Tag Archives: vanlife

cropped-The-End-01.jpg

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.

The End 01 The End 02

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).

The End 03 The End 04 The End 05 The End 07 The End 08

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.

The End 09 The End 26The End 11 The End 12 The End 13 The End 14 The End 15 The End 16 The End 17

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.

The End 18 The End 19 The End 20

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.

The End 21 The End 22 The End 23 The End 24

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.

The End 25

Posted from: Buenos Aires, Argentina

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Desert, Ice and Snow : Patagonia, Argentina

We crossed the border at Chile Chico, and our first stop back in Argentina was a panaderia (bakery). Argentina’s baked goods are phenomenal… we are obsessed and of course always overdo it. Still, it’s a struggle to spend over $5.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tried to move as quickly as we could, though the flat and barren scenery. The weather however, kept things interesting. We had snow, rain, hail and shine. The only constant was the howling wind. Mark and Oscar were in a never-ending battle to keep us on the road, and I’m still amazed that we weren’t blown over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were so travel weary at the end of each day that we’d just find a quiet gravel road and pull off to the side to camp. And I mean, just off to the side. One of my favourite things about Patagonia is the isolation. We only saw one other car the entire time we were camping roadside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our spirits soared when we finally caught sight of mountains on the horizon, as they rose up gallantly to puncture the seemingly endless farmland. Mountains and glacial lakes are nature’s perfect match, and they suddenly exploded in abundance as we drove along the road towards Los Glaciares National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stared wide-eyed and mouths agape as we approached the awe inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier. The size, colour and beautiful setting alone are enough to impress, but what stuck with me was the immense power it seems to emanate. The sound of the shifting, cracking and breaking ice echoed eerily as we walked around the viewing platform, giving me butterflies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA perito moreno 2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We found ourselves a sweet wild campsite just off the main park road to the glacier. Life is pretty cramped these days as we barely pop the top in the relentless Patagonian wind. We have to make an effort to go outside, rugged up against the elements. Turns out ponchos are a bit breezy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We pointed the brown bus towards Chile for one last time, but Argentina wasn’t going to let us leave that easily. There was fresh snow on the roads and some very icy sections. At one point we thought we might have to turn around, but as we pushed on the roads gradually improved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A feeling of excitement was building gradually between us, we’d be reaching the end of our road somewhere in Chile. But where? We hadn’t quite figured that out yet.

Posted from: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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.

Central Chile 07 Central Chile 08 Central Chile 09 Central Chile 10 Central Chile 11

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.

Central Chile 12 Central Chile 13 Central Chile 14 Central Chile 15 Central Chile 16 Central Chile 17 Central Chile 18 Central Chile 19 Central Chile 20 Central Chile 21 Central Chile 22

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.

Central Chile 23 Central Chile 24 Central Chile 25

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.

Central Chile 29Central Chile 26

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.

Central Chile 28

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.

Central Chile 30 Central Chile 31 Central Chile 32

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

Central Chile 34Central Chile 36

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

Posted from Bariloche, Argentina.