After it’s disastrous start, our trip (now minus the car) was nothing short of amazing.
To re-cap, our two month ‘epic road-trip’ plan was cut very short after our car wasn’t allowed to cross the Argentinian border. This felt nothing short of catastrophic. Months of planning and packing and preparation only to be denied access over a rule that was, well, wishy-washy at best. Our friends (with the exact same paperwork and in the exact same situation as us) crossed into Argentina later that week without a hitch. That was the salt in the wound. But, that being said, with perspective and time tucked under my belt, I’ve let it go. It seems to me that these kinds of things happen for a reason and perhaps having our car turned around saved us from some major headaches. This may just be a convenient copping mechanism but I’ll take it!
Really though, this re-cap is me stalling. Our experiences over the past two months have been so incredibly varied that I’m having a hard time summarizing…it does seem to have formed 3 distinct chapters in my mind and so I’ll (try) to write about it as such.
Enter Chapter 1: Good Food, Good Wine, Good Company
The setting (or stage) for this: Buenos Aires and Mendoza, the cast of characters: Neil, myself, Elisa (my sister) and her boyfriend Grady. The plot: eat, drink and be merry. Basically we ate, cycled and walked our way through Buenos Aires, soaking up it’s trendy art scenes, smoky tango stages, expansive green spaces and overall vibrance.
In Mendoza, (a beautiful small city known for it’s vino) we biked through vineyards, drank our way through winery tours and finally celebrated a lovely Christmas day. In case your wondering what Argentinians do on Christmas (at least the ones in Mendoza), they ride to the park on horses or in a beat up pickup, park themselves under a shady tree, swim in the canal and then (of course) bbq. Everything shuts down and and people enjoy a sunshine filled day outdoors with good food, good wine and in good company (seems to be a theme, yes?).
Ever wonder what Canadians do in Mendoza, Argentina on Christmas day? Well they make french toast for breakfast, walk through the park and up a small hill (where some of them pose awkwardly in front of large statues), then complete a photo shoot before they open presents and finally alternate between cooking, eating and drinking until their food bellies demand sleep.
Enter Chapter 2: Patagonia road-trip
This chapter could also similarly be called ‘Doritos for Dinner’ or ‘Wind-Whipped’ or better yet ‘Climbing up Tall Things for Fantastic Views’. It was the opposite of eat, drink and be merry…instead it was drive, hike, gape at stunning scenery and grab substance whenever possible (which sometimes wasn’t so often).
Patagonia felt oversized, like it had grown too big and too beautiful too quickly. It was absolutely stunning, but just the singular word stunning doesn’t do it any kind of justice. I quickly became a scenery snob; BIG blue skies, azure lakes, clouds that looked like you could touch them, thundering waterfalls, 3,000 year old trees, towering mountains and so many friggin’ glaciers. And then scattered amongst and amid this beauty was wildlife; guanacos, rheas, wild horses, armadillos, flamingos, condors, hares (and of course) cows, sheep and goats…on 3 different occasions we had foxes and skunks scamper right through our campsite, within a couple feet of our tent!
This experience we owe to Erica and Dave, two lovely human beings who graciously crammed us into the back of their funcargo (yes we have the same car!) and took us on a section of their road-trip. We spent 12 days with them, crossing between Argentina and Chile to catch the best sections of the infamous Ruta 40 and Ruta 7. Having just written ‘best sections’ I wonder what crazy juice I’ve been drinking…by ‘best sections’ I mean huge stretches of un-paved gravel roads. Roads that spit rocks up through open windows, rattle your bones and demand speeds of no greater than 50km/hr for hundreds and hundreds of miles. These roads brought us to the smallest of towns – places where the supermercados were more like convenience stores that only housed packaged chips, cookies and Doritos. The only produce was soft and fuzzy with mold, and still on the shelf! I saw potato that was more spore than spud and pineapples that were unrecognizably blue. Despite this, I guess I write ‘best sections’ because these roads are what took us into the heart of no-mans land, to feel the pulse of places with very few people.
The climax of our Patagonian experience, it’s mighty crescendo, was the W-trek in Torres Del Paine (translated as: the towers of pain), a national park in the most Southern part of Chile. Here we put on our hiking boots, backpacks loaded with camping gear and walked 77km through the most beautiful (and yes, stunning) scenery imaginable. I knew the W-trek was popular for it’s granite towers that sit atop a steep climb over an ashen-blue lake. I did not know, however that the views along the way would drop my jaw every moment of our 4.5 day trek. After waking up (in my tent) to softly falling snow 5 days earlier in El Chalten, I was terrified that the W’s wicked weather reputation would make for a miserable trip but, we had horseshoes up our asses. Not only was it beautifully sunny and cloudless but there was no wind, an unheard of situation for this notoriously windy park. Other people told us horror stories of 100km winds that whipped tents apart and picked up backpackers to toss them off the trails. I was terrified, but I needn’t be. We had used up all our bad luck at the start of our trip – the rest of our travels were wonderfully uncomplicated.
Enter Chapter 3 – Swim, Surf, Siesta
What does anyone want after endless driving, cold weather camping and long hikes? If you said “beach and relaxation” than you and I could be travel companions. Our next stop was Uruguay and it was serious in it’s relaxation schedule; swim, surf, siesta, spanish, storm-watch and seafood eating. Now I’ll be honest, Uruguay and it’s beaches didn’t blow my mind but I was not in the market for mind-blowing scenery, only some tranquility. And this was easily achieved. I was so lulled into this quiet, complacent life that I don’t even know what I did with my days. They just slipped away.
When I finally roused myself from this beach-life stupor it was time for Carnival in Montevideo (a very good party if your ever looking for one) and then, Asuncion for work.
And so we’re back! With many memories, 1.400 photos and 1,037 words to mark the journey from start to end.