Author Archives: Mark

Bariloche 11

Lake Days : Bariloche, Argentina

We were welcomed back into Argentina like old friends. We both agreed that the border crossing in the shadow of Volcán Lanín was the easiest and friendliest that we have come across so far. The staff were happy to chat, fixed up some paperwork issues that had been giving us problems and even boiled some hot water for our thermos… having water for a mate break is a big deal to Argentines.

The Lake District of Argentina has been a paradise for wild camping. It seems that we can take any random road alongside a lake and find a perfect spot for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHitting the snooze button. Lago Lolog. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA morning at the gym, Lago Lolog.

Bariloche 23 Bariloche 24 Bariloche 25Honey, I’m home. Lago Gutiérrez.

Our good luck didn’t end at the border crossing. We arrived in San Martin de Los Andes and checked our emails to find that Manu and the La Chanchita Bus were also there. Manu has just finished his project and it’s a real beauty. A 1966 Mercedes Bus that was once used as public transport in Buenos Aires, he’s fitted it out as a six berth camper ready to take snow seekers wherever they want to go in the area.

We met up with them at the Chapelco ski resort and followed them back to Bariloche along the amazingly scenic Ruta de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive).

Bariloche 01 Bariloche 02Is it a bus or a cabin?

Bariloche 08 Bariloche 09 Bariloche 10 Bariloche 11In convoy with La Chanchita

Once in Bariloche, Manu welcomed us into his home and showed us around the area. We had a great time throughout the week, hanging out with him and his friend Lu (and his dog Bengoa).

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Manu also knew of a hidden lakeside beach, perfect for a dinner party around the campfire.

Bariloche 19 Bariloche 20 Bariloche 21 Bariloche 22A lesson in asado

We couldn’t have hoped for a better week. All thanks to the kindness and generosity of this one guy. There was only one downside. Argentina didn’t get much snow this winter, so the ski resorts were either completely closed or not worth skiing.

But not to worry. Manu had a plan for that too…

Posted from: Coyhaique, Chile.

PS: for some amazing photos from this week see the La Chanchita facebook page.

Central Chile 24

On the Road Again : Central Chile

We had been sitting still in Santiago for far too long. And as soon as we left the city we were seeking out campsites in the woods and trails into the mountains. I was on a mission to camp in the forest and cook over an open fire.

It didn’t take long to get back to van life the way it should be. By sunset on the second day, after a day of chasing waterfalls, we were popping the top in the winter woods and enjoying the alpenglow on the snow capped peaks.

But my mission was not yet accomplished… there were no fires allowed in this area.

Central Chile 01 Central Chile 02 Central Chile 03 Central Chile 04 Parque Nacional Siete Tazas

Central Chile 05 Central Chile 06Onion eyes

We couldn’t have been happier the next morning, brewing coffee  and having breakfast in the van while we planned a hike into the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Since it’s still winter here, the park was totally empty. Just us, the mountains, and a few local critters.

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For some reason, people around here aren’t that keen to go hiking through waist deep snow. But it was definitely worth it for the amazing views and the beautiful afternoon light filtering through the naked trees. After a long day on the trail, we made it back to the van around sundown and stayed in the deserted campground of the reserve. Enjoying the absolute silence, we had the best sleep ever.

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On our way up to Chillán, we found a sweet spot by the river, just out of view of the highway. In the morning there was a blanket of fresh snow all around us, and it was still coming down. We haven’t seen snow falling since our last winter in Canada so we were super excited. Like kids on Christmas day.

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Our timing couldn’t have been better. There’s a pretty damn good ski resort at Chillan, but they hadn’t had snow for quite a while. We were waiting at the rental shop for the doors to open, and hit the slopes as soon as we could.

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There were only a couple of chairlifts open, but they give access to a lot of amazing terrain. And on a powder day like this, you don’t need much more.

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The snow was so deep and heavy that we had to zoom back into town so Bec could get some bigger skis. Then she really started ripping. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces.  It’s times like these that we really wish all our friends were here with us. Carpark lunch breaks and after-ski beers just aren’t the same without them.

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And what better way to end a day than cooking over a camp fire. It took a few days, but finally… mission accomplished.

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All of this in just five days… it’s oh so good to be back on the road.

Posted from Bariloche, Argentina.

Portillo 06

Ski Bums : Portillo, Chile

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

And by the same token. When life gives you winter… go skiing.

Portillo 15Not bad… for a snowboarder

It was never really in our grand plan to be travelling through the southern Andes in mid winter, but maybe it should have been. After a few years of living in Alberta we have really grown to love a white winter. Freezing our butts off in the altiplano of Bolivia just didn’t feel right without the snow to make it all worthwhile.

So we were pretty stoked when we crossed the border into Chile and stopped just a few minutes later at Portillo. The little ski resort of Portillo is high up in the Andes, with a beauty of a lake nestled between the jagged peaks.

It’s not a particularly big ski resort by North American or European standards, but it sure is pretty.

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We camped in the carpark for a couple of nights and had a great day of skiing.

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There hasn’t been a whole lot of snowfall this year, but the icy slopes softened up nicely after a few hours of bright sunlight. Just like spring skiing in the Rockies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Portillo 09 Portillo 13Portillo 14

And really, is there a better place to enjoy a beer and a burger than on top of a mountain, with the warm sun beating out the cold? Not many, if any.

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Although I make it sound like an ideal stopover, it wasn’t without hassles.

I was still battling some unknown illness and spewed from the chairlift.

On top of that, we’ve had a leaky rear brake for weeks now and have had it checked out by three different brake ‘experts’ already. We thought that the last guy in Mendoza had replaced the cylinder with a new one, but we dismantled the brakes in the carpark and found out that this wasn’t the case. This has been incredibly frustrating.

Some amigos in Portillo assured me that the next 60km of descending road wasn’t as bad as it looked. So we pushed on.

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Luckily, they were right. We made it Los Andes without hassle and finally took matters into our own hands. I was working on the van in front of a brake workshop and the guy there recommended a short term solution. Plug the brake line with a nail and keep moving until we can find the part we need. The brakes actually work a lot better now, and we should find what we need to fix it properly in Santiago.

All part of the fun, onwards and forwards as always.

Posted from Santiago, Chile.