Chicago to Panamá y Más Allá - A Staged Trip Through Latin America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Parcero, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Checked out El Palacio de la Moneda. Last time I was in front of this building, the Dakar podium was erected right in front and there were swarms of people everywhere.

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  2. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    The day I left for the border I took a cab driver's advice to head up the mountain right outside of Santiago to where the local ski resorts are located. No snow, of course, and the road was one of the twistiest I have every ridden on.

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    Some beautiful views, but it was a road to nowhere with no way out except to turn back and follow the same road. I turned around and headed south to Talca. Took Ruta 5, not the most scenic but it was getting late and I needed to make some time.

    Lots of cute street dogs around, this one at a rather rustic rest area.
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    Stopped for some gas station lunch. COPEC has the best gas station food.
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    Made it to Talca, Chile just a wee bit after the sun went down. Stayed at a nice, clean, and very comfortable hotel called the Terrabella, which I booked through Expedia at that gas/lunch stop. I don't book out too far in advance--usually by lunchtime I know about where I'll be for the night. Mobile internet service is widely available in Chile, and WiFi is available at almost all gas stations for free.

    Which brings me to navigation. While I use paper maps, I also rely on a GPS. The old Garmin Zumo that I had left on the bike wasn't working. I tried to charge it but the old battery wouldn't hold the charge. The mount is supposed to provide power and is hard wired, but evidently when the battery was replaced the GPS leads were not re-connetced. Not a big deal since I brought down a RAM X-Mount to hold my iPhone. While I usually use maps.me, this time I simply fired up Google Maps and picked my destination. Worked like a charm, and way better than any Garmin that I have ever owned. With T-Mobile offering free international data roaming (and almost all other carriers now as well) and the wide availability of mobile service, I can't see ever spending much money on a "real" GPS unit, unless traveling in really remote areas. Even in the rain, I have never had any issues with the water-resistant iPhone 7+. Even my old 6 had no problems with a little rain.

    Had a little dinner at a little mom and pop Italian restaurant on the main square in Talca, the only place that was still open. Good, cheap chow.

    Secure bike parking at the hotel.
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    Too bad I didn't have time to take a dip. It was a little chilly anyway.
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    Breakfast included, and no one around when you wake up early to hit the road.
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  3. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    The next day it was on to Osorno. Still on Ruta 5 because there aren't a ton of viable options, but the scenery improves drastically by the mile. Was greeted by yet another friendly street dog at the door of the Hotel Diego de Almagro, right across form the university. Very new and super clean and comfortable place.

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    Fernando at the reception desk recommended dinner about three clicks away at a place called Agua y Campo. Man, was this place a treat!

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    First-rate all the way with full meno of seafood, fish, and meat, with a very ample wine list. This is wine country, so it's hard to get a bad bottle anywhere. Then it was back to the hotel to get a good night's rest and hope I wouldn't have problems at the border in the morning.
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  4. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    The ride from Osorno to the border, and hopefully beyond, promised to be some of the most spectacular scenery yet. Ruta 215 from Osorno heading east through the Los Lagos Region of Chile and through the Parque Nacional Puyehue was billed as one of the top roads in the region.

    With the bike packed up and an early departure I was rolling east on 215 through 45 degree temps and thick fog. Road conditions were great, however, with very little traffic. Soon the sun burned through the fog allowing me to see the buenas vistas. The road is relatively straight with nothing more than nice sweepers until you get closer to Lake Puyehue.

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    As soon as I passed the city of Entre Lagos, the road turns right and hugs the southern shore of the large lake. The view of the sun rising over the Andes across the lake is nothing short of spectacular, and put an ear-to-ear grin on my face. By this time the temps were in the upper 60s, which also made the ride more pleasant.

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    Once into the national park, the road becomes a series of twisties following a river and through the mountains. There were many scenic turnoffs and other places to stop and enjoy the view. Traffic was next to nothing.

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    Soon I was nearing the border. When I arrived at Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré, I found a small, but busy border station, with a few busloads of people crossing from Chile into Argentina and vice versa. I parked the moto close to the main building, and got in Tramite 1 to clear migration. Within minutes, I was stamped out of Chile and waiting in Tramite 2 for customs clearance.

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    I gave The customs officer my passport, hoping that he wouldn't ask for anything else. When he asked how I arrived in Chile, I told him by airplane to Santiago. He said OK, but what about from Santiago to here? I told him that I was traveling by moto, and he asked for the paperwork on the bike. I gave him the original vehicle title and evidence of SOAP insurance, the mandatory insurance that I purchased a few days before. He also asked for the TVIP, which I said I had but was likely on the moto. He keyed in the plate number, and asked me if the moto had really been in Chile since 2013. I explained that, yes, it had and explained that I had an accident and due to extenuating circumstances, I could not return until now to retrieve the bike, but in any event I am headed out of the country and I did purchase insurance as required.

    Now the fun begins. He says he doesn't think he can let me through the border, but will have to check with his boss. I wait while another busload of people pass by aduanas, and then another. Marcelo (the customs officer) returns and says that I might have to return to the customs office in the region where I entered Chile to resolve the issue. He said that he sent an email to that office in Arica to see what could be done. I explained that there was no way I could return to Arica, which was on the northern border with Perú. Checking again with his boss, he returned and said that I could go to the local region's customs office in Osorno and sort everything out. I said great, I will drive back and do that.

    Sadly, he told me that it doesn't work like that he would need to confiscate the bike and that I would need an appointment in Osorno. Being Semana Santa, this might be difficult in Chile.

    He invited me into an office where he and his boss explained that I am in violation of Chilean law on two counts, one being the motorcycle is now considered contraband and leaving without the bike makes me personally liable. I technically had a charge against me under Chilean law and might not be permitted to leave if not resolved, or at least not be allowed to enter again. He was able to make an appointment for me to see the regional director of aduanas in Osorno the next day at 11 AM, and suggested that I arrive at 8:30 AM since being Semana Santa there wouldn't be many people in the office and that I could probably wrap everything up in a hour or two and be on my way.

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    The whole process seemed to be a bit bureaucratic and since I was told that there would be a fine based on the value of the bike and the time it had been in Chile, why not just tell me what the fine is and allow me to pay it and be on my way? Marcelo said payments aren't accepted at the border, only the regional office can determine fines, and there was also the matter of criminal liability. OK, I guess I'm off to Osorno, but how?

    Turns out there was a bus leaving to Osorno in about 20 minutes, and I unloaded the bike and Marcelo took me to the bus.

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    Nice surprise that the bus was big and comfortable and also free--customs pays for the trips for people like me that for whatever reason can't cross the border. I was being deported in reverse--kicked IN to a country.

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    I called the hotel in Osorno and booked another night, and also called to cancel my return flights from Argentina and the next night's hotel in Bariloche since my itinerary just became a bit unknown. When I arrived back at the hotel, I asked Fernando for another restaurant recommendation and he did not disappoint, recommending another fine establishment, this time a bit further away by Uber--Ruta de Asadores. Might as well enjoy myself if I am stuck.

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    This place was probably the best food on the trip, with excellent, professional service. A family-owned place, they had a couple of generations working in the restaurant that night. I would come back just to go and eat here again. :)

    After dinner it was back to the hotel, where I was mostly packed up, and ready to hit the customs office bright and early.
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  5. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Hey Parcero, you look like a fit guy for someone who has been eating so much on tour! :rofl
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  6. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Well, Nateman, you might have noticed from the pics that with the exception of the desserts, it's not exactly junk food. One of the reasons I am in the gym five- to six-days a week when I am at home and always eat healthy is so I can swerve off course a bit when I travel. I also take along my running gear and a jump rope and get some exercise in on trips when I can. And truth be told, I'm basically a tea totaler--the wine ordered was really just to taste it. I was in wine country, after all. I never did finish a whole glass. So--don't call me if you want to down a bunch of beers, I'm a boring guy and not much of a drinker. :rofl

    AND--High-quality riding gear is just too damn expensive to outgrow! :imaposer
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  7. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    So, I arrive timely at the regional customs office in Osorno at 8:30 AM. A polite customs officer offers me a seat and I explain the situation,
    and that the adminisrator is expecting me. I give him the paperwork that I have, and he takes it upstairs to see the administrator. When he returns a few minutes later, he says sorry, the administrator cant see you until 11:00 AM. But in the meantime, I have to meet with to other functionaries to determine the fine.

    They tell me that it will take some time to figure everything out since they have to talk to the office in Arica, and to come back in about 90 minutes. So I leave and find a nice Illy coffee shop around the corner to chill for a bit.

    When I return, an officer informs me that the paperwork is ready. They show me the fine--they are looking for almost $8,700 U.S.!

    I said, sorry but that probably equals or exceeds the bike's value so, with all due respect, you can just keep the bike and I'll be on my way. That's when they tell me that I have a "delito," or criminal charge on my record and might not be able to leave the country. The bike is now considered contraband and I have brought and left contraband in the country. Seeing as I have to be back home in a few days, I inquire as to how to best resolve the situation. The agent suggests that I write a letter to the director of aduanas, asking for leniency and forgiveness, of the crime, and also suggests that I ask if the fine for the moto can be reduced or eliminated. They point me to an office computer, and I begin to write. All those years of Spanish lessons are paying off!

    I finish and print the letter, and by this time it is about ten minutes to 11:00 AM, the meeting time. Perfect timing, except they now tell me that the administrator has gone to lunch and wouldn't be back until 12:30. So I say that given it's Semana Santa and the fine, if any, will have to be paid at a bank, and banks close at 2:00 PM today and won't re-open until Monday, is there still a chance to get this resolved today. Yes of course, they say.

    SO after lunch I come back and have my meeting with the administrator a bit late, at 1:00. He agrees to reduce the fine to about $3,400 U.S., and eliminate the delito entirely. He won't go any lower. So--having invested a fair amount of time already and being a firm believer in the concept of time being more valuable than money (you can never make more time) I agree to pay. He says that I can pay by credit card at a payment service center a block away. I get there, and of course they don't accept credit cards. Now the banks are closed. Only option is the ATM machine. So I go to the first one I see in Banco de Chile and attempt to withdraw as much as I could, which was 200,000 Chilean pesos, or about $313 U.S. I make the withdrawal, then select "Another Transaction" and whack out another 200,000 pesos. I try for a third round, and am shut down. So I put in another ATM card, and make another two, and then another card, and then do cash advances on two different credit cards until I have sufficient cash. Now my bank's are calling asking "what's up?" I can deal with them later.

    I run to the service center to pay, come back to aduanas with the paid receipt, and they say sorry we forgot about the delito. That's going to cost your another 23,000 pesos. So I run back to the payment center, wait in line, pay, then run back to aduanas and get there at 5:00. at 5:30 they give me all the paperwork I need to leave and obtain the bike.

    I cab it back to the hotel, and ask Fernando if he knows of a taxi service to get me to the border pronto. After a few calls, he says no one is available. But--he gets off work in 15 minutes and he would be glad to take me. Super, I said and ran upstairs to get my stuff.

    Then, a thought occurred to me. What if that border is not 24/7/365? Not all borders are. I google the number, call, and no answer. I check the aduanas website, and sure enough, the border closes at 6:00 PM. I run to the desk and ask Fernando, and he calls to double check. Sure enough, the border is closed.

    So now I need another night in Osorno, and call to cancel my hotel in Bariloche. I still have flights out of Argentina the next afternoon. If I get a very early start tomorrow, maybe it will still work.

    But based on how aduanas operates, I have no confidence in their ability to work rapidly. I start envisioning a few hours at the border in the morning on the Chile side, and maybe the same on the Argentine side, and think about getting the bike to where I have to park it in Bariloche and getting to the airport on time. I decide to forget that plan and work on Plan B over a room service dinner.

    I shot out several emails, and found out that a friend of a friend could retrieve the bike for me, with a letter of direction signed by me at the Chile consulate in Chicago. SO, after loosing almost three full days and paying almost $3,500, I decide to leave the bike at the border and deal with the paperwork at the consulate when I get home. I book a flight from Osorno to Santiago and pack up my stuff for the flight.

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    Still have some luggage to retrieve at the hotel in Santiago, where I will overnight before my flights home.

    Waiting for my Uber to the airport.
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    LATAM departure "lounge" in Osorno airport.
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    Ciao, Chile! See you soon.
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    The day after I got home, too tired to even move my stuff away from the front door, much less unpack.
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    After one last night in Santiago, I am now home, have met with the consulate, docs signed and on their way back to my buddy in Chile, and making travel plans to head back in May to (finally) get the bike out.

    NEVER, EVER, LEAVE A BIKE IN CHILE FOR OVERE FOUR YEARS!
  8. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    I'm glad that border fiasco didn't ruin your spirit or appetite! I would have to tried to bribe my way out on the spot...
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  9. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    It's all part of the adventure, and beats a day at the office for sure! I have been told by several friends in Chile that it's a very bad idea to try to bribe officials of any kind in Chile. They treat bribery as a serious offense. Quite unlike some other countries in Latin America! :-)
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  10. Nateman

    Nateman Adventurer

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    Looks like a first class trip. Eating your way through Chile. :rofl
    Looking forward to hearing the rest of the story when you return!

    Cheers!
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  11. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Haha yeah, it really was more civil than most other moto trips. I'm not so sure that I'll find that level if dining on the return trip through Bolivia, but one never knows!
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  12. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Getting some remaining details sorted out at the Consulado de Chile in Chicago.

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    Signed and officially-confirmed documents FedEx'd to Chile.
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  13. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    So after FedEx botches the delivery--and that's a first for me--my friend finally gets the paperwork and authorization to pick up my bike at the border. They tell him thanks for picking it up, but you have to get it out of Chile now. He's got an authorization to do that, and says ok I'll cross over the border and come back in to renew the TVIP. No way, they say, that bike can't re-enter Chile.

    Well that's a problem since I was not there to ride it out for good, and my friend was unable to take the time to move it to another friend's place in Buenos Aires. He asks for a 30-day extension and they say we'll give the bike until June 4th to be gone, otherwise impounded again and more fines. So...

    It's off to Chile I go, with plenty of cold-weather and heated gear, with gratitude for having a relatively flexible schedule.

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    The bike's in good hands, safe and sound in a little shed in Patagonia, apparently being guarded by a cat.

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  14. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    So what's the plan this time...ride to Argentina and ship it home?


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  15. bembe

    bembe Been here awhile

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    Sell the bike in Asuncion, Paraguay
    and be done with all the legal BS.

    Almost impossible to sell used goods
    (cars, motorcycles) in Chile and Argentina.
    But, easier in Paraguay.

    Good luck !!!
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  16. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Sell? No way. I'm in Buenos Aires, I have a secure parking spot in a brand new building and a new eight-month TVIP. The ride will either continue all the way home in stages, or I'll ship the bike home if/when I decide to end the adventure. Actually have been thinking about shipping the bike home and sending my new GSA down as a swap.


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  17. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    All set up in BsAs with secure parking and and eight-month TVIP so the ride will continue on in stages.


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  18. Cmnthead

    Cmnthead Adventurer

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    Hey, just found this report. Just finished reading thru it. Jealous for sure.........maybe someday I'll get to log a few miles, hell maybe even meet up somewhere.......... Seriously tho.....I did just find this report, on here all the time and never seen it till now.
    Good job!
    PS, that Dave fella is a sketchy looking fella ehh!
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  19. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    All safe and secure in BsAs. Love that city! Happy to have an excuse to get down there again soon for the next stage of the trip.

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  20. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial

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    Thanks, Hugo, for all of your efforts and help in dealing with Chilean aduanas!

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