Blog: Route 40 / End of a 8700 km road trip

Ushuia had been our objective during our 2 weeks with the Suzuki Fun, and we accomplished this – with a only few problems along the way. We had covered something close to 3500km on the way from Buenos Aires to Ushuia, mostly along the coastal route 3, which extends all the way to the bottom of Tierra del Fuego. On the way back north, we would be driving along the spine of the Andes before cutting across the from Bariloche back to our final destination; Buenos Aires.

To accomplish our return journey we first had to make the return journey from Ushuia across the Chilean Tierra del Fuego. We got to the border crossing around 9:30pm and were informed that we could make the ferry back to the mainland, but only if we hurried. Fortunately for us there was a very little traffic, and maintaining our 70 km/h average for the entire hour and a half made it to the ferry with about 7 minutes to spare. This is where our journey made a different direction. We headed west through Chilean Patagonia and by mid-morning we had made it back to the Andes, and to one of the most impressive National Parks in the Southern Cone; Torres del Paine. This was a bit of a detour from the road back into Argentina, but as we approached the centrepiece of the park, our detour was well worth it. An impressive grouping of mountains and glaciers, several lakes and waterfalls awaited us upon our arrival. We managed to take some amazing photographs, but by the time we made it to the gate of the park, it was too late to enter; we had to make it to the Argentinian border before it closed for the night.

We did make the border crossing, and were quickly on our way back to El Calafate, where we would spend another night before making the long journey north. The highway that runs the length of the Argentinean Andes is Route 40, a long unpaved road, which to Argentinians, holds the same sort of lore as Route 66 in the United States (I have read this, heard this, and been re-told this several times…. its a long story). We soon found out why. After El Calafate, we drove for uncountable hours, taking turns driving and sleeping before we reached the next interesting destination. My driving stint during this time was 20 hours, which took us through an intense snow-storm, endless km´s of straight, ungraded gravel roads (mostly of which we had to drive on the shoulder due to the low clearance of the Suzuki Fun) and past beautiful mountains and lakes. But eventually we made it to El Bolson, a small mountain town with beautiful parks and forests, and is apparently a lot like Berkley, California (again, we read this, heard this….. just another long story). We spent a few hours in this town just admiring the scenery (and local produce) before heading 2 hours north to Bariloche.

Bariloche is one of the most beautiful cities i have ever been to. Its set right on the shores of a massive lake, and is a short 30 minute drive to the largest ski resort in South America; Cerro Catedral. Bariloche had an amazing ski/snowboard town feel, a young part crowd and several clubs and bars to go along with it. We arrived on Thursday night and decided to spend the weekend there before heading back to Buenos Aires on monday, when we had to have the car back. We partied for 2 nights, and were prepared to leave the next morning, only to find our car had been broken into. Jeff had his cameras stolen, and myself a sleeping bag (which i would miss later on in the trip) along with some small items that were left in the car. Fortunately, we were able to take the car to the rental office, and they gave us a loaner car for 24 hours and a free day while they fixed the smashed window. This of course meant we got to spend another night in town, and of course that meant going out for drinks one last time.  Bariloche is probably one of my favourite towns in the world, and definitely somewhere i would like to live for a few months while taking in a snowboard season in Argentina. Sadly, this was our last stop on our 2 week road trip, and monday afternoon, when the car was repaired and returned, we began the long journey back to Buenos Aires.

The return trip was a straight 24 hour drive in which we again took turns driving through the night and well into the next day. We had to be in Buenos Aires by 4pm to return the car, and my last stint driving was the 100km from the outskirts of the city, straight into downtown. The problem was we had an hour and a half to do it, and it was closing in on rush hour. Driving in South America can be difficult enough as it is, and driving in one of the worlds busiest cities is not something to be taken lightly. Somehow i managed to avoid the other crazy drivers on the Autopista, and the worlds widest road, Av 9 de Julio, and had the car parked out front of the Hertz dealership with 5 minutes to spare. Our journey came to an end, 8700km after it began, and we were finally ready to go back to our home;The Limehouse. We “had” to spend another 2 weeks in Buenos Aires, waiting for the Argentina vs Brazil futball match, after-which we would have no choice but to get back onto the backpacker trail, and start the long trip to Lima, Peru.