Tag Archives: VW

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Winter in Wine Country: Northern Argentina

Northern Argentina has so much to offer, but we really didn’t make the most of it. As I was slowly recovering from the most disgusting gastro illness of all time, Mark was next on the hit list. We didn’t have much energy for anything, but as always, we had to keep moving. When we weren’t driving, we were in recovery mode.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt took us about three days to realise we were wearing the same thing.

The north is dotted with some super cute dusty desert towns. They mostly have a charming mix of white colonial style architecture and adobe mud brick buildings. Usually our main reason for visiting civilisation is to sample the region’s local foods (and in this case wine), but with our pathetic appetites, we struggled to get into the swing of things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALunch in Tilcara – still in my pjs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery town seemed to have a pristine white church

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Ice-cream imitating wine in Cafayate 

The more we travel, the more I am able to draw comparisons and parallels with other places we’ve been. Sometimes it can be counterproductive, but other times it helps to create a sense of familiarity and comfort in a new place. Northern Argentina reminds me a lot of Utah, in a good way. It has striking rock formations and beautiful coloured desert landscapes, as if burnt by the sun. Oh, and some sweet wild campsites.

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We arrived in Mendoza late on Saturday night. This wasn’t great timing, as lots of places were closed on Sunday and Monday. We still had fun though, exploring the pretty streets and plazas on our bikes. It’s easy to forget that this city is in the middle of the desert.

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Our culinary highlights were dinner at Maria Antonieta and wine tasting at the Vines of Mendoza.

We met up with Beto in Mendoza, he’s a VW mechanic and self-proclaimed pirate. After the rough roads in Bolivia, we need to replace the engine mount. After taking a look at the van, Beto recommended that we wait until Santiago where they have more parts. But meanwhile, he toured us around his city, helped us buy some tire chains and car insurance and gave us some other contacts in Chile and Argentina. His wife, Kuki, even treated us to a great home cooked meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFausto, a sweet Brazilian dude, staying with Beto while he works on his engine

Beto introduced us to the art form that is mate drinking. He taught us how to prepare the leaves properly, by shaking out the dust. Then once the hot water is added, spitting out the first bitter mouthfuls. The cup is then passed around the circle, and each person slurps an entire cupful before passing it on. When you’ve had enough you say “Gracias”, but not before (this is the hardest part!).

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We decided that winter here is probably not the best time for wine touring. The countryside was stark and lifeless, but still held a depressing kind of beauty. Blood red berries (probably poisonous!), offered the only splash of colour.

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The hostess at Bressia took one look at us, and said we needed a reservation to do a wine tasting. We had diligently made one the day before, so after giving her a silent “up yours”, settled down for some yummy wine and cheese. We already know Argentina has great reds, but we also really enjoyed their white, Lágrima Canela, a delicious chardonnay blend. After loading the van up with wine, it was time to hit the road again.

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Lately our thoughts have been drifting towards snow covered forests. The forests are still a bit out of reach, but the snow is getting closer. We headed towards the border for Chile, but since the road was closed due to bad weather, we spent the night in the snow-less ski resort of Penitentes.

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Bring on Chile and the snow!!!!

Posted from: Santiago, Chile.

Warm Welcomes : Cochabamba & Sucre, Bolivia

After reading about Bolivia and chatting to some other road trippers, I expected Bolivians to be stand-offish, suspicious and reserved. The people we’ve met however, have been the complete opposite. I am realising more and more just how individual a travelling experience is. We have to take advice with a grain of salt. For us, so much depends on timing, luck and our mind-set at the time.

Our first day in La Paz, we were parked outside a cafe, when a fellow VW enthusiast tracked us down. Juan had soon invited us to visit him in Cochabamba. At the time this wasn’t on our planned route, but the offer was too good to refuse, so when we left La Paz we headed that way.

We had a great couple of days spending time with Juan and his wife, who coincidently is also a Rebecca. They showed us around Cochabamba (and the world’s tallest Jesus), and were extremely helpful and patient as we bumbled along in Spanish. Beccy is an amazing cook and we were treated to more delicious Bolivian home cooking. To top it all off, we camped at their apartment building with access to the hottest showers we’ve had in Bolivia.

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We followed Juan and his immaculate Westfalia around the city, accomplishing in half a day what would usually take us three. We got the brakes checked, indicators fixed and brand new tires. There is something about VW people, it’s like having family all over the world.

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Returning from lunch in Cochabamba one day, we found a note waiting for us. I guess the van had another fan, as did our matching denim outfits that day. We accepted the invite to meet with Daniel at the pub, he spoke better English than us, and reminded me of some of our friends from home (Canada and Australia) I’ve been missing.

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Sucre is another amazing destination that wasn’t initially on our to do list. Everyone we’ve met whose been there says “Sucre” in this wistful, dreamy voice. Obviously, we had to check it out. Sucre is very easy on the eyes, with its colonial white buildings and pristine main plaza. This is not the kind of city I expected in Bolivia, but then Bolivia has been proving most of my expectations wrong.

Cocha 10 Cocha 11 The road to Sucre

Sucre 09Sucre 13Sucre 10Sucre 11We camped in the courtyard at Pachamamma Hostal – a great recommendation from Arjan and Leontien

We only spent one full day here, so really weren’t able to explore as much as we would have liked. What we did find though was another couple, Arthur and Yana also traveling in a VW van, and had a great time sharing stories with them. They told us about the Mercardo Central, one of the best markets we’ve been to so far. We spent hours here, eating soup (less than $1 a bowl), snacking on peanut butter cookies, drinking smoothies and loading up on supplies before heading out into the desert.

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So far lady luck has been well and truly on our side, but she has some different plans in store for us next …

Posted from: my sick bed in Uyuni, Bolivia.