In Sickness and in Health

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

April 21st would have been Mike's twenty-fifth birthday. Camped beside a crystal-clear glacial lake, we spent a quiet and reflective day. Yes, the tears still flowed, but we were also able to recall fond memories and celebrate the life of a remarkable young man. We thank everyone who e-mailed us with messages of love and support knowing that it would be a particularly difficult day for us. The new entries on Mike's website: were also very touching and much appreciated.

Having travelled over approximately 3,000 km of rough gravel roads in the past couple of months, we were really looking forward to some "easy" driving on smooth pavement. The washboard roads had once again left our muffler brackets in disarray, so before we left Ushuaia we paid yet another visit to a local workshop - this one specializing in exhaust systems and equipped with the Mig welder required to work properly on stainless steel. With luck, this job might do the trick!! Before finally leaving Tierra del Fuego behind, we had to once again pass through customs into Chilean territory and then catch the ferry across the Strait of Magellan. Wanting to quickly reach warmer temperatures, and not being too enamoured with the continuous pampa, we decided to put in a very full day and push on to Río Gallegos on mainland Argentina.

One lesson that we should have learned by now is that our plans must always be flexible. Driving over the brow of the hill approaching the Chilean border post at San Sebastian, we found ourselves at the end of a long line of transport trailers interspersed with a few private vehicles - yes, the customs officials were on strike for higher wages!! Fortunate enough to be in our own little house on wheels, we set about preparing lunch and settled in for an indefinite amount of time. Luckily, the strike was intermittent and we were on our way again within a few hours, reaching the ferry crossing just before dark.

Within a few days, we had reached Puerto Deseado - a small town on the Río Deseado estuary, well known for fur seals, magellanic and rockhopper penguins, dolphins and a wide selection of seabirds. The day was sunny and warm - quite ideal for a zodiac trip down the river to the Natural Reserve. Instead, we drove directly to the local hospital and emerged about three hours later with prescriptions for what seemed like the entire contents of the drugstore! After a month of camping with night-time temperatures hovering around freezing, we had only ourselves to blame for the severe colds that had now developed into something close to pneumonia. Checking ourselves into a small, comfortable bed and breakfast, we spent a complete week in bed feeling rather sorry for ourselves as we slowly recovered. It didn't help that this happened simultaneously with several last-minute hitches relating to the filing of our Income Tax returns. Nor that the few internet cafés in town were absolutely the slowest and maddeningly frustrating that we have yet experienced on this trip - sometimes taking an hour just to connect, and then losing the connection before being able to send or receive messages.

However, it appears that whenever we have a rough patch, something positive always happens to compensate. One morning as we dragged ourselves into the breakfast room, we were confronted with a rather motley crew of individuals, ranging in age from about twenty-five to fifty-five. They had noticed our van outside and were quite interested in hearing our story, so for the next three hours we swapped tales with the members of "The Green Pastries" and "The Black Angels". Originating in Buenos Aires and famous for their romantic latin ballads, these two groups were on a tour of Argentina and had performed until the wee hours of that very morning. They excitedly showed us scrapbooks of their press clippings (including a tour in Toronto), and played us a video of their last show. When they finally finished loading all of their musical equipment and personal effects into the tour van, we all said our good-byes as if we had been friends for life. We felt so rejuvenated by experiencing yet another aspect of the Argentinean culture!

As for our upcoming plans - well, it's never a good idea to discuss the future while feeling somewhat under the weather. So please excuse us as we spend a few more days recuperating and gaining strength to continue our journey.... don't touch that dial!!
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