After 3 years, 6 months, and 27 days, 3 trips back to the US (for a total of 10 months), 45,400 miles driven, 2,400 gallons of diesel (approximately 18 miles/gal), 14 countries, 21 border crossings, more than 15 gallons of propane, 8 broken camp chairs, 1 roof top tent eaten by rodents, and countless memories worth several lifetimes, we finally pulled into Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
After so many years thinking about this place, I realized it wasn’t at all what I had expected. After endless miles of driving through flat paramo through most of Argentinian Patagonia, as we were approaching our last 100 kilometers from Ushuaia, the land turned mountainous again, with the road winding up and down the peaks, covered in green forests and emerald lakes. It quite took me by surprise. The town itself turned out to not be anything all that impressive, without managing to offend either. The downtown was a nightmare of a tourist trap catering to the tourists off the cruise ships, but at least the campground is located up the hill on the other side of town with a great view of the Beagle Channel below. It didn’t really matter to us what the town was like anyway, it could have been a dilapidated hell hole, and we still would have been happy to be here. For us it was more about the symbology of finally having made it here, after 3 years of planning and saving in the US dreaming about our drive from California to Ushuaia and another 3 years of making our way down through Central and South America. It is amazing what we have learned along the way, and how much our ideas of our lives, our travels, and the world have changed since starting out. I think it is safe to say we will never be the same again.
We were really bad tourists while in Ushuaia, not really caring to do or see all that much. We did have a great celebratory dinner in town, where I got to try my first Argentinean steak, which by the way was as excellent as I had hoped. After a couple days of hanging at the campground, we turned around and started to head north. It was a little weird to think that from here on out it would be always north, after so long of always south.
On our way back up the island of Tierra del Fuego, we swung west a little in search of a colony of king penguins we had heard about. After miles of horrible dirt roads we finally found the little colony. What we weren’t expecting was the $25 per person entrance fee! All to go on a measly 5 minute walk to stare at some penguins on the other side of a river. After going out of our way to get here and our decided love of penguins, we decided to suck it up and pay. It was after all the first penguins we’ve seen up close in the wild.
After much debate about our route north, we decided to head up the Ruta 3 which follows along the Atlantic Coast. Almost every overlander we’ve met or read has said that it is one of the most boring drives in the Americas. I guess it is good we went into it with low expectations, because we actually really enjoyed the drive. We found another penguin colony in the Parque Monte Leon, this time some Magellanic Penguins.
We also managed to find a lot of dirt roads that wound along the cliff tops overlooking the ocean, with some amazing views, that got us off the Ruta 3 as much as possible. Along the way we also got to see some more wildlife.
After slowly making our way up the coast a ways, we decided to cut across back to the Ruta 40. After losing our tent poles while packing up in the middle of a down pour, we finally arrived in the small town of El Bolson, nestled in the mountains, and camping behind a brewery. That’s right a brewery. They even included a beer in the price of the camping. Our main reason for speeding it up and crossing back to the 40 when we did was that we were scheduled to meet the infamous trio Life Remotely and a bunch of other overlanders in Bariloche. The Remotelys managed to catch us in El Bolson after we enticed them with the promise of good camping and beers.
A few days later we headed up to Bariloche to get down to business with the B^4. For all you lay people that translates to the Badass Bariloche Bovine Bonanza (thanks to Cesar of Capital South Bound for coming up with that). And what a Bonanza it was! We managed to take over a good portion of a great campground on the shore of the lake. Over the next few days while more and more people drifted in, The Remotely’s, with Jessica leading the way (Fox 40 whistle and all) managed to convince the owner of the campground to let us dig a giant pit in the ground, track down a butcher and buy a whole baby pig, whole lamb, and the biggest rack of ribs I’ve ever seen in my life, organize wood collection (courtesy of Home on the Highway James), track down the necessary crucification implements for cooking said animals, and keep everybody on track to make sure we got to have an amazing meal. The rest of the time was spent drinking and hanging out with all the cool people (a lot of whom we’ve known online for quite a while), drinking, eating good food, enjoying the sunshine and the great views of the lake, and did I mention drinking? There was quite a bit of that.
In the end 9 rigs showed up with a total of 22 overlanders, including James and Lauren of Home on the Highway, Cesar and Danny of Capitol South Bound, Jed and Megan of Adventure Americas, Zack and Jill of Anywhere That’s Wild, Graemme and Luisa and their two kids of A2A, Stephan and Emma, and of course Jared, Jessica and Kobus of Life Remotely. It may not seem like that many people, but you have to realize that getting people together who have different plans, with different schedules, and who are spread out from Peru to Chile to Argentina, and in the case of A2A Uruguay, is quite the feat. Thanks again to the Remotely’s for organizing this little shindig, an awesome time was had by all.