For those of you who have been following our blogs you will know that a few weeks ago in Argentina we ruined one of our tyres and as a result needed to find some new tyres. Simple you might think. One problem though was that trucks in South America all have 22.5 inch wheels and we have 20 inch wheels. After visiting a number of tyre shops in Argentina without success we soon realised that it might not be so easy to buy replacement tyres.
We had previously struggled to buy new tyres in Santiago and ended up with a different make. Since this was the one that had ruptured early in its life we wanted to get a good make.
After not getting anywhere I got in touch with my brother in law, Brett, to see if he could find anyone at Michelin head office that could help. Michelin were very helpful and through their distributor in South America scoured the continent to see if they had any tyres of the right size. Unfortunately the result was that there was no such tyres currently in South America. As we had tried to find some other brands of the right size with a similar blank result we were at a bit of a loss.
We could order the tyres from Michelin but they would take 60 to 90 days to deliver so this would not work. One option was to buy the tyres in the UK and ship them to Chile. Brett was up for this and was more than happy to sort out buying the tyres and arranging the shipping of them to Chile. I was a little concerned that getting them into Chile might be a problem but we did not seem to have any choice. Air freighting them also doubled the cost of the tyres as the 3 tyres we needed would weigh about 230kgs.
Since we were about to go to Antarctica we decided to go ahead and ship them ourselves. Brett did a great job getting this all organised while we were in Antarctica and Michelin head office sorted out a delivery address and someone to help us in Punta Arenas.
When we returned from Antarctica everything was in progress and after a few false starts (they kept delivering the wrong tyres in the UK!) the tyres were on there way to Chile.
Since we had had time to kill we had gone to Torres del Paine but now we needed to head back to Punta Arenas to sort out the tyres. First we stopped off in the pleasant little town of Puerto Natales where we again stocked up and drank coffee after coffee while using the Internet.
Then we headed to Punta Arenas. There was a nice free campsite outside of town which was deserted (we were going to get to know this campsite well). We went to see Victor, who was going to help with the tyres, but first they had to arrive in Chile. Fortunately the next day they arrived in Chile, but in Santiago where we were told they would need to clear customs. There was also some mix up with paperwork so we would need to wait.
So what does one do while waiting in Punta Arenas.
We had a walk around town but that did not take long.
While in Punta Arenas we camped by the sea front. Just to show not all our campsites are beautiful for this one we were parked up next to a burger van.
Then we did some shopping. We also had a lovely meal out but by Friday we were struggling with things to do so we did some cooking. We managed a great Sunday roast even with Yorkshire Puddings.
Then the bombshell, late on Friday the delivery company said that although they now had all the right paperwork they could not clear the tyres through customs as they were above a certain value and we would need to arrange for a customs agent to do this. Great timing. Last thing on a Friday. They had had the tyres for two days and they must have known this before. Now there was no chance of moving this forward until after the weekend. If you are starting to feel a sense of frustration you are right but we thought we should focus on the positives and head out down the Magallenes Strait for the weekend to enjoy the scenery.
On the way south we passed a monument to the geological centre of Chile. This seemed strange, we were further south than the Southernmost city and the monument said we were at the centre of Chile. The reason is that Chile lays claim to a slice of Antarctica that goes all the way to the South Pole and the monument is at the half way point between the South Pole and the Northern border. Bizarre and I think stretching the point!
We had a nice weekend camped up by the Strait. Even though it is summer here though it is not exactly warm. We walked along the beach, did some fishing (no success though) and some more cooking.
Heading back into Punta Arenas on Monday morning we were lucky enough to see several schools of dolphins close to the shore.
Although we managed to engage a customs agent it was still going to take a number of days so we needed to find some more things to do. We visited a small museum that had built a replica of the first ship to circumnavigate the globe and that discovered the Magallenes Strait. That evening we headed back to our now familiar campsite.
Another day passed, and after been given the wrong information by the delivery company, the customs agent finally had all the documents. For us it was a jobs day. Time to shop for food for the week ahead and to get our washing done. Then back to, yes, our usual campsite. This is starting to get repetitive.
The following day saw some progress. The customs agent had everything processed and through customs. We paid the import VAT and customs duty which now made these tyres really expensive. The cost was now more than double what they had originally cost in the UK. Now the tyres were back in the control of the delivery company and the frustration began again. They could not tell us if the tyres would be delivered by plane (a three and a quarter hour flight) or by road (a four to five day drive). We had exhausted things to do now in Punta Arenas so whiled away the afternoon in a cafe on the Internet. We are also watching lots of movies and the girls are doing some extra schooling.
As we went to bed frustrated at our usual campsite, the tracking system still had not updated. We were really hoping they would come by plane so we could get away by the weekend. An interesting aside was that the customs agent said the delivery company we were using were much better than another well known delivery company. It beggers belief.
The next day was yet more frustration. The delivery company could not tell us whether the tyres had left Santiago or not. They thought they had but did not know whether on a plane or by truck. It was apparent the customer service people, a misnomer by the way, had no way of accessing where the good were.
You could tell our days were getting repetitive when Lucy explained to some fellow travellers in the Internet cafe that we do the same things each day. First we go to the Duty Free Zone where Daddy goes to see Victor and we do school. Then we park on the seafront to go scooting and come to the cafe, then we go back to the campsite.
I decided a new approach was called for and trawled the net to find the delivery company depot in Punta Arenas. Having found it I drove out there. The manager there was very helpful. He could find the tyres in his system and ascertained that they had tried to put them on a plane the night before but they were too heavy. Supposedly the limit was 150kg and our package was 230kg. I suggested they split the package into 3 separate tyres which he thought was a good idea and would go and check. However we were too late he said the tyres had already been put on a truck and were on there way to Punta Arenas by road. He expected the truck to arrive on Sunday and we agreed I would go back first thing Monday morning. At least we got some information and an idea of when they would arrive.
The left us with 3 days to kill. Having thoroughly exhausted Punta Arenas we decide we would head out for the next 3 days, so now just needed to find somewhere to visit.