After our interesting border crossing into Chile we had to drive to the next town Calama and go to the vet with Francie. The vet gave him some internal parasite tablets and gave us the health certificate we needed for the SAG office (Chile Agricultural office). It also turned out that Francie did have bronchitis! He had got it from the cold and high altitude of Bolivia. So we had to get a prescription for antibiotics and cough medicine and then show the receipts to the SAG office before they finally signed off his cert and he was legal in Chile. They told us we would have to go to another SAG office in Santiago to get paperwork to travel to Argentina with the dog and if we werenít there in ten days, we would need to go to another vet and get a new health certificate. It was 1,500km to Santiago so we had to get our skates on and do a lot of driving for a few days.
It was a long drive to Santiago but unlike Bolivia the highway was in perfect condition and we could cruise along comfortably. The Atacama Desert, one of the worldís driest, takes up most of Northern Chile. So it was a beautiful drive down along the coast through some fabulous scenery. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, another milestone on our journey. We were back to staying at gas stations but in Chile, they are not just normal gas stations. They had huge parking lots, hot showers for $1 and free wifi. All the towns we passed through were nice, snazzy, modern towns where it would be easy to hang out for awhile but we decided to keep going. It was pretty expensive in Chile, more European prices than American. As we got closer to Santiago, the landscape became more fertile and we passed several vineyards and olive oil farms. They were selling grapes and olive oil from stalls on the side of the road. The grapes were gorgeous; no wonder they have the best wines in the world!
We got to Santiago and found parking near a municipal park close to the city center. It is a really nice city and we spent a pleasant day walking the streets and taking it all in. It really could be a city in America or Europe though; we didnít really feel like we were still in South America at all. We found the SAG office after going to three other offices and finally been sent to the right one. They gave us the paperwork for Francie to enter Argentina but it was only valid for seven days. We had wanted to travel further south into Chile but they said there were no other SAG offices down south and we would have to return to Santiago to get new paperwork if we stayed longer than seven days. We weighed up our options. Chile was beautiful and we would have loved to spend more time there but we were both more interested in spending more time in Argentina than in Chile. So in the end we decided we would keep going to Argentina and travel down through Argentina to Ushuaia instead. We feel bad we didnít see more of Chile but I think itís somewhere we could fly back to at any stage with plenty of dosh and enjoy it properly. It was a bit too expensive for us at this stage of our trip. We did celebrate our first year on the road travelling anniversary in Santiago and found a not so expensive restaurant to have dinner and some nice Chilean wine. So sorry to disappoint anyone who was looking forward to photos of Chile but we canít do it all and Argentina is a country we have both been eager to see for a long time.