The blue dollar, hitchhikers and marble caves

The argentine pesos fluctuates so much that prices will be different almost week to week. Since its so unstable the locals love American dollar, especially hundreds  and they will give you a way better rate if you have them. The official rate is 1 usd to 8.5 argentine pesos now if you exchange it through the ‘illegal’ blue dollar the rate is 1 usd to 13.5 pesos so it seemed like a no brainer to try it out. So with that in mind I crossed the border with 3 fresh hundred dollar bills. We 3 ended up in another ski town called San Martin and got there quite late so the money exchange places were closed. I attempted to switch it at multiple businesses but with no success… it was odd though I could tell they all wanted to exchange it but were scared to or didn’t want to risk getting caught but every person I talked to look at me like the were very interested. The next morning I went to the money exchange and asked how much I could get for 300 usd. This is when things started getting wierd. The lady kinda looked side to side to assure no one was watching then didn’t say the exchange rate to me but instead wrote it on a paper and slipped it to me. It said 12.5 and I was happy with that. They whole time I felt like I was doing something bad and everything felt very wierd because of the way this lady was acting. She printed out some sheets for me to sign and I noticed that the sheet said 1 usd to 8.5 and that’s what I was signing for…. I was very confused how this legit business could pull this off but I was just happy I was getting the better rate and that now with that rate everything in Argentina would be that much cheaper. After I was done signing the ‘legal’ papers mack and I made some food and hit the road. It wasn’t long before we got to bariloche which is the biggest town in the lake district. After getting some food and drinks and spending some time checking out the town we realized all our pesos were gone and we only had enough to buy bread and cheese in the morning for grilled cheese. We didn’t want to take out money at the Atm because they would give us the bad rate. The next morning mack and I were both hung over and we needed gas to be able to get to the chilean border so mack decided to use his card at the gas station.  This is when everything went down hill. The card machine didn’t work for either of our cards and we already filled up with the gas. We eventually had to leave macks card as collateral and go search for a atm to pay for the gas. We went on an adventure whipping through traffic and parking illegally to try my card at multiple banks many of which didn’t work, most with long lines. After an hour or so struggling to get money we found a bank that would take my card only to see that the max I could take out was 1000 pesos (115usd) only to charge me a ridiculous fee of 12 usd to use the atm. With this money we paid for the gas and thought nothing else could go wrong…. well we got lost, took a wrong turn and ended up heading the wrong way for a while. We drove to a town just before the chilean border and spent the night.
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Going across the border the next day was a breeze and the drive was very beautiful, During the last 8 days of driving we’ve seen a lot of hitchhikers and never stopped to pick any up but what’s a road trip without some hitchhikers? So day 8 was the day we stopped for a group of 4 chilean hitchhikers. We stuffed them in the back of the van and we were off, we were all going to the same place, Parque Nacional Queulat. The hitchhikers some decent English and gave us useful tips on what’s good to see and what we can skip in patagonia. They were very thankful we picked them up and invited us on a hike to the glaciers the following morning. We talked and had some wine into much of the night and the next morning we heading up the trail, it was very cloudy and once at the top after an hour and a half we couldn’t see anything. It was too bad that the weather was so bad but the hike was fun and much needed. These hitchhikers also told us that there was road construction further down the highway and the road would be blocked from 1 pm to 5 pm. We timed it perfectly getting through the first section just in time.  But then about an hour down the road there was another road block for construction. So we had to sit there for 4 hours and wait for them to open the road. Did i mention we ran out of food so we didnt eat breakfast and we were hoping to indulge ourselves in a greasy lunch once we hit the the nearest town. It put us off schedule and things are looking tight for us to get down to punta arenas on time. After a long day of driving and waiting we got to the town of Coyhaique where we called it a night.
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The next morning we exchanged our chilean pesos for American dollars to get ready for the border crossing later on in the day. We heard about a ferry you could take across the General Carrera lake and would save us 5 hours and over 300 km. We ended up taking a detour to check out the times and turning around when we realized it wouldn’t work. So we started the long drive around the lake and once we got about half way around we took a tour to see the marble caves which were pretty amazing. We didn’t make it to the border that night so we called it a night 50 km from the border in literally the middle of nowhere. (The Internet isn’t good enough down here to post pictures so they will be posted later)
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