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QUICK UPDATE 11/16/2011

posted Dec 3, 2011, 6:10 PM by Matthew Gorzlancyk   [ updated Oct 19, 2012, 1:53 AM ]

24,274 kilometers and 503 days and I am now just rolling out of San Blas, Argentina with plans to arrive in Mendoza in about a week or so. The ride from Salta to here has been a good one (much easier than anything in Bolivia) and we have been received with a great amount of hospitality. I am now back on the road solo due to Matt's tighter schedule and need to push forward to meet a friend from home in early January. Should be an adventure!

Rolling over the Pass (Paso de Jama) into Argentina with a street dog on our heels!

            Immigration has been a topic I have had the pleasure of hearing about quite often over the last year of my trip. Usually the conversation will have something to do with how hard it is to get a visa or enter the United States and it will then turn into a lesson as to why entrance isn’t so easily granted, especially to those who don’t appear to have means and a reason to return home. Yea, I definitely tire of talking about this subject. What is great though is that with a little help from my Canadian buddy Matt, we were able to help a young gal sneak across the border from Chile to Argentina only a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Scarlet and she is a dirty street dog.

            I am not exactly sure why the common street dog wanted to leave San Pedro de Atacama (a very warm and comfortable tourist destination in the Atacama desert of Chile), but I do know she was quite motivated to do so. For a dog to literally run 160+ kilometers (about 100 miles) and climb over 2,000 meters from approximately 2,600 meters to over 4,700 meters above sea level (more than 15,400 feet), she had to have a good reason. This street dog actually did one of the highest passes one can do in South America to reach the land of meat and mate! Here is the tale…

            I finished the Southwest Bolivia ride on October 24th and began the drop into San Pedro de Atacama with my friends Andreas, Anita, Eva and Claudia. As we were dropping we ran into none other than Mr. Matt Adcock, the Canadian feller I had been traveling with for almost six months prior to the ‘Laguna route’ in Bolivia. Matt and I were both quite thrilled to meet up again and decided to drop down to San Pedro together, then do the Paso de Jama (mountain pass and entrance to Argentina from Chile) and ride down to at least Salta together. Great!

            The thing is, both Matt and I have been trying to keep a very low budget and do things a little bit more ‘hobo-style’. When we arrived in San Pedro Matt told me of this great hiding spot in front of the museum by the square. Sounded good, so we hung out in the square, ate some chicken, and then met our soon-to-be travel companion, the golden retriever mix we would name Scarlet (pronounced eh-Scarlet in Spanish).

            This dog immediately took a liking to us for some reason or another and followed us to our hiding spot. The little bugger slept next to us all night. I actually awoke in the morning with her little head resting on my leg. So, we got up and made sure to be away from the museum before the employees would arrive around 7 a.m. Scarlet joined us and apparently thought walking around the city with us would be a nice time.

            The little pooch actually followed us for almost 2 hours until we checked into an actual camping spot you had to pay for, but had showers and such. She wasn’t allowed in otherwise I think she would have stuck with us. At this point we thought our time with the doggie was over, but needless to say, it wasn’t.

            After our time at the hostel/campground we decided we would take one more night of chicken at our favorite broaster chicken location, then hit the museum up one more night as to avoid the costly campground before our departure from the city. Well, our friend found us in the center again and apparently hadn’t forgotten us. She followed us as she had done before, protecting our bikes while we ate and barking at passer-bys and other dogs who got close to us. Thanks Scarlet!

            We were up and out quite early again the next day, picked up a few necessary items, and headed to the migration office to get our exit stamps. This whole process took a couple of hours, all of which were accompanied by our dirty street dog buddy. ***At this point we had yet to give the dog ANY food OR water. For some reason she just really liked that we slept outside too or something? I really don’t know, maybe it was our stinky feet or clothes… I know all doggies like stink. Who knows?

            Either way, the dog followed us out of the city and it was not a difficult task for her. We were heading up-hill and could not move very fast, so she kept up just fine. At first I thought it was quite cute and funny, but after the first day of almost 40 kilometers we realized we had a new companion. We then started to give her water and Bolivian crackers I had left over so she wouldn’t die in the desert.

            It was now the day after our 3rd night camping with this dog and I was not sure what the little bugger was thinking or if it could even make it the whole way. We ended up doing another comparable distance to the prior day and the dog did it again, and with much more ease than I expected. We gave her some more water and Bolivian crackers, but fortunately that day she found a couple bags of garbage along the road for some nourishment she was a little more accustomed to. We set up our tents later and she even snuck in mine during the night and I awoke once again with her little muzzle on my leg.

            After our 4th night camping with Scarlet we did a big day, 76 kilometers with much wind and climbing as well. She did it all. Almost 2 marathons worth of running! This night she looked like she might just die, so we brought the crackers to her and even gave her a little leftover food for she wasn’t even in the mood to explore for garbage or poop or whatever. She was cooked!

            5 nights with Scarlet and we were now going to enter Argentina. She trotted the whole way (definitely lacking energy), but made it to the border. I think she was smiling when she arrived and I do know the little fur-covered mutt was pretty proud of herself. I was really blown away! She did have one more obstacle to cross yet, and that was getting past the border guards!

            We arrived at the migration location and security looked pretty tough. We all probably should have discussed a plan before, but since Scarlet only speaks dog and Portuguese, we had a hard time doing this. We just rode and she ran up the line. Immediately a security guy walked up to us and asked, in Spanish, if this was our dog. I was glad she couldn’t understand what we said, because she may have felt betrayed. We just told the guy we didn’t know who it was and where it came from. She just laid up against the tire of my bike until he grabbed her fur and dragged her away.

            Now Matt and I knew that this could not go on. We were now in Argentina, the next few hundred kilometers were pretty flat so she would not be able to keep up, it wouldn’t be easy to carry the extra water and food for the dog all the time, and even if we did want to take her, there was not a single bike trailer to be found at this little border in the middle of nowhere. I worried about the little dirtball, but had faith she would figure something out (maybe bite the guard and run, offer him a bribe, trick him with her quick wit, something).

            As we left the immigration office we started riding away talking about our lost pal and hoping she would be okay. Only seconds later I looked over my shoulder as I had done for the last week to see if she was there and, sure enough, there she was! Running like the wind to catch her gringo buddies on bikes. Unbelievable!

            Now it would probably be a nice end to say that she is on the back of my bike, but that is not the case. After we became re-acquainted, Matt and I had a discussion in English, which Scarlet could not understand (I think!). We decided we must leave her behind and let her start a new life as a border doggie in Argentina. There were other dogs there and plenty of garbage to be scavenged for a street pooch looking to get back on her feet. Also, we met a really nice couple of gas station workers who assured us they would look after her. They were quite impressed with the story and her strength and said they would hook her up with some goodies every now and then and maybe even take her in.

            So I said goodbye to my canine friend, gave her a final ear scratch and belly rub, wiped the diseases off on my pants, and then put her in the entryway of the gas station so she could not follow us anymore (for I am sure she would have followed us to the end of the earth, where we are actually headed!). I could see the pain in her eyes through the pane of glass as we rode away and she could not follow, but I know this is what had to be done. Sometimes we just have to say goodbye. It wasn’t easy, especially since I love dogs and especially those that can be THAT loyal.

I have never met another dogzor like you buddy. I will miss you Scarlet, you crazy little traveler doggie!