U-turn – Flying up the highway to Buenos Aires

Our first stop heading north to Buenos Aires was Camping Hain in Tolhuin. We only stayed for one night, but couldn’t resist leaving our mark, happy to be in such good company.

The next days were long stretches of highway, many podcasts, and a few nice views. 

 

Frankly, one of the only attractions to visit on the long road to Buenos Aires is the Magellanic Penguin colony with a staggering 250,000 breeding pairs.  

We stopped in Mar Chiquita just north of Mar Del Plata and spent a couple of days curled up in a hotel while George got some play time in the waves.

In Buenos Aires we scored a sweet little apartment and thank goodness. There was an overwhelming amount of stuff to unload from the truck and a very important game to watch.

There were mixed feelings (trepidation, relief) as we drove up to the Port of Zarate. It would be a nice change to forget about parking and truck security, but putting Vida on the ship was also marking an end to our trip.

The handoff process was disarmingly easy. We kept waiting for the ball to drop. It never did. The port officials gave us a lift back to the front gate and called us a cab. Fingers crossed that the truck would make it back to the US in one piece.

Buenos Aires is such a vivid city. After so much remoteness on our trip, we needed a reintroduction to city living and the BA was a tonic for any anxiety we may have had. We explored the city over the course of a couple of weeks, absorbing the culture, food and street performers.

I imagined tango to be something like salsa. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tango is passionate, intimate and quite slow at times which made it completely engrossing to watch. It felt more like a manifested connection between the dancers rather than a dance.

Cruising the city

Cruising the city

As we strolled and biked the city streets, George and I daydreamed of an extended return trip to the city to fully immerse ourselves.

Again, our timing could not have been better. We handed off Vida just in time to enjoy the city-wide carnival festivities. The city had decided to decentralize the entertainment. Many neighborhoods set up stages, and groups of musicians and dancers make their way from stage to stage. Although it was hard for George and I to understand, we’re told that many of the lyrics contain subtle and some not so subtle political rhetoric.

Staying true to Latin American carnival tradition, spectators cover each other with spray foam. For the most part, we left unscathed except for the small boys that opened fire on us to their parents delight.



Joining hordes of local fans, we snuck in a trip to Monumental de Nunez stadium to watch local heroes River Plate take on San Lorenzo (another neighborhood in BA). We were told by our guide to cheer for the River Plate for safety’s sake. Fine by us. The Argentines are a passionate bunch. There was barely a moment when the stadium was not exploding in song led by a section of diehard fans and a band in the nose bleeds.

Surrounded by 67,000 Argentines in the largest stadium in Argentina was a good way to wrap up our tour of the Americas.

The Big Three (Fitz Roy, Perito Moreno, and Torres del Paine)

There were mixed reports on the southern most drivable border crossing (Paso Roballos) from the Carretera Austral in Chile into Argentina. We decided to test our luck and go for it. The stars must have aligned for us. Not only was the road in pretty decent shape, but we encountered only a handful of cars and got to ogle the scenery.

Argentina’s Ruta 40 and miles of pavement was definitely a welcome sight though. The constant rattling of the last several weeks melted away as we cruised down the blacktop. It was a long drive to El Chaltén, our entry point to Los Glaciares National Park and Mount Fitz Roy.


We met up with Andamos de Vagos and Patagonia or Bust in El Chaltén and prepared to tackle the Fitz. The first day of hiking on the Laguna Capri trail and then up to the Laguna de los Tres mirador one some of the most beautiful hiking I’ve ever done. I had heard a lot of complaints about how full the trails are in Fitz Roy, but they were really no fuller than a summer weekend in Washington State. Our luck with the weather held out. We had been prepping ourselves for the storied patagonia wind, but our group remained safely on the mountain.

We spent the first night at Poincenot Campground and then hiked to Agostini Campground on the second day to check out Laguna Torre and Glacier Grande. After checking out the mirador, most of us headed back to camp to settle in for the night. I knew George and Aron were up to no good when they took some time coming back to camp. You can see from the photos the shenanigans that ensued. There are times when I want to be alone surrounded by my own thoughts on a trail, but there is something to be said for trekking with groups. Glacier ice shots is not something you easily forget.

The weather held out for most of our third and final day until we had El Chaltén in our sites. The walk through town back to Vida almost broke me. I was silently curing George for walking too fast and thus eliminating any possibility of him shielding me from the unrelenting wind. There was nothing to be done but lean and and keep going.

Hiking down into El Chaltén

Hiking down into El Chaltén

We indulged ourselves at the local pub before hightailing it out of town heading toward El Calafate and a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier (also in Los Glaciares National Park). Safely tucked away into the campground in Calafate, we couldn’t resist another opportunity for a group cookout. This time, empanadas were on the menu.

The Perito Moreno Glacier – where to begin? In the morning before the crowds descend on the kilometers of walkways flanking the glacier, there is a peaceful serenity about the place. We sat and watched for hours tuning into the sounds of the glacier advancing.

Moreno is a 97 sq mile behemoth that moves at a pace of up to 7 feet each day resulting in large chunks of ice dramatically breaking off throughout the day.

We took a shortcut back into Chile and Torres del Paine via a small rout off of Ruta 40 that joins up with highway 205 on the Chilean side. At the border we got the ubiquitous kick in the butt. The border officials again confiscated everything fresh we had which meant we had limited supplies and limited pesos with no town or bank machine in site – just and overpriced souvenir shop. What a racket.

From the border, we drove into Torres Del Paine park and were immediately taken by the wildlife and vistas.

We camped out in the parking lot of Hotel Las Torres. Forgetting one of our beloved titanium mugs on the wheel, George pancaked it moving the truck back and fourth to rotate the tires. He claimed (and secretly hoped) he could bang the mug back into shape. I suspect that I’m going to be reunited with this mug back in the States.

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This titanium mug made it all the way south before George pancaked it with the truck

In the morning, we made the climb up to Mirador Las Torres. At the top, we were again tested with the Patagonia wind which kept our stay short.

The other hike I was dying to do was Valle del Francés (French Valley). George and I opted to take the ferry across Lago Pehoé to spare our knees a long hike with heavy packs. We caught the late afternoon ferry to Refugio Pehoé and then made the short hike into Campamento Italiano.

Early the next morning we made our way up through the Valle del Francés to the  Mirador Francés. The hike was b-u-ti-ful. Taking some time to look back down the valley, your are rewarded with views of Lago Pehoé an Lago Nordenskjold. Ahead and above you are peaks and faces captivating you with constant avalanches. The avalanches are so frequent in fact that they may interrupt your sleep at Campamento Italiano.

We hiked back down to Rufugio Pehoé to catch the ferry back to our truck and make our way out of the park. Torres del Paine definitely lived up to its reputation.

Here is a small time-lapse that George made of Fitz Roy, Torres del Pine, and Perito Moreno.  Enjoy.

 

 

Bye Ecuador, hello Peru!

We left Ecuador in a hurry accomplishing one of the longest drive days on our trip (550 miles / about 900 km). After a forced two weeks wait for our tent parts to clear customs we had itchy feet. We din’t like much the human version of ping-pong between Fedex and Ecuador customs. The game is called “Overnight delivery (from the US) and over month customs wait”.

Finally here! For years I have heard legends for the amazing waves and kiting in Northern Peru. I was stocked!

We wanted to hit a few kiting destinations (Mancora, Lobitos, Pacasmayo), try surfing in Chicamas (this place claims the longest left wave in the world) and last but not least go hiking in the Cordillera Blanca. All this in the eleven days before a friend was coming to visit in Lima. The plan looked good. We just forgot one detail – the one thousand miles of driving from Mancora to Lima…

We started with two days in Mancora. Aaron and Linda, two of our overland friends, had arrived to Mancora the day before so we joined them. The first thing we did that day was work on fixing the tent. Man, was I worried if the parts were going to fit this time around… A month earlier we had received spare parts in Colombia only to find out they did not fit. Luckily this time with help from Aaron we managed to fix the tent! Hurray, Taj Mahal is working again!

Mancora turned to be a disappointment. It was crowded and a bit touristy. There was no wind and the waves were nowhere to be found either. On top of it all we had a mugging encounter which made us all feel uneasy about Mancora. We decided to move quickly to the next spot – Lobitos.

Lobitos delivered. It is a small village on the coast about an hour south of Mancora. Lobitos was created by the British as a booming oil town in the beginning of 20th century. After the oil dried up Lobitos turned into a ghost town. Now the only people who still live in Lobitos are a few fishermen and a hardcore group of surfers and kiters. A few hotels have started to slowly pop up here and there however you can still enjoy the place basically to yourself. Needless to say Aaron and I spent enough time in the water.

By this point five out of our eleven days have gone by and we still had a thousand miles to drive and so much more to see. We had to hurry. On the third day in Lobitos we parted ways with Aaron and Linda and headed south. The next destinations were Pacasmayo and Chicamas. Unfortunately there was no wind in Pacasmayo so we quickly moved to Chicamas. The day after we did not have time to fool around in the water so we just drove to the famous surfing spot and took a few pictures. The only sport I managed to do in the short hours we spent in Chicamas was oddly volleyball. I played for an hour with the local kids after dinner.

At this point we were super concerned about time and making it to Lima. We had to change plans. Teresa sacrificed (not for the first, and not the last time) some of what she wanted to do – Cordillera Blanca. We decided that it was too much of a risk to try to spend 3 days back to back driving to the mountains to hike for a day and drive another two days to Lima. We headed straight south.

Northern Peru looked very interesting. Sadly we had to rush through and could not spend more time. However I know that we will be back (at least I will kiting).