It was not in our initial plan (nor in the second!), but we decided to continue this journey to north through Argentina. So we crossed the Andes again, this time through Paso Los Libertadores, approx. 200 km from Valparaíso (Chile) and another 200 km from Mendoza (Argentina).
Paso Los Libertadores (also called “Cristo Redentor”) is a very popular border between Chile and Argentina because it connects two important cities (Santiago and Mendoza) and one of them is the country’s capital. Its name comes from the 4 ton Christ statue placed near the Uspallata Pass in 1904 at an elevation of 2,832m. The pass was the highest point of the road before the opening of the tunnel in 1980 lowered the maximum elevation by 600m and shortened the route by 10 km.
The night before it was supposed to cross the border we read on Twitter (yes, there’s a twitter channel to twit about border conditions in Chile!) that the border was closed. The weather was too bad with snow and strong winds so they decided to close the border a few days before. We had no idea about the bad weather! In fact, in that day we got around 22 degrees along the beaches around Valparaíso... so it was hard for us to imagine such a bad weather. We started seeing alternatives to cross the border but the closest ones implied to do around 600 km more and even that the conditions were very restricted. So we decided to sleep to check the weather in the next morning.
We woke up and we saw a new twit: Paso Los Libertadores was open since 8 am! The only issue was that it was mandatory to have tire chains. And we didn’t. So the first thing we did was to go to a store in Valparaíso and buy it.
We caught route 60 and after a while we started driving up the mountains. The scenic route started after Los Andes town, 140 km from Valparaíso. The road ascends up through a long series of switchbacks to make the ascent and it was not very easy to drive. Due to the weather conditions and on going road works they closed the road to alternate the traffic so we spent at least 30 minutes waiting for the traffic descending…
Finally we crossed the famous Tunnel of the Redeeming Christ (“Túnel Cristo Redentor”), 3,080m long. At the middle of the tunnel is the national border between Chile and Argentina and it’s where route 60 finished for us. We started then Argentina route 7.
A few km after we had the official border where we had to wait for almost one hour… for the first time since our journey we didn’t stop the car and went inside. At this border everyone has to wait in the car and it’s like paying a toll in a highway. It was pretty cold up in the mountain so we liked to stay inside the car, but we believe this is one of the reasons why it takes longer to cross the border. It is less efficient for sure.
After crossing the border there was no traffic anymore. Just us driving across the mountains… and the views were some of the best we had until now!
Next stop: San Agustín de Valle Fértil (Argentina)