Its 36 degrees inside this camper, which means the water in the tank is 36 degrees. In order to make that shower ready I flip on the propane water heater for about 30 minutes. It used to be 10 minutes, just to take the chill off, but that was many degrees of latitude to the north. Now it’s a matter of survival. Hypothermia sets in when your core temp drops less than 5 degrees. The result is reduced hygiene. We rarely want to get naked and we never want to take a shower. I grew up in the sunshine and Aleja is from the “City of Eternal Spring”. We are not used to this. Here is the routine: First I light the propane space heater. (its warning labels guarantee death in 2 ways – 1). Asphyxiation due to burning off the oxygen in a closed environment. 2). Knocking the angry little orange faced devil over and torching the whole camper in a plastic shrink-wrap of pain. Could there be a worse death? No. It is the worst, but with these temps we brave it.) We put it on the open oven door and light it. It is a glorious sunburst of heat. Then I light the hot water heater. Half an hour later it's warm enough to get naked for a hot water shower. Wonderful. First time I took those clothes off in ten days. That's right, you will discuss me, and you will find that I'm disgusting, but at the moment.... I'm clean and warm.
You can’t get to Argentina’s Tierra Del Fuego without going through Chile. Chile blocks Argentina from Argentina. There are some strangely arranged borders down there. On our route north we exited Argentina for Chile and stayed through Torres Del Paine and then crossed back into Argentina for the next marque landscape attraction. Then back to Chile for its grandeur. So it goes. The busty Goddess of Nature straddled the border with her bountiful goodness exposed on both flanks. We mapped a route unfettered by border constraints and built our quest concerned only with feasting our eyes on her delights. We were unapologetic voyeurs, and she was not at all shy. In order to take it all in, we crossed the Chilean/Argentinian border 9 times.
"Freaks with follow through" that's my affectionate term for most of the ones that society would call, "out there". But think about what these guys have done: they've run a marathon every other day for 2 years. You aren't seeing double. They built 2 of these vehicles and ran from Alaska to Ushuaia.
Throwing Away Food
Overlander joke: “How do you know when it’s time to cross a border – you run out of honey”. The customs officials on the Argentinian side are push overs. They hate wasting food; Chile, on the other hand, loves to throw it away. Their list of edible contraband is a very long one. Fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, seeds, wood and for some reason expensive honey are all no-nos. Why don’t all poor people just move to a Chilean border crossing? Band name: "Chilean Border Food" Album title: "Dumpster Diving for Dinner" Hit single: "They Tossed My Bondiola"
On the subject of food and the constant border hopping… We refer to Argentina as The Land of Masa and Milanesa. We love it and we stock up because you can’t find it in Chile. Then there is the yogurt issue. Only Chile has good yogurt. We play the border game: Stock up on masa and milanesa while in Argentina and corner the market on yogurt when in Chile.
Puerto Natales & Torres Del Paine Chile
How about I shut up and drown you in photos
Calafate & Perrito Moreno Glacier Arg
I’m not sure how many more times in my life I’ll get to utter the words, “Oh my god I have never seen anything like this.” The Perrito Moreno Glacier took my breath away.
|It's almost impossible to understand the scale because ships can't get that close. When it calves, everyone would die|
|The edge of this is over 200 feet tall|
|When the icebergs calve you will never forget it|
|And then we went to an ice bar and speed drank until we couldn't feel our noses|
|Real life gaucho! Look, he's the same size as Aleja|
Adjective impotence. Nothing I could say could convey better than these photos and they are one dimensional to being there. Just go.
Hierarchal Respect For World Travel
I’m merely assigning levels on the respect I have for each method of global travel. By no means do I think that 1,2 or 3 are preferable to 4 or 5. But I do have much more respect for those who undertake the first 2.
2.) Riding a bicycle
3.) Driving a motorcycle
The speed at which you walk is about the same speed as sailing. Sailing around the world is essentially walking around the world. Both walking and sailing are the slowest, and most reflective paces you can take. The level of suffering rises with the level of respect. For me – walking is too slow, flying is too fast. Though I respect 2 & 3, I’m not willing to sign up for that discomfort. This is why self-contained driving is the perfected mode of travel…for me. Will I buy a boat and sail again? I might, but it has loads of short comings. The workload, the expense, the difficulty in participating in anything land based (which is a very high % of where the fun and interesting things reside), and the danger are almost unacceptable. Almost. Take a gander at what the bicyclist have to suffer:
La Cueva De Las Manos, Argentina
The art in the caves dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. Let that sink in. The current theory is that this was a rite of passage for young boys reaching manhood (the size of the hands is thought to be around 13 years of age. Most are left hands which means the populace was predominantly right handed - same as today). The new adults would leave their mark alongside their ancestors. This “hand signature” has been found around the world from the Sahara to Australia and as far back as 35,000 years ago. Art and our human desire to leave something of permanence – I’ll drive hundreds of miles out of my way for this every time.
|Oh the places we've camped|
The Carretera Austral
Also known as Chile’s Ruta 7, it runs for 770 miles from Villa O’ Higgins in the south to Puerto Montt in the north. For decades it was a mud bog, and then the paving began. The last 60 miles were opened in 2003 and when we were on it I would estimate it’s about 90% paved.
|A hanging glacier|
|What a campsite|
The Marble Caves, Chile
Thousands of years of wave erosion has created these beautifully intriguing grottoes of pure marble. Just remember that the erosion didn’t happen on calm days. It blows hard here and in order to cut marble these waves pound. The water temp is just above freezing so the survival clock starts ticking once wet. Check the weather report and don’t make the news.
Rain rain rain. The drive from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen was absolutely priceless. Maybe the best piece of the whole trip. It wasn’t easy though. We earned it in time spent making repairs
Chaitén & Parque Pumalin, Chile
Wrapping up the Carretera Austral
Portions of the Carretera Austral are so remote that roads will never be built due to these fjords. Ferry boats will always be the mode of transport. We completed our stint of heaven, got an oil change in Puerto Montt and continued north.
Panguipuli, Pucon, Huerquehue Natl Park, Villarica and the Lake District
|Reunion party with our Dutch friends|
|Some monster hike we went on. Damn near killed me|
I’d buy another motor home in South America just so I could spend more time exploring the Lake District. How many ways can I fling superlatives about country sides? You need to put this whole part of the world on your list. At the top of your list!
Tired Of The Cold & The Rain
We finally lost our sense of humor with this weather after a few months. We started moving faster for the warmth and wine of Santiago.
|Santiago. Great city. Lousy air pollution|
|Our return to the grape fields|
“Alex, I’ll Take “Things Overlanders Say” For $800 Please”
“Did you see Torres Del Paine?” “Oh I know! The views were even better than Fitzroy!” “How about that gas station outside of Tres Lagos with the super fast wifi huh!” “Fer sure! We could watch Netflix all night in our roof top tent!” Trust me, this is really funny if you live in your vehicle.
|Do you know how many pix I decided against posting? So many. It's impossible to take a bad one. Buy your tickets already|
Living at Gas Stations
We spent over 2 months in Patagonia which means many nights parked at gas stations. YPF (Arg) and Copec (Chile) are the big chains that everyone who has overlanded this vast territory trusts for sanctuary. Remember when i used to love Friday and Saturday nights? Down there it means I'm going to lose sleep to rural kids partying at the local gas station/convenience store. I gather this is the gaucho equivalent of what it’s like at the Dairy Queen in Dust Patch, Oklahoma.
|Now I'm just shaming you. I didn't even need to put this pic here. It doesn't have anything to do with gas stations|
Anyway, I'm soaked through with rum and the rain is coming down sideways in sheets while the thermometer hovers at 35 F. The Spanish language hisses outside my window and fuses with the clinking of bottles as some locals discuss another round of beers. Occasionally I am aware that this life is special and worthy and needs to continue. But I might be wrong, further research is needed.
A Personal Thank You
There’s been talk that the Pope is going to canonize Aleja for all the warmth she’s put into the world. I’m not talking about good deeds. I mean literal heat. She is my personal “calentador”. In the tropics it’s taxing to even be in the same room with her because she raises the ambient temperature by 9 degrees (dependent upon square footage, insulation rating and ceiling height) but in cold climates, she is a savior. If you could take a thermal image of this camper while in Patagonia during those long cold nights you would see a skinny blue skeleton clinging to a sun burst of orange and red. Why is she so hot? Is it true that Latins are the next untapped power source? Or is it that Whites are just stiff and cold? (Probably not. It’s probably just me. Like the planets core I’m just slowly cooling as I die). As much as she saved my life at the bottom of the world she is going to try to kill me in tropical Brazil, which is the next dispatch. Stay tuned.
Chile In Conclusion:
Before we entered Patagonian Chile, I thought Chile was about average. We spent a few months in the north and while it was pleasant, it was a C+ to a B+. However, everything in the south has been spectacular. Not only spectacular in the common usage of the word, as meaning “spectacle to behold” but “spectacularly challenging” as well. We struggled with the cold, the rain, and the long hard miles on those roads, and yet the vistas were our fortifying nutrients. Patagonia is large and wild and only lightly trampled, and there is a reason for that. There is a paradise experience still waiting for you to discover down there…but you will earn it.
Your man on point,
|Only angels get a better view|