I stepped into the passport control office and the first question the officer asked was not for my passport but what the text on my cap meant 'Look mum no hands'. Phew for patient Chileans as I bumbled through my best Spanglish and sign language, explaining what it meant. And reassuring him that I didn't bother trying out the no hands along the Carretera Austral (I don't think my emergency fund would have quite stretched quite that far to cover the hospital bills!) or planned to over the next 22km crossing into Argentina. He laughed and quickly agreed!
I'd been warned.... the average time to cross the 22km to the Argentinian passport control by Lago del Desiertos was apparently 5 hours, with some taking up to 10hours.
It didn't take quite that long but it was definitely an all body workout in the end, a combo of hiking and biking. And one of awesome teamwork and high fives with a fellow cyclist, Shim from Tokyo, as we helped each other up hills and navigate the knee-deep river crossings. By the last two crossings, I'd stopped worrying about avoiding the water and waded through, having to remove my panniers to get across, and giving my shoes a clean from the earlier muddy section.
I now appreciated the advantages of a bike-packing set up (or just having a big backpack to hand to transfer weight to) and agreeing that it could be the way next time.... but for now, I had teamwork on my side. And it was surprisingly good fun and satisfying!
The crossing was big enough for bikes, horses and at most 4x4 motorbikes. We met a couple of other hikers and cyclists, and lapped up the quietness of the crossing with no vehicles. The landscape changed as we made our way to Argentina, and as we came out of the lush forest and navigated the last kilometer, we saw the famous Lago del Desiertos for the first time.
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