The Argentina Border Decision Explained

So weeks of indecision have finally been decided – we will not be allowed to pass through to Chile on our route, and because of the gamble we took to run 90km up to the border, the journey will now have to be broken. At least it’s a decision, up to now we’ve had all sorts of half hopes raised but now it’s final.

So we are on an unexpected and unwanted enforced break of back-to-back buses to take us back to the point at which we should have arrived on foot (and a short hop on ferry where no road existed). We are not yet sure if this will takes us days or a week but at least we hope to be in Chile tomorrow over a pass to a small town further north clled Chile Chico. Money has been wasted, and time too, partially because of our own over-0ptimism at being able to work through South American bureaucracy, and partially because of the “Jefe”, see below.

But what does it mean for the validity of the overall journey to be the first to run the length of South America unsupported? Read on.

The Border:

A rural Border between Lago Del Desierto (Argentina) and Lago O’Higgens (Chile). A dream crossing into the back door of Chile. Open from November to May, but now we know better than most – don’t bother with the supposed possibility of special permission to cross at other times, it’s never going to happen!

The Actors involved:

The Army (Gendarmeria): They are responsible for controlling the border, and generally asking for papers at any available opportunity in Argentina

The Boss (Jefe): A nervous institutional man, whilst amiable enough. Intreagued by the expedition; interested in my ideas on a certain island group currently contested with the crown. He found the relevant resolution signed in 2006 allowing us to pass but because it had not formally been communicated to him  (what does he want, gilt edged paper? A scroll delivered in a booming “hear-thee, hear-thee” voice from the tower by a the town squire?) he could not allow us to pass. He was no more delighted than when he could finally say the paperpusher’s favourite word . . .”no”.

Migraciones: the department located in the provincial capital, Rio Gallegos.  Apparently responsible for deciding the border should be closed for a nominal period of 3 months a year in winter – even though everybody needed to operate it are stationed there, twiddling very cold thumbs. Unfortunatly the first contact we were given by Jefe of the army (above) for the boss was dead, bad for her, and us.  The next said there was no problem. Jefe was undetered by this glimmer of hope and soon found somebody else who could tell him no, so he was happy.

The Secret Agent:

Maria, our friend, acting agent and local miss fix-it with expert knowledge of processes in Argentina and Chile. Fathomless depths of energy and time were poured into negotiating the resolution (actually having to research and advise the Border Control and Immigration authorities on the state of their law!!)  right up to the 11th hour (on her birthday it turns out, how guilty do we feel!?!?!?). She opened the door to Mr Jefe, but he was blinded by the prospect of allowing something to actually happen. Sorry Maria, and thank you.

The workaround:

1. Pass over the Marconi Glacier – its open all year. Bizarre but true – curious given it is a hazardous natural barrier around 1000m higher, permanent ice and requires technical equipment and weeks of expedition time. But alas it’s open all year even though his simple little brother is not!

2. The reality: take public transport 1000km around east, north, west, then south back to the point we left. And get this – we could see where we wanted to go!!!!

The impact on the project:

Time will tell, but hopefully minimal. A couple of days of running time lost on buses, and hopefully that’s all. We spent two painful days running 46miles (74km) on rubble roads up to the last point at which we could, and back. We bent another axle and some toes, we got very wet. We have covered every single mile possible and will make no advantage North from the workaround. We think we have covered ourselves.

In reality to make this journey there are a couple of other places where one needs to take transport (e.g. crossing the Amazon river by boat). The key thing for us to make sure that every detail is recorded for scrutiny, and crucuially, that we make no advantage from it. There has been a precedence set both by Ed Stafford in his expepedition “Walking of the Amazon” record, and also Robert Garside’s controversial round the world running record, where he even skipped large sections but was allowed the record due to overall distance covered (not something we will allow ourselves).

Anyway – we are getting ahead of ourselves, day to day we just look at little horizons , the top of the next hill, the next quarter of a mile, the next camp etc, we never know when our bodies may pull the plug on this adventure as we beast them day-on-day pulling 80kg across dirt tracks in foul weather. We just want to be running again. And we will be soon….


  1. Would a rapid fire email barrage on jefe have made a difference? Does the jefe use email? Jim thinks that we can still make that happen… but you’re about to board the bus, right?

    • hey guys, thanks for the offer!!! – i get the feeling 500000 avaaz votes wouldn’t get this chap moving one he has found someone higher up to back him up. Hopefully in the future they will see that opening the border offers the villages at either end an increased tourism season for their eco-businesses – there must be other nutters like us who’d like to go in winter, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! Would love to try it again one day but for now we are on the move again – back in Chile and looking for transport south again this side of the Andes….. good recovery time for feet but i’d sooner be running anyday than waiting for buses!! Thank you for your kind offer and good luck with the book, what a chalenge!!! love D&K

  2. Pingback:Ground to a Halt Again……! | 5000 Mile Project

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