Argentina – Stay or Go?

For all of us, this pandemic has presented challenges like never before. We are faced with decisions, yet have no precedent to guide our response.

We intended to ride out our 14 day quarantine on the beach. But things changed rapidly.  We learned via WhatsApp, that Argentina shut down all travel until the end of March, which would mean 11 more days on the beach. No baño. No fresh water. Couldn’t do it.

We in increased our floor space. Bug tent. Camped on beach near Camarones, Argentina

That day we packed up and headed back to the small community of Camarones. We need to buy food and water. And in these uncertain times we felt it important to insert ourselves into a community. People who know you are more apt to provide help if you need it.

Although initially the police refused us entry to town, we are grateful to some extremely kind people. Pablo the doctor opened the campground so that we had a toilet and shower. Jose, camp manager, provided a welcome hug. From time to time he checked on us.  His wide smile and cheery disposition was a bright spot in our day.

We were the only campers, Campground in Camarones, Argentina

A few days in the campground and we were stir crazy. Our eyes were glued to a group of travellers on What’s app. Overlanders in this end of Argentina were living at gas stations or camped by a lake. Some being escorted by police out of town, some being escorted to a location in town, some denied food, some provided with free food. The accounts were all different. In addition, the crazies in the group added a level of both hilarity and confusion.

Each hour was like a day.

The question to go or to stay was constantly on our minds. The Canadian government said “come home”, the Argentinian government said “don’t move”. But with controls getting ever tighter, and flights getting cancelled one by one, our window to move was closing.

So, on Sunday we purchased tickets for the last scheduled flight to Canada. Then we emailed the Canadian consulate. Within 30 minutes they emailed back with travel authorization documents which indicated our names, date of flight and flight number.

Embassy document that authorized our drive to Buenos Aires, Argentina

These documents proved valuable for the next 3 days.

One day short of our two weeks quarantine, we left the village of Camarones, bound for Buenos Aires. Hugs and best wishes from Jose. Instructions from the police. Stay on the highway. Sleep only in the van. Have a good journey. Smiles. Waves.

Our first police stop, leaving Camarones, Argentina

The highway, route 3, was eerily empty. We rolled along. Mile after mile. Few trucks. Grassy flat land covered in dark green shrubs. Wide blue sky layered in whispy white clouds. One armadillo, four guacanos……

Checking our travel documents, Route 3, Argentina

We drove in daylight hours, arriving at our van storage in Buenas Aires late Wednesday afternoon. En Route, we were questioned and scrutinized at 13 police barricades, and overnighted in one gravel pit and at one gas station.

Had company, two Canadian Overlander vans and us with Vanna, gravel pit, Route 3, Argentina

In the City of Rawson we were escorted in a police convoy to the hospital. For a health check. In another town our temperature was taken by a gowned and masked nurse, before town, and again 5 minutes later as we drove out of town. Our temperatures had remained constant. 😂

Follow that police car. Convoy to the hospital, just when we wanted to be invisible. We passed the test!

On our second night, two policemen paid us a visit, where we had set up camp near a stream. They were afraid to come close to us, so yelled at us to sit in the van while they made phone calls. It was dark and about all we could see were two face masks, highlighted in the glow of blue flashing lights. One of them took a wide berth around Vanna, as if she could spit virus, and took a photo from the back. Standing way back. Finally, they told us we could camp at the gas station, about 0.1 km away.

Tried to camp here, Route 3, Argentina
Police visit us in the dark, route 3, Argentina

Although some of these demands seemed senseless, it was easier to comply. The situation for these young guys in uniform was stressful too.  Most were just trying to follow instructions coming down the chain of command.

Buenos Aires is huge. Fortunately the way to the storage lot is just 3 major freeways. No police check points. Lot owner Chris, gave us 20 minutes to clean and sort Vanna. Then a taxi picked us up for a 2 hour drive to a hostel we had booked on Booking.com. Hotels have been closed in the entire country so getting one is not easy. No type of accommodation is allowed to take new guests, so it all seems dependant on whether the neighbors will report you or not.

In the taxi, on the way to the hostel, we received an email from Air Canada. Flight cancelled.

We are happy that we made the trek to Buenas Aires. Our hostel is beautiful. “Muy lindo”. Grassy grounds to walk around, fruit trees, sitting area outside. Lounge inside. Hot shower. Close to the airport. Although that hardly makes a difference now. We can hear planes coming and going, but have no idea what airlines, whether passenger or cargo.

Waiting out the pandemic, Hostel Nagual, Buenos Aires, Argentina

We keep in touch with Overlanders in Argentina. Two young couples, one driving a bus, and the other a VW kombi, are still searching for a place to stay. Friends Sue and Ray are in an apartment in Buenas Aires. They are allowed out only to buy groceries. It’s very strict. ID is checked.

Waiting out the pandemic, Hostel Nagual, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Now waiting to hear from the Canadian embassy. They are collecting names of those wanting to return home.

We are in a good safe place. Free breakfast. Matías and Yamile are kind hosts.

In these tough times, we are missing family and friends from home. Hope you are all comfortable wherever you are. Stay safe.  Drink plenty of fluids.

A new home with a cat, Hostel in Buenos Aires, Argentina

6 Replies to “Argentina – Stay or Go?”

  1. We are thinking of you often. Stay safe and stay healthy. These are strange and challenging times for sure. It seems strange to feel nervous about a weekly trip to the grocery store.

    1. Sure looks like a lovely hostel. The cat was the added bonus. I could wait it out there. We’re on home isolation still. Couple days after getting home still had sore throat,cough & plugged nose so phoned Health Links, then they phoned Public Health here & I was in for my deep nasal swab that afternoon. If we hadn’t been out of the country I would say it’s a cold, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Randy was asked all the same ?’s but didn’t need to be tested. Brenda & I were messengering @ 4:30 this am & was saying you were having a few difficulties. You are both looking great so I needn’t worry too much about you. Take care & be safe.

  2. Well, not exactly the adventure you had planned, but an adventure nevertheless! Amazed at how tough the cops and people have been in Argentina. Fear seems to bring out either the worst or the best in us, right? We think of you guys often, and wish you a positive resolution to all the current stress and confusion. Hugs from Nicaragua. Cuídense.

  3. Hi,
    Read your blog on March 26th, 2020.
    Dang so close to flying out.
    The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs is Francois-Philippe Champagne, for the Federal Government of Canada. I understand he negotiates with each country individually to get air flights in to repatriate Canadian citizens.
    Suggestion:
    You could try texting him or emailing his office directly, to ask where the federal government is at with Argentina, and what date a flight is coming in.
    Also try contacting your local member of parliament for the Brandon, Manitoba, Canada constituency, by text or email and you can let them know of your plight and see if they can offer any assistance to get you Canadians all safely home.
    Best of everything.
    All good here.
    Take care.

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