Posts Tagged ‘Argentine Peso’

I hit the road about 8am to head south. Leaving Paraguay was not a big deal, took about the same amount of time (40 minutes) as before to deal with the border crossing. I did get stopped by one police checkpoint on the eastern side of the bridge out of Asuncion, but after looking through my copious amount of papers and repeatedly saying my first name (to which I just nodded and said, “Si.”) he waved me on and wished me a bien viaje.

Then I got stopped again at the first police check in Argentina, they just asked where I was going, I told them Uruguay, and they waved me on. That was the extent of my police stops.

Driving through most of northern Argentina was uneventful. I had though I would pass through Paraguay by way of Encarnacion/Posadas but adding an extra day to my transit time was something I decided against. It’s been a week at this point; it’s time to move on. My body can’t take much more of this gas station food diet.

Most of the fields up here are sitting empty. 9 out of 10 are vacant now, just going overgrown with weeds. Maybe one with a few cows, goats, or sheep, but no commercial production anymore. All of that has gone to Uruguay or Paraguay, thanks to the Kirchner policies that made it nearly impossible to turn a profit in agriculture.

It’s sad, seeing it like this. It has turned into more of a backwards third-world area than Paraguay. And Paraguay has turned into even more of a cleaner, shining beacon of commerce than back when I had visited 2 years ago. From what I can see, Paraguay is the shock absorber of South America. Argentines, Brazilians, and Uruguayans all flock in, to avoid the impossible costs of their former countries. It seems like all of the business owners are foreigners. And it has driven up property costs accordingly. A generic two-bedroom apartment I could have bought 2 years ago in Asuncion for $50,000 is now $150,000. Other costs of living remain ridiculously low, like food and electricity.

Anyways, rolling through rural Argentina is like rolling through a ghost farm.

Then you get past Corrientes, and you are in the land of Gauchito Gil. For those who have never heard of him, including myself, he is a weird sort of Argentine folk hero elevated to religious status. It’s sort of like if Paul Bunyan had the healing powers of Jesus. You can read about it here. There are shrines to him everywhere, bearing red flags, and then at one point in my journey I drove through an entire little village dedicated to his worship. Red buildings on both sides of the road hawking the red flags, effigies, and souvenirs of Gauchito Gil. Strangely, there were also a high number of showers and toilets there. I don’t know what those were for. And at the end of the town, a huge sculpture of Gauchito Gil on a white horse.

450px-Gauchito_Gil_Rosario_1

It was shortly after Gauchito Gil’s pilgrimage site that the road turned horribly worse and after emerging from a massive pot hole, I noticed some ungodly noise coming from the back of the car. As if something was caught in the wheel and smacking around as I drove. So I stopped and had a look. I didn’t notice anything out of place, so then I checked the luggage to see if maybe something had flown out of place and was simply bouncing around in back against something else. Nothing. So I resumed, and so did the noise. Then I checked another few times, and it kept coming back. Ultimately, while I was rocking the car side to side, I saw the rear left shock absorber floating freely within the wheel well. Gauchito Gil was punishing me for not relieving myself at his shrine village.

It's not supposed to look like this.

It’s not supposed to look like this.

Yes, the Argentine rural roads are so bad that they will break your car. The shock mount was literally sheared off of the frame. Fortunately this is not a fatal injury, so I was able to drive another 30km to the little town of Curuzu Cuatia to find a mechanic to weld it back together for me. I asked around at the gas station, and they told me to head down the road that-a-ways and I would see the mechanic places on the right. So I did, and they were indeed there. One was closed, but the other, fortunately, was open.

I went in and told the guy in charge, “Uh, there’s a problem with my car.”

“You and the entire neighborhood, man,” he joked. So then we went to have a look. “Yeah, I can fix that. But I can’t get to it for another hour or so. Can you wait?”

“I don’t really have much of a choice,” I replied, and he then noticed the Chile plates. He gave me a knowing nod, then I told him I’d head to the gas station, where they had tables to sit and wait and watch the football game, and I’d be back. “How much do you think it will cost?” I asked.

“Eh, about 150 pesos.”

Hmm, well, that would exhaust the very last of my peso supply. I had nearly run out paying for gas before but fortunately I talked logic into the station attendant. After I filled up he told me that they didn’t take cards for payment, despite me seeing two card readers right behind him. After explaining I had no other way, he reluctantly agreed to use the card, and it worked without any problems. I assume that they don’t want to do card transactions because it takes a while for them to get their money, in pesos, and by the time they receive it, it has devalued. It was during this fill-up that I found, days later, well-cooked and smelling quite ripe, one of the suicidal birds from the crossing of the Chaco, wedged firmly headfirst in my radiator. I took a photo but somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to post it here. But I digress…

I returned in an hour and we got to work. It was dark, and I held the flashlight while he welded. All in all it took about 30 minutes to get it finished but now it is as good as new.

I didn’t want to separate myself from my few remaining Argie pesos, seeing as there were a couple hours of Argentina remaining and I did not want to get stuck at a toll booth without proper money again, so I offered him a US$20 bill. He didn’t want to take it, he wanted pesos. “But this is worth, at the official rate, more or less 150 pesos Argentinos, and at the Dollar Blue rate, 200 or more.” He still wanted the Argie pesos, so that’s what I gave him. Weird considering that in Buenos Aires they can’t wait to trade with you, but out here where if they had banjos they would be a-pickin’, they don’t seem to get it.

I got back on the road, and maybe within half an hour the roads widened out to double-lane interstate highway style roads, without opposing traffic, and nice smooth pavement. Ahhhhhhhhh

And, fortunately, no more tolls.

I got to the Uruguay border at Salto around midnight. There was nobody else there. So we all joked around at the immigration/customs counter because nobody knew exactly how to deal with a guy coming in with an American passport, with an Argentine entry fee sticker in an older passport (which has a different passport number than the newer valid one), a Uruguayan cedula, and a Chilean car. For shits and giggles I gave them my Paraguayan cedula and Chilean cedula, to see if that would help. At this point, they said, “Well, so long as you’re not also Russian… are you?” to which I said, “Not yet” and we had a good laugh.

They approved everything and on I went with yet another stack of papers nobody will ever see or need or check. Crossing the Salto Grande dam, I entered Uruguay and the final few hours of my outward-bound journey. About an hour into this, it started to rain heavily. As in buckets. No visibility, tree branches blowing down into the road, wind throwing the car around, so I found a safe spot to pull off the road where I wouldn’t die, and slept in the car.

The sun woke me up, on Day 8, and I had 2 hours to drive to Montevideo to meet SwingDanceBob for some empanadas. We had a good lunch and good conversation, catching up, and then onward another 2 hours to Punta del Este to crash with MexicanBob. Now I have the fun task of packing up the last of my old stuff, attempting to do the paperwork to renew my gun permits, and then heading back across to Chile, a journey which I hope will only take 2-3 days.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina:

We’re here in BA to visit RomanianBob for his birthday (observed). Before the trip we put together our “Bourne File” with our various currencies, which we always tally up before an international trip. We have Paraguayan Guarani, Chilean Peso, Uruguayan Peso, Canadian Dollar, Brazilian Real, US Dollar, a couple of Euro notes, and Argentine Pesos from our last jaunt a couple of years ago. Basically the leftovers from our various wanderings. And some various 500 Trillion Zimbabwe Dollar notes which we like to leave in the tip jar as a joke and warning to the curious.

WifeBob is fascinated with the dynamics of the ongoing currency debacle in Argentina. How does good money push out the bad in a market so severely distorted? For example, the government rate is AR$4.71 per US dollar, but the black market rate is AR$6.20, you can negotiate anywhere from 5.5 to 6 if you pay in cash for something, and the automatic credit card exchange rate is like spinning a slot machine since you don’t know what you’ll get. In short: at the end of the day, you really don’t know what sort of value you are getting, because it’s such a mess.

This morning, 10 pesos for a few slices of cheese. So we pay in AR$. But it was change from a transaction last night in which we paid US$ for and got back AR$ in change, at a rate of about 5.5. So what did we pay? Who knows. Did we get a deal, or was it a ripoff? Who knows. Should we spend the worthless Pesos first, or should we spend the Dollars and get a better deal? Who knows.

So if we can’t even keep track over a 24 hour span, how are accountants, businesses, and international financiers supposed to know what the heck is going on with their true values?

Despite the lack of ability to determine value, things still seem normal in BA. Life goes on for the Argies, as they patiently wait for the collapse and renewal after Kristina & Friends recklessly drive the country over the cliff.

PayPal has had to close down domestic transactions for Argentine customers. Apparently the Argentinos were opening two accounts and using them to send money to themselves, in order to take advantage of a better Peso-Dollar exchange rate than is available from the Kirchner regime. Details here.

Meanwhile, as of writing, the government rate is 4.69 Pesos per Dollar, and the black market rate is 6.34, a difference of 35% (source: dolarblue)