Don’t Cry for Me (I’m at the) Argentinia(n Border)

Last week, I started to recount my time spent in Chile and Argentina, hosted by the wonderful people at Montes Wines in Chile and their sister winery, Kaiken Wines in Mendoza, Argentina.

The first day we spent on the Chilean Coast at Zapallar, first visiting the vineyards, then having an amazing dinner on the beach. The following day, according to the original schedule, we were to depart at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. to start the trek across the Andes Mountains by van on the way to Mendoza, Argentina, home of Kaiken.

Apparently, more rational heads prevailed, and our departure was adjusted to 10:00 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to get in a jog along the coast before departing (as a cyclist, I loathe transportation by foot, but the coastline was so compelling, I could not resist).

Well, as it turned out, it might have been wiser had we kept the original departure time. The drive itself was relatively quick and unquestionably spectacular—but the actual border crossing was painful. Really. Painful.

The views from the van were stunning.

So much so that we stopped a couple of times for photo ops….

…to shoot stunning mountain vistas..

We also found some time to stop at a lake nestled among the mountains for a quick bubble break.

Although I did not take formal notes on the sparkling (can you blame me—look at that lake!), it is tart, refreshing, and ever-so tasty. It is not widely available in the U.S. (yet), but it should retail around $20, which is a bargain.

Eventually, we made it to the crossing…

…to find that we were not the first in line. At. All.

For some never expressed reason, it took close to four hours to traverse the arbitrary line that separates the two friendly countries of Chile and Argentina. Apparently, Argentina’s economy is in a bit of a shambles and inflation is out of control. Thus, most consumer goods are far cheaper in Chile so citizens frequently cross the border to buy everything from a few liters of milk to a big screen T.V. (or seven).

The Argentinian government, apparently, is not a big fan of this process, so they tend to search every single vehicle to find any contraband so that they can either charge the appropriate taxes, confiscate the goods in question, or throw the poor schmuck in jail. I really do not know what happens to anybody that violates the law, but I do know that the process takes a long time.

really long time.

really, really long time.

As in four hours of long time.

That is simply ridiculous. While on the Orient Express from France to Turkey back in college, I was at a border crossing from Italy to the old Yugoslavia at 2:30 in the morning, on a train that was carrying at least a few thousand people (I was sitting on the floor in the cramped corridor), and they went through every single bag of every passenger at customs.

And that did not take four hours.

(Although part of the time was spent with a Kalashnikov rifle pressed firmly against my left temple as two border guards fervently discussed my situation in a language I did not understand, which made it seem just a bit longer.)

I am fairly certain this was not the soldier, but that gun looks awfully familiar…. (found on Pinterest).

So what do you do when you have several hours on your hands with nothing to do?

You take pictures of your van that did not move for three straight hours.

You seek out bike porn and wonder what it would be like to hijack one of these bad boys and go ripping down the mountain, eschewing law and Argentinian bullets.

You let reality set in and play a game with Brian Freedman. There was a crushed coke can and an abundance of rocks, so we played a bastardized version of pétanque (bocci ball). At least I won—although Freedman will lie and say otherwise (his ego is slightly bigger than mine).

In the end, we made it to Mendoza with more than enough time for a shower (and for Freedman to lick his wounds from the beating he took), before we headed off to dinner. I opted for the steak. The one as big as my head.

Did I mention it was Argentina?

The steak, the wine, the conversation, the city, and above all, the company were wonderful, and our time in Argentina was just beginning.

More to come…


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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7 Responses to Don’t Cry for Me (I’m at the) Argentinia(n Border)

  1. Woah! What an adventure but gun at your head???! I think I would not do so well with that! Glad you got there safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. leggypeggy says:

    Some great wines produced in both Chile and Argentina. I know you are in your element. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your border-crossing story. We had a similar experience between Zimbabwe and Zambia. No pétanque for us, just marauding baboons. I’m looking forward to the rest of your visit.


  4. chef mimi says:

    Wow. I hope there were portapotties at the “border.” Such beautiful scenery.


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