Across the Andes by frog

Trip Start Jan 12, 2011
Trip End Jun 02, 2011

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, February 7, 2011

We had been told that the minibus was $20 from Los Antiguos across the border to Chile Chico, of course, as it was a Sunday, it was $30. Ho hum. The minibus driver dropped us off at the dock as we were all aiming to get the ferry across the lake to Puerto Ibanez and onward up the Carreteral Austral. First things first though, it was off to El Banco to get some Chilean cash. Except the machine didn't work for Visa cards... help yourself if you have Mastercard. Probably no need to tell you which card we have. Still, not to worry, we'd probably be able to pay for our boat tickets by card. Except there was no space on the boat until Wednesday. 
 The tourist office was next, the only buses were tomorrow (Monday) at 4.00 pm and Thursday. We booked a couple of places on tomorrow's bus and tried to find somewhere for lunch that either took credit cards or Argentinian Pesos. After lunch we happened on a Rodeo, which again, the tourist information hadn't thought to tell us about. It was great, it appeared to be a league game between Puerto Ibanez and Chile Chico, Sharon was in her element, she likes a man in a hat. At half time I found a group of chilean's playing some sort of gambling game involving throwing a chunk of wood and metal, about the size of your hand down to the opponent. Depending on which way up it landed, you won or lost your money. I was trying to work it out to have a go, when someone landed the wood before the line and everyone laughed at him. I thought it best not to try. Not quite sure who won the rodeo either! 
 We went to the internet cafe, as advised by the tourist office, to change some Argentinian Pesos into Chilean. He charged me a "mere" 8% to change it. Found a room, bought some wine and went to bed. At about 12.30am about a dozen blokes came in to eat. At about 2.30 they went to bed. Although we had a private bathroom, they were sharing the loo that was right outside our bedroom. Not too much sleep that night.
 Next day we went to the bank. Still not working, so we tried to get some cash on our card at the cashier; Nope, and not only that, wouldn't take Argentinian Pesos. About 10km away from the border and they wouldn't change Argentinian! Now we were buggered. We had a bus reservation to half-way around the lake. The bus went the other half way around the lake the following day. We had about 50 in Chilean, our room would be 30 and our bus tickets another 35. A real challenge Anneka moment!
 Changed the rest of our Argentinian at the same 8% commission. We also found a 10 euro note and a 20 sterling note, so back to the bank. The security guard had told us that they wouldn't change sterling, but when we got to the counter I told Sharon to put the two notes together, Euros on top. Sure enough, the cashier looked at the 20 strangely, shrugged her shoulders and gave us 30 Euros worth of Chilean Pesos. I had manged to turn about 150 of various currencies into about 120 worth of Chilean, but at least we should have enough to get around the lake to Coyhaique and the next available bank. Met Brian again. He was having a similar nightmare, he had cash but had left it too late for the bus, it was fully booked. He was going to plea to the driver to let him sit in the corridor.
 At four, the bus turned up, there was no way he was going to let Brian on the bus, so we left him there to hitch-hike out.The bus trip from Chile Chico to Puerto Guadal must be one of the most beautiful trips in the world. Just the other side of the Andes and the difference is fantastic, beautiful greens surrounding turquoise lakes in front of snow-capped mountans. Unbelievable. Would have been even better if we hadn't had to listen to a bloke from Saltford trying to charm a German girl with his tales of travel and derring do.
 When we got to Puerto Gadal, Brian was sitting eating a banana. He had got a lift all the way and had been there for half an hour. Brian had already met the guy from Saltford, also an Andy and the German girl, Claudia and we were soon sharing a cabin for five. A real bonus for us on our limited funds. Mrs Miggins also offered to cook us a meal, so we went out to buy wine. What a beautiful place Puerto Guadal is. Whilst we were out, Andy and Claudia decided to go back and make sure we had reservations for the bus the next day, we hadn't. There were only three seats available, so Andy and Claudia had taken two, leaving us with a pointless one seat. Just what we needed with our limited funds. Booked a seat with another company for the day after.  
 The next day, as we were enjoying a lie in, Brian came back muttering. The bus driver had not let him on.  He set off to hitch-hike and we went to look at the lake and chill out in beautiful, peaceful Puerto Guadal. Had another gorgeous meal with Mrs Miggins and set out the next day on the fantastic journey to Coyhaique       
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Neil on

so, you're having a cracking time, then ... have given your address to Kate, and various other Facebookers - hope you don't mind,
take care,

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