bags across a remote border crossing, I thought I might live to regret the decision to displace my backpack.

So, during one of our rest days in El Chalten, we laid out our belongings, and with the mind of a backpacker looking to shave ounces from her pack, I proceeded to set aside items I thought I could do without. Jackets, earmuffs, and gloves were set aside, and bottles of this and that discarded, with the hopes of replacing them. My full-size deodorant mineral stone soon became a mere shell of itself as I broke away the plastic container and cut it in half. I was not budging on the supplements however. 😉

At 9:30 the next night we hopped on our overnight bus to Los Antiguos, not knowing what to expect in the morning. It’s a wonder we got any sleep but the bus tires on the pavement seemed to do the trick. I awoke to watch the dark golds and oranges of dawn diffuse across the Patagonian steppe, softening to rose and violet, with a promise of a beautiful day unfolding.

We pulled into the bus station and were able to catch a taxi to the border, 2 km (1.2 miles) away. And that is where we knew things could get interesting. We moved through Argentine immigration, then stepped outside with all our bags. A long, lonely road stretched before us, 7 km (4.2 miles) from the Argentina border to the Chile border, a section of road dubbed “No Man’s Land”. Well, at least it was flat, paved, and the sun was shining. We looked at each other and said “let’s do this”.  About 15 minutes into our walk, Terry turned to me and said “you are a good sport”. I smiled and turned back to the road with the thought of  “remember this when you find my personality less than pleasing.”

In another 15 minutes we saw a car on the horizon and Terry stuck out his thumb. A smiling young couple in a beat-up jalopy opened the door and welcomed us. Our last hitchhiking experience had been decades ago and our only hope was that their backfiring car would make it to Chile. It did and they could not have been nicer.

Another trip through Chilean customs and immigration and we headed down the road the 5 km (2.5 miles) into Chile Chico. A collectivo (van) picked us up within 20 minutes and delivered us to our lodge. Life is good, particularly when in the presence of kind strangers.

Note to self: When given a choice, always go with the backpack. 🙂

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59 thoughts on “No Man’s Land ~ Argentina or Chile

  • Wow! Amazing story. Hiking up tall icy peaks( from last post) to hitchhiking across Central America. Amazing!
    I noticed your finger is still on the mend!
    Have continued fun and Be careful my friend!

  • You two have the same “you bring it, you carry it” rule that my husband and I have. He doesn’t understand the necessity of packing more than two pairs of shoes, so I have to find the room for them somewhere in my luggage if I insist on such foolishness. I’m glad your transportation challenge worked out. I love the way that travel introduces you to the nicest people.

  • So glad you are keeping your sense of humor, while on this adventure. I was picturing the two of you, while reading this, and had some good laughs. Keep it up, as I’m sure you’ll still need it. 😍

    • It’s all part of the adventure. Terry was worried for awhile, knowing my bag was bulky, not at all like throwing a form-fitting backpack on your back. When I tried it on for size, except for looking a little cumbersome, I said “it works!”

  • I love it! We walked a shorter distance in no man’s land between Israel and Jordan once, and I thought I would die in the unrelenting heat. Like you, we could not seem to find 100% accurate information on making the crossing ourselves, and parts of it did not work out so well. But we did make it, and like yours, it’ll always be a fun story!

  • “Always go with the backpack”. Something to live by, even on the less strenuous trips that I have taken. Glad you are staying healthy . Look forward to seeing you.

    • It was a silly move on my part Judy. I had decided to take the backpack and my good daypack, then changed my mind at the last minute. I learn something new each time I travel.

  • You two are such amazing adventurers!! Being flexible is the #1 motto for this journey. #2…be VERY open minded! So glad you got a ride and all went well. That is one BIG bag, Lu!! Love the photo!!

    • Too big, especially after I did some purging. And I really haven’t missed anything I tossed either. Less is definitely more when you are traveling like this. And I am a minimalist so I should know this!

      • Absolutely Pam. Terry and I have both said that when we look at houses again, it will certainly be something smaller than what we have owned in the past.

  • Of course it all worked out! Because you two are willing to step out there (literally) and trust in the unfolding. And didn’t it unfold wonderfully! What a great adventure.
    Alison

  • Such good advice to self. (Note to self: When given a choice, always go with the backpack). I would not hike far with your load. No matter how old we get we keep learning lessons…ha. Beautiful scenery. Loving your trip from afar.

  • That is quite the pack you are wearing. Reminds me of our backpacking/canoeing days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Seems like you are enjoying your adventure 😃

  • Oh my gosh. You two are so adventurous! No way would either of us hitchhike in the USA let alone a foreign country. Even with your purging, LuAnn, that still looks like a big heavy bag. Looking forward to seeing the beauty of Chile.

    • I said I wouldn’t hitchhike either but then soon ate those words (haha)! My bag was more bulky than heavy actually. I was lucky to be able to see over the top of it! 🙂

  • OMG that bag is enormous! It must weigh twice as much as you! What an adventure you two are having. I’m embarrassed to admit that I think it would be difficult to travel without our RV at this point. I’m so accustomed to having everything I want and need with me at all times….it’s my big rolling suitcase, haha!! It’s just ridiculous, though, because it wasn’t so very long ago that I traveled for a year in Europe with nothing more than a backpack (well, I guess it was actually kind of a long time ago). You look so happy! :-))

    • I think Terry was more freaked out than me, when he thought about me carrying all my luggage. I told him that is why I worked so hard in the gym before we left. It paid off! Stupid of me not to take my actual backpack.

  • I will fit in that bag! You are indeed such a good sport but I guess no choice given the situation. I admired both of your adventure spirit! Im sure you are having a great time in your journey.

    • You could definitely have fit in the bag MonaLiza, the little wisp of a girl that you are! But I would not have wanted to carry you as well as everything else in the bag. 😉

  • We remember seeing the packed bags on your bedroom floor before you left and wondered how you were going to lug all that around. It would have been a long 7k walk had you not gotten a ride. You are both good sports!

    • It would have been a piece of cake had I brought my backpack. Terry had his backpack on his back and his daypack on the front and did fine. I certainly lightened my bag when I threw some things out. My bag was just bulky.

  • There are so many reasons to love traveling but one of the best is all the things that it can teach you about yourself. However, I have a particularly difficult time, love/hate relationship with the RELINQUISHING CONTROL part of it! There are times when all you can do is step out, set off, and see what happens! Anita

    • We have that same issue Anita, I think Terry more than me. He felt awful when he finally discovered that there was going to be no way to travel that stretch of No Man’s Land without walking or hitchhiking. His first reaction usually is “you can’t do that”, which just emboldens me more. 🙂 It really wasn’t as big of an issue as we thought it might be.

  • Ahhh I LOVE it! When I started reading this, I said almost out loud to you, “come on, do it!!” And then a few seconds later I broke into a huge smile and chuckled to see the photo of you hitchhiking. YEAH! Way to go!!!
    It’s funny but I think hitchhiking gets a bad rap overall.

    A couple years back we were walking somewhere in the Algarve in Portugal and suddenly the skies opened and it started to pour. I said to Ben.. “lets hitch a ride”… he said “NO WAY!” I said, “TOO late. That car is stopping”. While he was protesting my thumb had been noticed. I told him “you are welcome to stay in the rain, but I am going!” and two delightful French men gave us a ride to the dry warmth of a cafe. All part of the adventure.

    Your bag looks heavy 🙂 (I usually take a small suitcase on wheels so that I don’t have to carry it and then a back pack for my toiletries, first aid stuff and computer stuff.)

    Peta

    • I too thought it was all part of the adventure and we had read several articles about how safe it was to hitchhike in Patagonia. My bag was more bulky than heavy, as I moved everything heavy that I could into my day pack which was on my back. At the last minute I opted not to bring my true backpack, which proved to be a mistake.

  • Wow! Most people I think, have an adventure every now and then but you two do really make life an adventure! Happy trails to you!

  • That is good to hear, you made it and were safe in the process. Transport is a crazy thing in some of these countries, that and conflicting information. Do you do this or that, trust to look or in this case have some nice locals help you out. I am glad your journey continues. How was the Argentine and Chilean equivalent of the TSA by the way?

    • I think the transportation piece of this trip has been the most challenging, particularly because we have been in some remote areas. The Argentine and Chilean “TSA” has not been an issue at all, thankfully.

      • Perhaps the U.S. counterparts could learn a thing or two from them, I don’t find any other countries such an ordeal to get into, Transport is hard in remote areas with the lack of a timetable, or at least one that is observed. It puts into perspective how easy we have it, with the near mindless check the timetable, wait and go that we have.

  • Wowza Luann that is one serious adventure. I totally agree about the backpack and as light as humanly possible. We are dedicated carry on travelers. We have managed that for a month but not sure we could for three months in cold temperatures. Stay safe and hopefully no more gaps in the transportation!

    • We are dedicated carry-on travelers as well Sue, but with an extended stay and knowing we could have all four seasons present themselves in the same day, it was difficult to cram everything in. Having said that, once I left some things behind, I will be wiser for the next trip, which is always the case, isn’t it? We learn something new each time we travel.

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