Every time that I enter Argentina my passport is stamped with a stamp that gives me 3 months to live in the country and move around freely. At the end of this time I may renew my visa by leaving the country and returning again, even on the same day, or I may also extend my visa for another three months at a local immigration office which would make it a total of 6 months before having to leave the country.
This three months has now come and gone and I am still in the country. That makes me illegal. Gulp!
Due to a cash crisis I was unable to sort out my visa while in Bariloche, and with a trip with Jorge planed for Chile within a week it seemed the best way to renew the visa. That trip was then postponed, and later cancelled when Jorge was involved in a car crash with his wife Isa (they escaped unharmed although the car was totalled). I was then going to go alone, but this also has been delayed due to the purchase of land for our base (in the Doradillo Urbanisation) and other unforseen circumstances.
With my visa in this over-stay situation, I must leave the country as soon as possible to renew it and return my status to that of being legal. For overstaying my visa there will be a fine charged when I pass through the border (some say $50 pesos, others $100), but from that point on there will be no other negative consequences (according to a chat with an immigration officer last year). All the same, my desire is to always ensure that I remain legal within the country, so it will be a relief to finally sort this all out.
Living in Puerto Madryn we are a long way from all of the borders of Argentina. Bariloche (16 hrs in bus) to the west is one option, Uruguay via Buenos Aires to the north is another (18 hrs in bus and 4 hrs in boat). But as we had already planned a trip south, it seemed more appropriate to head that way.
So tomorrow I am heading to Ushuaia (16hrs to Rio Gallegos and then another 12 hrs to Ushuaia via several border crossings). While there I will be able to meet up with some friends and to finally get to know this part of Argentina. Ushuaia has been a place for which I have felt a strong desire to get to know for the last two years. The time that I will be there and what I will get up to while there are still very open questions.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, the tip of the American continent, and home to some dear friends of mine.
So I am leaving… for a while.