The Final Chapter : Farewell to The Brown Bus

Although we have been home for a while now, we have totally neglected to update the final chapter of the blog.

Our last week of travelling was a real whirlwind. We found a campground in Buenos Aires for a couple of days to sort out the van and everything in it. We also had a chance to catch up with my long lost Argentine brother, Fran. He was an exchange student who lived with my family when I was a kid and was like our big brother for six months. It was so great to see him again, to watch his local soccer game and to meet his beautiful family.

After the campground, we had work to do. We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires, unloaded our stuff from the van, took it in for a good wash and then headed for the midnight ferry to Uruguay.

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We got off the ferry at about 3am and managed to get a few hours of sleep on the street before driving a few hours into Montevideo to meet the new owners at the mechanic. We hadn’t really done our homework properly and after a day of running around between the customs and notary offices we eventually confirmed that we would absolutely have to cross the border together to complete the necessary paperwork.

So all four of us piled into the van and took an overnight road trip to the border. At the border it was almost too easy. We drove through one checkpoint and cancelled our papers, pulled a U-turn and re-entered the country to type up some new papers with Arjan listed as the driver. They assured us that this was all we needed. Let’s hope so.

All Done 02 All Done 03All Done 21Back seat bandits, for the first time ever. 

Back in the cute little river side town of Colonia we printed out some sale contracts and did an online payment over drinks. This is where we said goodbye to our faithful companion. The old van had been our home for 15 months and all too quickly we were hopping on the ferry back to Buenos Aires. Vanless.

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Now we had a few days to kill in the city exploring, shopping, eating and celebrating.

In the meantime, we had some packing to do. The rest of our belongings had to be sorted out and fitted into four bags for the plane ride home.

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It was amazing how quickly and abruptly the trip ended. But we weren’t sad. This moment had been coming for a long time. We were excited for what’s next.

Bring on Australia. Bring on family and friends and everything else that lies ahead.

New Directions : Argentina

I’m so glad that our most southern campsite was close to perfect, it seemed fitting somehow. Stepping out of the van in the morning, our breath was visible in the air and the frozen grass crunched under our feet. It was time to finally head north, the race was on. We had to get Oscar to his new owners in Uruguay, and pronto.

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Back in Argentina, the driving days were relentless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving, driving, driving

Still, we found some pretty nice spots to pop the top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bridge camp – Rio Chico

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Route planning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA gallant effort, but the wine to workout ratio is still about 100:1

The days weren’t without incident. We had our first legit flat tire in over a year. Changing the tire with our tiny jack, in the blustering wind and with trucks ripping past, was a balancing act to rival my high school gymnastics prowess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALong days

We were ooohhing and ahhhing when we were finally reached the coast again. The startling blue colours of the ocean were a sight for sore eyes, after the monotonous landscapes along the Ruta 3.

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The Peninsula Valdés was a well timed reprieve from the boring miles. The marine animal life in this nature reserve is amazing! The magdalena penguins had just starting arriving for their mating season, so we were lucky enough to catch sight of some of the early birds.

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The elephant seals were a crackup. The big fellow in the photo below was making his move towards the little lady, but it took at least five attempts. He had been cruising past, hooting and hollering and flaunting his masculinity, but no one really seemed to care. He was left to try a more direct approach. From what I could gather though, she still wasn’t very keen. In the animal world, I guess size does matter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Big ol’ poser

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe called these guys (Rhea) ‘moo moos’ because they look like the aussie emu. Not to be mistaken for cows.

After dinner we drove in the dark to a deserted carpark just outside of Puerto Pirámides. When we got up in the night to wee, we could hear a hollow blowing sound coming from the ocean… could it be the whales? In the morning, just as the sun was rising, we walked with our breakfast and coffee down to the viewing platform. We watched maybe 10 southern right whales with their babies cruise past, I have never seen so many whales in one place. It was a very special moment.

There was also a very noisy, and very entertaining colony of seals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo early!

As we were walking back to the van, Mark suddenly took a knee. He was a bit wobbly and off balance, so it was a very cute and funny moment! After I stopped laughing and realized it was actually a proposal (in Spanglish) and not a joke… I said yes. After spending everyday (and almost every hour) together for over a year, I love this guy more than I thought possible. We are so happy and excited to be moving onto the next chapter of our lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiancé’s

As we gradually edged closer to the Buenos Aires city limit, the scenery changed dramatically. After a long night of driving in the dark, we awoke surrounded by the welcomed greenery of the Argentine pampas. We were a bit shocked to see so many people out and about, the Ernest Tornquist Provincial Park seems to be a popular hiking getaway for people from the big city.

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It was hard to believe that we’d be back in Australia in just over a week, and that we only had Oscar for a few more days. I was definitely aware of feeling sad, but we were mainly preoccupied with selling the van and filled with excitement about the things to come.

End of The Road : Chilean Patagonia

Crossing to Tierra del Fuego and driving all the way south to Ushuaia just wasn’t realistic in our time frame. So for a long time now, the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has been our planned end point. We expected that this would the farthest south we would go before turning around. And our plans included a big multi-day hike in the mountains to end the trip on a big adventure.

We had been forced to take a few detours due to horrible road conditions. At one point the wind was so strong and the road was so muddy and slippery that the van was sliding sideways across the road. After a few very long days of driving across endless barren plains the mountains of the Torres del Paine massif loomed large on the horizon. And it is incredibly beautiful.

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This entire area of Patagonia is really rich with animal life. Before reaching the mountains and lakes, the animals were the only things that added a bit of interest to the many boring miles. There are probably a hundred times more sheep and cows than there are people out here. And on top of the livestock there is an abundance of native animals like guanacos (the wild relative of llamas and alpacas) and ñandus (like an emu).

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Unfortunately the weather didn’t improve when we arrived. Actually, it got worse. This was always a risk of travelling here in the off season… but it was even worse than we imagined. It was cold and rainy, and the wind howled relentlessly kicking up huge swirling clouds of water from the lakes. We spent most of our time sitting inside the van where it felt like a turbulent plane ride. All plans of hiking with backpacks and sleeping in a tent were quickly abandoned. But the scenery was still amazing.

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Since we didn’t go trekking, we decided to push on a little further south through the pretty coastal cities of Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. We went as far as possible on the roads of mainland South America.

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When we ran out of road, we popped the top and a bottle of wine and settled in for the night. The fact that the trip was almost over and that our lives are about to change drastically was really starting to sink in. This was sort of a special moment for us. We were happy to enjoy it in solitude with the soft lapping of waves and a clear view of the mountains of the Tierra del Fuego islands in the distance.

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We woke to ice covered windows, and hoped that it would be the last time. After enjoying a rich and colourful sunrise with breakfast we hit the road, heading north for the first time in a long time.

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Posted from: Buenos Aires, Argentina