The actual physical border between Argentina and Chile is in the middle of Christ the Redeemer tunnel. The tunnel is 3km long. When it was built in 1980 it shortened the drive by 10 km, lowered the elevation by 600 m and eliminated 65 switchbacks. Even with the tunnel, getting through the pass in the winter can be tough. In September 2013 15,000 Chileans got stuck on the Argentinian side for more than 10 hour due to an early freak snow storm.
Snow was not an issue for us… It was boiling out!
The mountains don’t just divide two countries they separate two climatic zones. The Argentinian side is barren and rocky. Brad Pitt’s film Seven Years in Tibet used the Andes on this side as a stand in for the Himalayas.
The Chilean side is much greener and lusher once you get down the mountain… but first you have to get down. And the only way to do that is via one very exciting stretch of road nicknamed Los Caracoles (the snails). It is extremely steep navigated by 28 very sharp hairpin turns. There are no guardrails and the road spends much of the year covered with snow. Traffic crawls… hence the nickname!
At the bottom we hit farmland and highway. We started zooming toward Valparaiso. I called Bart and told him we’d be there in a hour and a half. And we would have been if our driver’s GPS had worked. Instead we got lost; barely arriving in time for dinner… and they eat late in Chile!