Breaking News - Argentina claims sovereignty over the Channel Islands
The Chilean Navy personnel are always polite and friendly but the service we received this time was exceptional. "Is there anything you need? Any repairs? Tourism information? What else can I help you with?" The young NCO contacted a mechanic about the water pump, told us where to get diesel and gas and gave use a few useful phone numbers. He then put us in touch with Julio of Mabel Alice. She is an ex RNLI lifeboat that passed us in Seno Union. Her skipper Julio had called us up and offered his services. Little did he know at the time that he would end up running multiple errands for us to fix the water pump. "I'm in Punta Arenas, stick it on the coach and I'll see what I can do."
At last the sun broke through revealing a flat, frozen landscape with a stunning snowy mountain backdrop. As we paddled the dinghy towards the industrial fishing harbour we passed a gaggle of black necked swans and a pink flamingo.
Our job for the day was to exit and re-enter Chile so as to get brand new visas for ninety days, hopefully long enough for us to get to the next border hop. The plan was to get a taxi to drive us to the Argentinian border thirty minutes away, get our passports stamped and return in the same taxi. Our friendly driver didn't get clearance to drive through the three kilometres of no-man's land. The Chilean Police Officer, a friend of his, offered to ask passing cars to give us a lift. Traffic was scarce but the next vehicle through agreed to take us despite being full. We managed to cram into one seat with our bags.
At the Argentinian border, we were stamped into the country, no questions asked, and told to go a half hour walk before exiting, to return to Chile.
By the side of the road a sign welcomed us to Valelen, a ski resort but there was no snow. Usually this time of year there would be tonnes, unfortunately this year freezing fog has replaced snow storms. Down the road we found a derelict coal mine set up in the early 40s.
Kath and Franco outside No. 1 Shaft of an Argentinian coal mine
At the appointed time we wandered back to the border post. To 'exit' Argentina we had to go to a different counter. Franco's passport seemed to cause concern and a sharp word was said to the young woman who had stamped us in. The passport was scrutinised by three officers and then taken to a back room, we could hear our officer making a call. Franco, who is never relaxed at borders, could hear alarm bells ringing.
"Excuse me, is there a problem?" he asked politely in good Spanish. A response was muttered. "I'm sorry but I didn't understand". More embarrassed muttering. The lady dealing with us had once more disappeared and we asked the other two what the issue was. "Your passport shouldn't have been authorised for entry into Argentina because the Island of Jersey is part of Argentinian national territory." Brexit was bad enough but how had we missed the annexation of Jersey by Argentina?
Franco, a proud Channel Islander was stunned. Suddenly the terrible mistake the immigration officers were making dawned on us. They thought Jersey was part of the Falkland Islands!
Thanks to our fluency in Spanish and the aid of a map on our tablet, we were able to prove that Jersey is much closer to France than Argentina. Our officer ate humble pie and an hour later we were free to leave, passports duly stamped.
Clearly, geography is not part of the basic training!