Chile Update Part IV

Trip Start Jan 19, 2011
Trip End Apr 15, 2011

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hola from Punta Arenas,

I know it has been a while since I sent out the last update of my adventure, and I'm sure you've all been holding your breath since then, so here is what has gone on the last few days. After we entered Argentina, we discovered that the electrical adapters we had wouldn't work in Argentina (for two countries that are right beside one another, they are extremely different: from the power plugs, to the type of foods, to the way people speak and their general disposition... but that's another discussion entirely). After a most interesting experience we crossed the border. This was nothing like driving from CAN to USA; instead, we had to spend 2 hours to clear customs to GET OUT OF Chile, and then repeat the process to get into Argentina. The big difference is that you park your car, and then walk inside the customs building; joining the throng of confused, sweaty individuals who are also trying to figure out which officials they need to check in with; finalize your paperwork, get back in your car (they don't check the car) and then drive to the next country's checkpoint. Most confusing.

Finally, after a 3.5 hour ordeal we were in Argentina. We spent the night just outside of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina - in a little sleepy ski resort town. Very cool place, but not a whole lot going on. After walking around Bariloche the next morning (and buying chocolate) we drove south via Ruta 40 - a nice paved section. Continuing through Esquel (and fueling up - gas is super cheap here compared to Chile) we figured we would spend the night at a campground in Tecka. Unfortunately, there were absolutely NO services in tecka, so we continued south, as daylight faded. Just at dark we arrived in Gobernador Costa and because there were no campgrounds, spent the night at this terrible, creepy hostel with a crazy innkeeper. Needless to say, we slept in our sleepingbags on the bed; were awoken by a F**king rooster at 5am and on the road by 05:30 that next morning.

We had left the mountains behind at this point and were driving thru desert and caught fleeting glimpses of various wildlife - Guanaco, Chique (Rhea-like birds), eagles, armadillos, and foxes! Very cool. It was here that the road turned bad. The pavement ended and we took to driving a gravel road at somewhere between 25km/h and 65km/h. Finally we arrived at Perito Moreno and spent the night in a nice campground.

The next day saw us continue south via Ruta 40 on more wonderful gravel roads where we stopped over at the Cueva de las Manos - (Cave of Hands) a UNESCO World Heritage site - where the Guanaco People had (between 3000 and 9000 years ago) painted various images (like their hands, animals, hunters, etc) on cave walls. VERY COOL! Most interesting tour, as well. After about 3 hours there, we continued south via more shitty washboard gravel roads at about 50km/h. Having driven for hours and not seen anything that resembled civilization, we were forced to drive off the highway and spend the night camping at some random Estancia (kind of like Farmers / Ranchers who have set aside sleeping accommodations).

So finally we set up camp around 22:00 (in the dark); made dinner and tried to sleep, despite the the 60+mph winds. We woke up the next morning and it was still blowing like the damned. This would set the tone for the day to come. Driving the gravel roads yet again, we noticed 1 tire had a slow leak and we continued at a slow, steady pace to keep an eye on it. Unfortunately, we then blew out a different tire completely! F**k! So, changed that tire and then began to limp along gravel roads for another ~225km. After driving 3 hours, it started to rain, and then gravel turned to mud. Holy shit! Now, remember, we're driving this tiny, low-to-the-ground Chevy Spark (1.0L) gutless piece of shit, and all of a sudden we find ourselves on an off-road course that I would have loved to take my Xterra on... We drove through ankle-deep mud, knee-deep puddles, rain, shit, and 45 degree slopes for 1.5 hours before finally reaching a little town, Tres Lagos. Unfortunately, they had no amenities either! So we limped to a gas station 50km up the now-paved highway and fueled up partway - except we had no more Argentinean pesos, so had to use a USD $20. Then we limped another 180km, traveling at 70km/h to El Calafate.

That was the 14th. In short, we spent 3 days there and then, most recently, drove back into Chile to Punta Arenas. But I must go now, so I will send another update (hopefully before we leave here for Puerto Natales). Ciao for now,

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