We loaded out of the hotel in Entre Lagos for 09:00 and, after a pre-border paperwork briefing, bee-lined it east on the 215 through Parque Nacional Puyehue. The guides advised us that the border crossing could take 'just' two hours if everything went smoothly, or as much as five hours if not, with the main wildcard factors being the amount of bus traffic ahead of us and how difficult the officials would choose to be. Earlier in the trip, the guides had emphasized to us that every time we cross a border, we actually have to perform two border crossings, but I couldn't (and didn't appreciate) this statement until experiencing it firsthand today.
We arrived at the first guard post, got a piece of paper, then parked the bikes in an area to the side of the road and proceeded into a building as a group. Inside, we had to successfully navigate two different queues, the first one being a police/immigration station (for both the people and the vehicles), and the second being a customs station (for the vehicles).
I haven't a clue what our legal status was for those next 45 km -- we had checked out of Chile had not entered Argentina -- but alas the road was great. A nice, relaxed twisty two-laner over the summit, with good pavement and stunning mountain views. Maybe this was by design, an anti-road-rage highway design philosophy, between bouts with bureaucracy? Not likely, but it did the trick.
At the summit we reached the actual geographic border, and stopped for a quality photo op. The temperature had fallen from 14°C at departure to 6°C at the summit, where I could see my breath, and would climb back to 17°C before completing our descent into Argentine customs.
At the Argentina intake, we again were issued a slip of paper from a guard post, then parked, again undressed, and took our document packets with us inside. Again, it was a two-stage process, first passing immigration with passport, vehicle details, and proof of prior payment of the (for Canadians) $92 USD reciprocity fee. From that line, we went to another, which I think was for vehicle importation, although it required the exact same set of papers. Thanks to the preparation and expert guidance of the Compass guides (one of whom was showing us his 18 pages of South American passport stamps from 2014 -- so not his first rodeo), all went smoothly for the riders. They had a lot more trouble with the support rig, though. The crew had told us earlier that it is often difficult to get the trailer into Argentina, because they travel with so many spare parts, tires, etc., that the Argentines are fearful that they are importing goods to sell at a massive profit, with the Argentine currency being so devalued at present and with very strict/expensive goods importation restrictions/duties. However, the issue today seemed to be not so much continental economic conditions, but rather soccer. Specifically, that our ride leader is Brasilian, and we were entering arch-rival Argentina, and the officials didn't like the idea that the lone Brasilian in the group was the man in charge. <in Spanish> "Why are you coming to Argentina? Brasil is ruining Argentina's economy. Why don't you go somewhere else, Brasilian?" "This is a tour group, I'm the leader, here are the papers." "We don't want to talk to you, Brasilian. We want to talk to somebody else in the group. Not you, Brasilian." "Well, I'm the tour leader, so you kind of have to talk to me." "OK then, Brasilian, you need to give us a copy of this document to keep." "Why? You've never needed a copy any of the other times." "You need to give us a copy of this document, and we're not going to make a copy for you, Brasilian." "Why do I need a copy? We've never needed a copy." "You're not registered electronically. The rules changed last week." "Well, since the rules just changed, can you make a photocopy for me with that photocopy machine right there?" "No Brasilian, we don't make copy for you." "OK, well then give me my papers back, because I have to drive 45 km back to Chile and re-enter Chile to make a photocopy for you and then exit Chile again and then drive 45 km back here to give you the photocopy. I will be back in about three hours. So I am going to need my passport back, please." <official goes away for 15 minutes> "Here are your papers, Brasilian, you can proceed, we don't need the photocopy. Oh, and Brasilian: You'll never get through this border crossing again."
Andrew, Carlos, and I ended up in a lead pack with Edu as we entered Argentina on the 231, winding along the north shores of lake Nahuel Huapi and then scenically dumping us out into our first Patagonian prairie landscape. Remarkably beautiful country, reminding me of Waterton back home, where the mountains meet the prairies, with lime green flora electric against the blue sky. We had fun riding and, at the end, what a prize. The day ended battling traffic into the hotel in Bariloche, where we're bunked for two nights.
Day total: 214 km, 8h10m, 2 borders
Trip total: 1120 km
Start: Entre Lagos, Chile. End: Bariloche, Argentina.
Soundtrack: Earplugs and shuffling papers.