Blog: Fun times on the way to the end of the world
Two ‘Nucks, A S’afa and a Yank; Fun times on the way to the end of the world.
Despite the impression I left on my last post, our time in Argentina wasnt solely spent on the paying end of drinks. Yes, it is true, we spent many of our nights until the wee hours of the morning drinking away the worlds problems, but sometimes we came up with amazing plans. Driving to Patagonia was one of our best, and after 3 weeks in Buenos Aries our plan went into action. It turned out to be the highlight of our 6 month adventure.
Originally, we had planned on renting a car for 1 week, driving as far as roads go, to the bottom of the world – Ushuia – and from there making our way to Chile. But, as it turned out leaving the car in Ushuia was going to cost us more than renting it for 3 weeks and bringing it back to Buenos Aires. So we made a compromise. Rent it for 2 weeks and be back in Buenos Aires in time for the futball match. Shaun, our friend from South Africa, who we have been travelling with since, Stewart and myself made all the arrangements, packed our bags and were ready to leave. Of course, we couldn’t leave Buenos Aires without a going away party, and at this party we convinced Jeff to drop everything (he was living in Buenos Aries for 6 weeks) and join our adventure in last minute fashion. We were off, in the smallest car ever created: The Suzuki Fun.
Driving out of Buenos Aires in rush hour, allong the worlds widest road was an adventure enough, but for Shaun, who had never driven a right handed stick on the right side of the road, it must have been even more exciting. But, the excitement was short lived and soon enough we were on the Autopista and heading down route 3, which would take us most of the way to our destination. The first 24 hours were mostly uneventful, everyone taking shifts driving, with the odd stop for gas or food. Everywhere we went we were just a little too late. The killer whales had just left. So had the penguins. There were “a few” elephant seals left, but they tried to charge us 30 pesos each to try and find them, and we just turned around and kept driving. We were only a 1000km from Buenos Aires and so far, nothing. We drove through a few small towns, one of which was Garbage Town (Jeff, did you get the video yet?), and still no real excitement. Our first “problem” (of which their would be many) was right smack in the middle of nowhere. We stopped at a gas station which was smack in the middle of a 300km gap between any sign of life, and a drugged up teenager and his drugged up Llama were happy to fill our car. At the time, it didn’t seem all that important, but 3km later when the car just stopped (Stewart´s comment of “I don’t really like this song, the music has this irritating noise” kinda set it off) we realized that something had happened back there. It was too cold to walk back to the gas station (with the wind it felt like -10; it is the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere) so we spent the first of many nights parked on the side of the road freezing to death in our car. The next day, we managed to get towed back to the gas-station, the diesel was taken out of the tank, and again we were on our way.
We managed to make it another 500km or so, when we decided it would be a good idea to take a short cut along a dirt highway which would save us a few hours and easily 300km on our way to El Calafate. This was a great idea, until at 2 in the morning we hit a rock poking up off the un-graded road and, once again, the car just stopped. This time, we had destroyed the fuel filter. We tried to fix it with electrical tape, but we soon realized that we needed to replace the part. The catch: we were in the middle of nowhere, and in the 6 hours of driving down this dirt “highway” we had seen one other car and no towns, and some 10km back there were “the Hacksaws”, a house we had seen, which we reasoned was some cult that we hoped to avoid. Fortunately we had 2 bottles of Mendozan wine, so we quickly drank those and prepared for yet another night in the car. But this time, less than an hour after we had passed out, we all woke up to lights coming from behind us. Finally! We were saved. Shaun and Jeff got out of the car to use their best Spanish to find out if they would help us. 5 minutes into the conversation, Shaun comes back to tell Stewart and I, “Apparently, these two guys are illegal poachers, and they have two rifles in the back of their truck.” Half asleep the only response i could come up with was “do you think they are going to kill us?”, to which he responded, “no… i don’t think so.” Fortunately they didn’t. They managed to come up with a meter long rope and they towed us the 60km to El Calafate, the whole time Shaun behind the wheel commenting on how our 4-way flashers on the back of the truck – all that we could see – was leaving him in a trance. We made it, and in town we were able to have our destroyed fuel filter replaced and we were good to move on. In El Calafate, we went to see one of the worlds largest glaciers; The Perito Moreno Glacier. And again, we were off.
We had now seen just a glimpse of the Andes, in El Calafate, and soon enough we were back onto the barren flatlands of Patagonia. The last leg of our journey took us south again, and soon enough we were back on route 3. We had to cross the Straights of Magellan, during which we saw a pod of dolphins swim around the ferry, and again, it was straight driving. Patagonia is mezmorizingly flat and desolate, yet for some reason one of the most impressive landscapes you could imagine. We were now on the island of Tierra del Fuego, and still there was no sign of the mountains we had expected to see in the south. To get to Ushuia, we had to cross into Chile. Unfortunately, the Argentine and Chilean customs are in two different time zones, and while we were able to make it through the Argentine customs post, the Chilean customs was closed. This of course meant, another night in the car, this time being spent in “no mans land”. At one point in the middle of the night, a border guard, from one of the offices, came up and tried to ask what we were doing, and in my broken Spanish i tried to explain that we were stuck. After about 30 seconds, he gave up and we were able to sleep in peace. The next day we had to drive for 7 hours through the Chilean portion of the island before we were back in Argentina. Again, we drove through barren landscapes until finally, out of nowhere, the southern mountains came into view, and we weaved our way up the mountains and soon we were into the pass which would bring us to the end of the world. [Technically, Usuiha isn’t the farthest south city in the world, that claim to fame being the Chilean naval settlement across the water from Ushuia, but its still as far as roads go.] At midnight, we rounded the last pass and, after many hardships and nights spent sleeping in the car, we had finally arrived at our destination; Ushuia.