Border Crossings

Chase and I had the pleasure of leaving Chile a few days ago. It was quite the event…

When we entered Chile, we were given a receipt and our passports were stamped. It was uneventful for us, but not so much for our British friends.  It started when she failed to tell customs officials that she had 3 apples in her suitcase. Since all of the paperwork was in Spanish, she didn’t know that it is forbidden to bring animal or plant products in to Chile without claiming that they exist in the packed items. As it later turned out, we all learned that even when a person does claim apples, it is confiscated anyways. We were all standing in line at security, waiting to turn over our passports to be stamped, and out came the drug sniffing dogs. Our bus was selected for the search, and out the dogs went. No more than a minute later, we hear barking and 2 bags are pulled from the bus! We laugh and make a few jokes about who the drug lord might be on the bus and simply continue waiting in line. After our passports were stamped, we walked back to the x-ray machines to send our day packs through. That’s when we see that our British friend’s bag has been pulled! I feel slightly alarmed for her as we leave, but get on the bus and hope for the best. Her roommate got on the bus, equally as alarmed, and says that they were searching through her stuff when she came to the bus. We sat and waited patiently until our friend finally hopped on the bus. She sat down as we peppered her with questions. The drug dogs had smelled her apples! Since she didn’t claim on the paperwork that she had them, the guards had confiscated them and threatened her with a $3000 fine for trying to sneak them in to the country. She profusely apologized, and gave them her apples. Another girl, who had claimed the fruit she brought, was being allowed to eat it in the building. When our friend asked to eat her now-confiscated apples, they said no and threatened her with more fines!  We laughed about it on the remainder of the bus ride to Puerto Natales, and learned that the Chileans take fruit crossing the border even more seriously than the Californians do.

On our way out of the country, however, it was an entirely different story. This time, it was Chase and I that had trouble with the border guards. The receipt I mentioned earlier is required to leave the country, although they didn’t tell us and the receipt didn’t mention it at all. According to the guards, the passport stamp means nothing, and the receipt is our permission to be in the country. So, when Chase and I went to leave, the guard was not very happy when we didn’t have them. Luckily, I had kept mine for a scrapbook in my main bag. However, Chase had thrown his away in his epic bag cleaning spree (this occurs at least once a week…). This caused a slight problem. The guard looked at our passports, and demanded that we pay USD $100 to leave the country! A young Brit was also in the same situation, except he was not charged and just stamped to leave Chile without a second thought. That irritated the crap out of me, to put it mildly. Although we have an emergency stash of cash to use in emergencies, there’s just NO way I was about to give this guard $100 to leave Chile! So, we made all of the usual arguments that we didn’t have cash, we didn’t have the money, that charging people to leave the country was not a legitimate claim and the guard continued to yell at us and get agitated. Finally, I pulled out my bag of receipts and souvenirs, pulled out the Chilean bills I had stashed there, and waved them at the guard.  Since he spoke only Spanish, I had to give all of my reasonings in Spanish as well. I showed him the 2,000 Chilean pesos I had (about $3.50 US dollars) and told him that he could have those or nothing, and that we weren’t paying. I don’t know why (maybe it was my persuasive, bubbly personality?) but the guard finally caved. He simply gave up, and let us leave the country without paying a single dollar… or my souvenir pesos! Phew…. Note to self, don’t piss off that Chilean border guards and eat fruit before the border crossing!

We finally arrived back in El Calafate, Argentina, and now we are heading up to Bariloche. It was quite an eventful ride, and now we know to save all of our receipts!

From somewhere new, Jess


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