February 20th, 2013
Fin Del Mundo (casi)
We woke up to a pretty cloudy morning and thought that it was going to turn into a rainy day. We have our morning routine down pretty well now and really enjoy the sleeping ‘til 7:30, coffee ‘til 9:00 routine. The Sprinter Van, who we have yet to name, has been good once we figured out the whole leak thing.
Susanne has suggested “Casimiro”. Not sure I’m on board with it yet.
We packed up and headed out to check out the Lobos Marinos (sea lions; don’t ask me why they call them marine wolves) and the Pinguinos. I have to say, I find the penguins very fascinating. One big disappointment has been my lack of attention in Greg’s photo class and that I discovered I was using some crappy setting on my camera that totally overexposed everything. I think I’ve got that under control now, but I just wonder if he gives refunds?
I drove the 20km dirt road very slowly out to main highway as we no longer had a spare tire. We faced a choice once we reached the intersection: 30 km backtrack or take the risk and go the 190 km to Rio Gallegos. Being the conservative cautious dude that I am, we headed to Rio Gallegos.
The wind was howling. I know I mentioned in my last post that it was howling, but I was wrong. That was a gentle breeze. Today it was howling. I said to Susanne about 50 km into the drive “you are glad you are not driving”.
Let me make a comment about Rio Gallegos. Every blog, every book, every person on the planet describes Rio Gallegos as the pit of the universe. Cris told us to avoid it. That was in the plan until we got a flat. Here’s what I’m going to say about it before I fill in the details – I love Rio Gallegos.
Ok, maybe love is a bit strong for it, because it truly is a pit. Granted we only made it as far as the big YPF station at the entrance to town, but if that is indication of what lies beyond, then no need to proceed further. Even the French dude we picked up said it was a pit. It is a big truck stop between something and who knows what, but it really saved our butts today. Therefore I think everyone should put it on the travel docket.
We had a big list of things we had to do in Rio Gallegos: (1) fix flat, (2) get Euro diesel (which has proven to be exceedingly hard to find), (3) fill the van full of water so I can have my hot shower in the morning, (4) find a decent place to eat a vegetable and (5) find a free internet connection to upload more meaningless ramblings to my blog.
The YPF station on the edge of town had it all. The dude that fixed our tire did it faster than I was able to fill the water tank in Casimiro. And! There was a restaurant across the street that actually had really good food and a free internet connection. Time to plan your next trip……to Rio Gallegos.
Once equipped with all things essential, like a spare tire, we headed out west on Ruta 40. For those of you not in the know, Ruta 40 is the Argentinian equivalent to Route 66 in the US. It used to be all gravel, but now much of it has been paved.
We passed 2 cars in the first 100 km. That is in either direction. This is quite a contrast to a few days before up near BA. This is true Patagonia, right on the border with Tierra Del Fuego. We really wanted to make it down to Ushuaia to be truly at Fin Del Mundo, but it was just too far. But on this stretch of Ruta 40, we hit our southern most point at 52 degrees south – some 2700 km south of where we started. Along the way we saw a Gaucho on his horse with his border collie. How perfect is that?
It has been a crazy first week of the trip. I knew it was going to be tough. Definitely not a week of lying on the beach, but I think we both appreciate the journey so far. Highs and lows and some amazing places. We both love the feel of Patagonia.
The first 100 km of Ruta 40 where super nice and brand new blacktop. Then it stopped. The map had indicated it was “under construction.” Yes, it is. I now know the exact meaning of “desvio.” Which happened over and over and over and over. 160 km of bone-jarring dirt road under construction. The only thing that I was puzzled about was why they didn’t have some speed bumps along the route.
The scenery was amazing. We have come so far south that we have hit fall. The yellows and reds in the grasslands were just stunning and as we headed west we could start to see the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. It was really exciting. The rest of our trip is centered around the Andes, so it was an exciting moment for me.
One thing I have discovered is that despite the vastness of this gorgeous country, there are very few side roads to pull off and camp. So we kept driving. We got to 25th of November (seriously! That is the name of the town! It’s like naming your child Moonunit or something) and we kept heading for the Chilean border looking for a place to camp. We were both getting a bit stressed because as we headed up the mountain, we were only 2 km from the border and neither of us wanted to hassle with a crossing at 7:30 pm.
Just below a ski area, we saw a nice place that was a park. We pulled off and found a good place to spend the night. Of course, we celebrated with another excellent bottle of Argentinian wine!
Maybe I can get a job at the Rio Gallegos tourist bureau.