She looks nothing like what I thought she would. I always pictured her covered in green forests and full of wildlife.
But really, Patagonia is a desert. Not a sandy desert of course. She looks more like the images we see of African savanas, sans the trees but with small, scrubby bushes here and there.
The change in scenery here is gradual but quick between the forests and lakes of the superb area near Bariloche and the Patagonian desert. For as long as I’m in the mountains, that’s until I reach Esquel thru El Bolson, there’s green and trees.
But the line is drawn after Esquel.
From here on down south, unless I go back into the mountains, the only trees I see are those planted by the local land owners to somewhat protect their estancia against the never ending attacks of the wind. We are talking about around 2000 kms without seeing a single naturally growing tree…
Pretty plain, Patagonia.
Every day, 70 – 80 – 90km/h winds blow non-stop… All summer long.
Apparently, there’s no wind in the winter time.
In the winter time, it’s -25*C and it snows a lot.
But apparently, there’s no wind… At least.
Patagonia is not easy. My hat’s off to those who live here now and to those who always have lived here. They’re tough.
The scenery, now pretty dull, sometimes turns to the extra-ordinairy with seeing of some wildlife. Like here, austriches and guanacos…
…Or turquoise water lakes.
Road condition can also change drastically from acceptable to terrible when going thru construction sites. 20 kms of severe washboard and rocks this big lead to this result, just 100 ft from hitting the new pavement and about 50 kms from the next town.
It’s loads of fun, changing a wheel in 70 km/h winds…
My goal is to try and keep an average of at least 300 kms per day in Patagonia. Today, I thought I would beat my record and do 500. Well, it will have to wait until another day as I have to stop in Rio Mayo to try to find a “gomeria” to fix this. You should know that here, services are very limited. Nothing like calling CAA and that’s it!
So, I sleep near the river in Rio Mayo and, in the morning, after hitting a locked door at the biggest gomeria in town, I have more luck and find a small garage where the owner can help me.
On the other hand, there’s not much he can do when we see this is not a case of just patching things up… Of course, there’s no such thing here as a correct size replacement tube. Good thing I brought a couple!
A Patagonian size puncture.
Fortunately, there’s no damage to the tire !
Argentinos are crazy about old cars. Every day I see older vehicles of all types on this lost road. No4 was always very popular with the crowd, but here it’s the pinnacle. What happens is that Land Cruiser are virtually non-existing here. So, whenever car nuts see an older Land Cruiser, they… Go nuts!
Here, a 1941 Dodge ambulance, straight from England, with right hand drive and all the original equipment.
The owners travel all around Argentina with it!
We are now on our final approach to El Chalten, the small town that lies at the feet of Mount Fitz Roy, which I dream of seeing ever since I began planning this trip.
Due to the unstopping wind, the skies darken just as I arrive.
It is the water from that glacier that give this lake its greenish/turquoise color.
But, as my luck would have it today, the weather gets worst and lots of clouds roll around. Still spectacular nonetheless.
It’s already pretty late in the afternoon, so I guess I will camp here tonight and see if I have more luck tomorrow.
Eating our sorrows away, Minnie and I share a giant burger and greasy fries combo. Like father, like daughter…
The next day:
Mt Fits Roy.
Mt Fitz Roy is located 90 kms off ruta 40 but I have had the chance to see it from as far as 200 kms away!
Of course the place is littered with trails accessible to trekkers-adventurers of all classes, from walkers to extreme climbers but, of course, dogs are not allowed in national parks…
But I’m not going to lay this all on Minnie or the national parks managers… I wanted to see Mt Fitz Roy and I did. I don’t really feel like climbing or walking it. Now, all I want is to get down to the end of the road ASAP. I am looking forward to finishing this trip.
On the other hand, I’m not going to pass up on this unique opportunity to see a true wonder. Of course, I will make a quick stop in Calafate to check out Perito Moreno glacier.
But, of course, here too, dogs are not allowed. But I am not going to miss this. A few kilometers before entering the park, I put Minnie in the camper section, out back. At the gate, the man comes to my window and, as I pay the very modest dues of $30 entering fees (and that’s not including camping as there are no on site camping, $30 is only to LOOK at the glacier…), the man there gets into a nice conversation with me asking me about the truck, the trip, if I travel alone, why, etc…etc…
And all I think about and hope for is that Minnie doesn’t start barking or crying to get out…
But, like the good girl that she is, she doesn’t say a word and I finally can drive off. She will stay there in the back and wait for me in silence until the time I return from my visit of the site.
A first glance of the glacier.
The tiny, little, small thing you see in the center/right area of the photo is a boat. A large boat.
Gives you an idea of the size of this icy giant.
Welcome to the Perito Moreno glacier.
If this is not classified as one of the worlds wonder then there’s a mistake somewhere…
What’s most intriguing is the fact that it kind of feels like this thing is alive. It moves and it cracks non-stop. Every, say 20 seconds, BOOM! CRRRRRACK! PAF! Then, all of a sudden, a piece of it separates and falls in the water down below (like on the first photo). The sound, when the ice touches the water resonnates like an explosion: BOOOOOM!!!! That’s because each piece litteraly weighs tons!
Looking good! (The man, not just the ice).
After about two hours, I leave the park and finally free Minnie. She is in great spirits as always.
It’s getting late so I sleep here in Calafate.
The following day, I leave early in hopes of making good time.
I’ve driven about 90 kms when I hear a light noise coming from the back of the truck. Sort of a repeating “click, click, click”. But the road isn’t that good and I can’t hear too well for all the other noises. It could very well come from all the cracks in the pavement. In any case, the noise stops 10 seconds later.
Then another 15 seconds later, nothing. Like really nothing. I step on the pedal, the engine revs up but I’m not accelerating.
No more propulsion.
VROOOOM, VROOOOM! But I’m constantly slowing down.
I try changing gear, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, nothing. And I’m slowing down quickly.
90 – 80km/h
I need to make a decision and fast.
70 – 60km/h
A problem that suddenly appears like that is probably pretty serious.
50 – 40km/h
Chances are I might need a tow truck.
30 – 20km/h
Still nothing. I could easily drive down the ditch and farther from the road but…
20 – 10km/h
…It would make things more complicated for the tow truck if need be.
10 – 0km/h
Well, that’s it. I reach a grinding stop. Stranded, by the side of the road, alone in Patagonia…
I start by trying all the gears one more time, including reverse.
Then, I try shifting the transfer case into the short gears to see if that works.
I get out of the car and immediately see smoke coming from the tip of the rear axel on the right hand side. The axel housing is blackened and has a strong smell of overheated metal to it… Just getting closer to it, you can feel the heat…
I get back in the car and engage 4X4 figuring I could move using the front wheel traction to, at least, go back to Calafate. But No4 refuses to move. When I slowly let go the clutch, he grunts, he bends out of shape from pain, he wants to die but he’s not moving. Like everything would be frozen solid; in 20 degree weather…
I need a tow truck.
I get the cell phone out but, of course, there’s no service out here in the middle of nowhere.
I’m 90 kms from Calafate, where there’s not much; 250 kms from the next village, where there’s nothing; and 900 kms from my ultimate goal, Ushuaia.
Out of a 57,000kms trip.
No cell. Nobody in sight. The wind howling.
I’m this deep in shit…