Journey America Part 2
Rio Gallegos 07.14.17
Having survived the grueling desert of Santa Cruz, we are met with equal parts love and bureaucracy in the provincial capital, Rio Gallegos.
“We are honored to be hosting someone who has come from so far on horseback,” said Miguel O’Byrne, president of the Rio Gallegos Rural Society. “Whatever you need, just let us know.”
Toti and I were so happy to arrive in the capital of Santa Cruz! The months we spent together on the road, usually camping in the middle of nowhere, in Patagonia, we would open the map and imagine how it would feel to arrive here. Now, here we were…
Rio Gallegos would be as far as we would be allowed to ride in continental Argentina. In order to enter Tierra del Fuego, we would have to cross 200 kilometers of Chilean soil and, unfortunately, Chile allows foreign horses to cross its land only in a sealed trailer.
After all of the nonsensical bureaucracy I was met with at every border in the Americas I arrived at, it was not surprise. At this point I just wanted to finish this journey.
For an entire week, Toti and I ran around like headless chickens trying to get all the paperwork ready to ship my horses Sapo and Picasso to Tierra del Fuego Island, off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland. We had to get the horses’ blood work done and bring their vaccinations up to date, hire a logistics agent to deal with the Chilean and Argentinean customs officials, and find a trucker to haul the horses south for free. After one year and two months on the road, I was broke.
It was a week of hell…but with the help of several members of the Rio Gallegos Rural Society, things moved much quicker, and the process ended up costing a lot less than we ever imagined.
The only problem was our dog, Butch Cassidy: For a dog to cross Chile, it needs to have been vaccinated against rabies at least one month prior to the trip. Because Butch was a street dog we picked up in El Bolson, he didn’t have any shots. We were sad to leave our puppy behind, but a friend from the rural society offered to take care of him until we returned.
On a chilly, grey Monday morning, nine days after riding into Rio Gallegos, we finally loaded the horses into a large cattle truck and made the drive to Tierra del Fuego. The trip took us across two borders, down a slippery, muddy road that almost stopped us in our tracks several times, and finally to a somewhat disappointing ferry full of trucks that transported us across the Strait of Magellan.
After 25 hours, including a sleepless night at the final border, we unloaded Sapo and Picasso one kilometer from the Chile-Argentina border at Estancia San Martin.
“Welcome to Tierra del Fuego, my friend,” said Jorge Lopez, the truck driver who hauled the horses free of charge.
I looked out at the atlantic ocean as a cold breeze kissed my dry cheeks. I was 300 kms from ending a journey of more than 7000 kilometers. I was in the southernmost island in the Americas with my horses. I was so close to the end – both literally and mentally.