This massive country is known for its wide ‘pampas’ grasslands, BA’s sexy tango dance, and more juicy meat parrilladas than you could imagine. The Patagonia region is shared by Chile and Argentina, so we hopped back and forth between the two (8 times actually) snaking around the Andes peaks and chasing the glacier lakes.
Argentina has some incredible beauties that we had to see, including the famous majestic mountain range of Glaciares with the Fitz Roy peak towering over its neighboring village of El Chalten, and Perito Moreno, one of the few glaciers in the world that stays almost in the same place, melting and growing at a similar same rate. Although both wonders are equally impressive in their own way, the journey to visit these two sights were nothing alike. To see the Fitz Roy’s peak, you had to jump over rivers, climb steep hills and hike 24km through Patagonia’s ever changing weather. We spent all day climbing and treking, pull on layers and taking layers off, and filling out water bottles with fresh glacier water streams. Luckly, when we arrived, the clouds parted and the blue sky created a perfect backdrop for the incredible sight. The Perito Moreno, however, is the world’s most touristy glacier, you pay $50 a person and walk straight up to it on a man-made staircase. Although this 3 mile wide glacier was very impressive, you realize how much more you appreciate something when you put blood, sweat and tears into something.
And wow, have we put blood sweat and tears into this journey! After nearly 8 months on the road, we we finally arriving to the most southern city in the continent, Ushuaia. This was it. We were determined to continue camping until the end, which was becoming more of a challenge with Patagoina’s strong winds. A few days before reaching the tip, we drove miles and miles of Pampas until we found a small hill off the side of the road to provide protection from the wind. We situated the rig right by the hill, popped open the Skycamp and clicked the insulation layer into place, more and more grateful for that layer the further south we drive. It was José’s birthday the next day, so I was determined to make him pancakes in the morning. I woke up at the crack of dawn, put on another layer, and started mixing the batter. I lit the propane stove and the wind instantly blew it out. And when I finally had a pancake on the pan, the pan FLEW across the stove and landed in the tall dry grass around me. After hours of juggling flame, pan, and pancake batter, I finally crawled back into the tent with breakfast (brunch by that point) in sleeping-beds.
Patagonia, despite its insane wind, is truly a magical place. A tucked away village sits right up against the mountains unassumingly and little do you know, Antarctica is just a boat ride away. Jose wanted to take me to the famous sign “Ushuaia- the end of the world.” We took a moment to let it sink in. The miles, the flat tires, the potholes, the sacrifices, the decisions, the planning, the navigating, the mountains, the beaches, the locals, the overlanders, the fears, the thrills… man has it been a ride. And just then, he took my hand, looked at me, and got down on one knee. We laughed and cried and exchanged promises to love each other until the end of the world and back.
After crossing the Bolivian border, we descended into the Atacama desert in Chile. We spent a few days exploring the majestic desert landscape before continuing south straight to the cosmopolitan cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. We didn’t wait long to get to the grand finale of all Pan-Am adventures: Patagonia. Touching the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern oceans, Patagonia is the southern region of the Americas, where only the brave and determined arrive to witness its glacial beauty and smell the freshest air in the world. Patagonia shares is pristine landscape with both Chile and Argentina, and one of the best ways to see Chile’s side is touring down the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway).
The infamous Carretera Austral, Chile’s most adventurous, scenic and sometimes dicey road-trip, is a half-paved road, snaking down the long country for more than 1,200 km. The question isn’t if you’ll hit a pothole, rather how manytimes you’ll hit and how hard. After driving for 7 months through Latin America, we didn’t have a single flat tire, but shortly after beginning our venture down this Carretera, we had two flat tires in two days, one right after another. The entire road isn’t paved, but wow is it beautiful, veering in and out of the Andes, getting glimpses of the mirror blue lakes and the white capped mountains.
We were lucky enough to find great travel partners, a Canadian girl and Danish guy, cruising in a Toyota Cruiser. It can be hard to find other travel partners with a similar vibe, but they could throw down a mean bonfire and their crepe-bacon-brunch-game was fierce, so… obviously they were approved.
In the overlanding community, they say the longer you are on the road, the more adventurous you get. It might sound counterintuitive, but it proved to me true for us. At first, we veered off the road a a bit, in search of good bonfire wood and swimming holes, but not too far from the local town. But once we started building confidence, we sought out those remote, un-touched gems that Chile proved to be full of. The whole ruta was a overlander’s playground: thick forest, calm glacier lakes, and not a soul for miles.
One particularly memorable time, in the heart of Patagonia, near General Carrera Lake, the two Toyotas put their 4wd into gear, and zipped off the main road. Tucked behind the mountains, the small dirt road opened up to a wide open space of pure Patagonia plains, with no sign of life. We tried to gage the direction of the wind, and decided to butt our rig’s rears together, creating a little cove for our campsite. Everyone went right to work. Gather wood, put more layers on, designate the pee bush… the usual tasks. Once we had the fire going, we popped open our Skycamp, making the campsite complete. Since the cold set in, we started getting creative with storing our alpaca blankets and sleeping bags all the way in the back of the tent. Nights like these, in the middle of nowhere, you want to set yourself up to make your sleeping arrangement as accessible as possible because once that fire goes out, the cold hits you like a ton of bricks. We spent the evening adding wood to the fire, contemplating our lives, and reflecting on journey. We had great food, cheap (but great quality) Chilean wine, great company, and nothing but Patagonia’s fresh mountain air all around us. We howled at the moon and laughed until our bellies hurt. Even right in the midst of the moment, time slows down, you look around you, and you feel so grateful for where you are and making that plunge to do an adventure as daring as this one. We snuggled into that Alpaca that night, with a full heart, and already dreaming of the morning’s crepes and bacon.
You don’t typically see Bolivia listed as a top tourist destination, but with it’s off-roading dirt roads, massive uninhabited deserts, and the largest salt flat in the world, it’s a destination dream for an overlander. Bolivia reaches from Amazon jungle in one corner to the Atacama desert in the other with a variety of landscapes and wildlife, including supernatural surprises like bright pink flamingos grazing in deep blue, green, and red lagoons. One of the country’s major highlights is the salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, a prehistoric dried-up lake, leaving behind a 11,000 square foot desert-like salt flat. And there is nothing more appealing to an overlander than miles and miles of nothing but vast, wide beauty. During its rainy season however, December- March, the Uyuni salt desert floods, creating a shallow salty lake which can (and has) easily ruin and rust through any rig’s frame that dares to drive through, converting an overlander’s dream to a destination nightmare. We took perspective photos on the world’s biggest mirror, but opted on keeping our rig dry and salt-free. Little did we know, we were about to embark on our most adventurous overlanding journey yet…
In the southwest corner of Bolivia, is 260 miles of uninhabited desert and uncharted dirt roads, which very few overlanders to dare cross through. We’re talking 3-4 days of no food, no water, no grocery store, no people, and definitely no gas station. If the Pan-American highway was a series of easy 5ks, than the Lagunas Route was the marathon. After studying maps, checking the weather, reaching out to other overlanders who safely crossed, and creating a plan, we decided to go for it.
Just like the feeling before a big race, we could feel the butterflies in our stomachs… both nervous and excited. There was another thing: no phone signal. We called our parents, down playing the dangers, but advising them that we wouldn’t be in touch for a few days. We stocked up on groceries for 5 days, bought 6 large containers of water and 2 plastic jerry cans, then headed to the gas station to fill up both jerry cans with extra gasoline before attaching it to our roof. We stood in that little run down gas station for what felt like hours as we struggled to attach the jerry cans to the top of the roof with straps that other travelers had given us, doubling the strap over and over to secure it. The night was so cold and we struggled with that thing for hours, fear and excitement pumping through our veins as we imagined those jerry cans being our life line in the middle of nowhere.
It was time. We took off bright and early, using our offline map to navigate, and when the map signaled, we pulled off the concrete and onto the dirt road and toward the horizon. This is it! We put on our music and started taking in the scenery. We weren’t even an hour into the journey before our dirt track led us straight into a deep, huge lake. We just stood there, assessing how the hell we were going to cross this lake, when we spotted a Land Cruiser, jumped back into the car, and raced to catch him. The lagoon route is only accessed by a couple tour companies with strong, off-roading vehicles to manage the terrain. We felt like cats in the jungle racing toward the same prey. We engaged the 4wd and climbed up the steep mountain. The terrain was rough. The dirt road fluctuated between soft sand, loose pebbles, and that washboard effect. The washboard roads were the worst, vibrating the whole car dramatically, causing everything to shake including the teeth in our skull.
On a road like this, you can’t exactly ‘plan’ where you will sleep, so you just drive until it gets dark. Around 4pm we start the task of staking out shelter. The space is so massive that the mountain winds can be brutal. Shelter was key. Finally, we arrived at a section of the desert that similazed the moon, with a few tree shaped rocks. There was just us a couple cyclists. We popped open the skycamp, taking a cool video and preparing tea, little did we know that would be the hardest night’s sleep of our lives. The altitude was nearly 5,000 m above sea level. Our stomachs churned, we felt dizzy, and just laid awake most of the night. With the high altitude, washboard vibrations, and extreme weather conditions, it was a rough journey. But we made it to those jewel colored lakes with the bright pink flamingos, and we stood next to the hot bubbling geysers as they sprayed up from below the earth. We drove around the area completely alone, zig-zagging through the desert, blasting our music. No agenda, no road, it was just us, our rig and all the space. It was pure freedom. All the planning, worrying, and preparing for this journey was 100% worth that taste of freedom in the vast open spaces of Bolivia.
Eclectic, delicious cuisine and ancient Incan ruins found in the Andes’ high peaks attracts foodies and adventure seekers from all over the world to none other than Peru. We crossed into Peru from Ecuador, crossing a long stretch of desert, and sticking to the Pan-Am highway. But after sampling the fresh ceviche and arroz chaufa at Huanchaco beach, we headed straight for those high peaks, toward theCordillera Blanca (white mountain range). In addition to its food and lost cities, Peru is known for some of the world’s most dangerous roads, cutting through the Andes mountains on exposed, unpaved paths with steep cliffs and steep up-hill. We heard about an exclusive turquoise lake called Lago Parón, the largest lake in theCordillera Blanca, only accessible by the brave, the fearless, and the 4 wheel drivers. We were intrigued.
We needed to be strategic about the next few countries, as there was reported political unrest and protest due to a recent election in Honduras. We were advised to not stay the night in the country and just drive straight to Nicaragua. We were pleased to still be caravaning with another fellow 4x4 overlander with a roof top tent. We calculated that in order to cross two borders, drive 350 km straight through Honduras, and arrive safely at our campsite in Nicaragua, we would have a 4am take-off goal. We generally don’t like to drive at night, but we had installed extra front fog lights that we would use before the sun started to raise around 5:30am. We had a plan. We went to bed early, set our alarms, and crawled into our Skycamp tent.
blog: Episode 4: Mexico!
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¡Bienvenidos a México! Welcome to the land of street tacos, white-sand beaches, and joyful festivals marching through colorful little towns. After a few days in San Diego with friends and family, we crossed south to Tijuana, and headed down the famous Baja California Peninsula, where hot desert and pacific paradise meet. After miles of hot desert, we turned the bend to find this small pristine beach, Playa Santispac, and dipped our toes in crystal clear water.