road trip

You are currently browsing articles tagged road trip.

On October 20, 2009, 20 months, 18 border crossings and 45,946 km later we arrived in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego without a single flat tire.

The end of the drive...

Marlin, our little red battler, survived temperatures ranging from -40 to +40ºC, painfully huge speedbumps, numerous river crossings and some of the craziest roads to bring us to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

The end of the road actually lies within Tierra del Fuego’s Parque Nacional  – a packed, dirt road winds through thick forest taking you to the end of Ruta Tres.  And from, there, well you are going to have to walk if you want to get any further.

Wine at the end of the world

We enjoyed a picnic at the end of the road with good friends and fellow roadtrippers, Kristin and Chris.  Wine (from the end of the world of course), some nibblies and lots of laughter capped off our trip.

It is hard to believe that after all our saving, talking, planning and, of course, driving we are suddenly here.  It is quite surreal and at this moment I think we are still a bit stunned that we made it.  A few nights before we arrived I lay awake pondering our travels over the past 20 months. With the Pan American Highway now behind us, I tossed and turned disbelieving that our driving adventure was coming to a close (at least for now). So we find ourselves at the end (literally and figuratively) with our trusty little Volkswagen Golf thinking of the generosity of those we met along the way, the countries we have seen, the moments of frustration, the laughter, the learning and the knowledge that a small car and a couple of regular people can sometimes do something just a little bit out of the ordinary.

Ushuaia

The land at the end of the road

The point breaks in Chile are legendary – bonfire rumors of long lefts, icy waters and uncrowded waves had both of us excited about our prospects as we rolled into Pichilemu, home to the world’s largest collection of left hand point breaks. Kels had hooked us up with a sweet camp spot, it was low season, we were with friends and there were waves to be had.

The point was roaring, I rented a 4 x 3 full-suit, got some pointers from a local and jumped in off the rocks at Punta de Lobos. It can be a bit of a tricky paddle, you have to time it between the sets or you run the risk of getting pushed back onto the rocks. Adrenaline kept me paddling until I was out of harm’s way, but after about 5 minutes I was slowing down and soon I could barely move my arms. It was then that I realised that I hadn’t been in a full wetsuit for years and that I was very unfit.

When we came back the next day the swell was gone, leaving no indication of the thundering lefts of the previous day. But I was happy, I’d caught a couple waves and we were lucky enough to see Punta de Lobos on a good day, the water is cold but the locals are friendly and the waves are world class.

we are here

we are here

The other day our road trip hit 40,000 kilometers which is the circumference of the earth at the equator. I think when we get to Ushuaia we’ll be nearer to 50,000 and Marlin, our trusty little VW Golf, will earn his final flag driving the Pan American Highway to South America.

final-flag

One thing we noticed right away in Uruguay were people carrying strange leather cups and thermoses: on the beach, walking around the city, the campground, the hot springs, drinking it in their cars… maté was literally everywhere.

Maté actually refers to a small gourd some of which can be elaborately decorated, wrapped in leather, embellished with silver or inset into cows hooves.  The tea is referred to as yerba.  This tea is sipped through a metal tube called a bombilla which acts as both a straw and a sieve, the whole ensemble is completed with a thermos which is usually carried tucked in the crook of the elbow.

Not wanting to miss out on the fun we decided to wander around Montevideo and try to find ourselves a maté and bombilla set that we both liked. Tom picked his up first (only after we saw every mate dealer in the whole old city) and I found mine in a small Saturday market and bought it direct from a man who handmade them…making Tom rather jealous.

There are a million rules about how to prepare and drink maté…but it all depends on who you talk to and since Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay all partake in the yerba ritual you could hear a lot of different stories—but from what we have read and seen Uruguayans are the most serious maté drinkers, consuming twice as much maté per capita than their Argentine amigos

Preparing Maté – Uruguayan style
We had the lovely owners of Punto Berro Hostel in Montevideo give us a lesson on how to prepare and drink maté, this is our summarized version:

How to make mate from Kels M on Vimeo.

Maté Etiquette
Maté is serious business here in Latin America.  It is more than just ‘drinking tea’ it is a centuries old ritual that is deeply ingrained in the culture and if you’re invited to share a maté you really shouldn’t refuse as sharing mate is seen as extending friendship.  Another steadfast and important rule is to leave the bombilla alone, don’t fuss with it or do anything crazy like pull it out or stir it around, once it is set it stays there until the maté ritual is finished.

Mate Flavour
As for the flavour, well I think this maybe  one of those things you learn to like.  It sort of like green tea only a whole lot stronger and at times bitter though every Uruguayan we met was sure that we would learn to love it.  We started out on one which was rather potent and have since backtracked to Abuelita (little grandmother) to slowly work towards proper appreciation.

Green rolling hills and long quiet country roads led us to Panagea Ranch where Juan and Susann welcomed us in to spend four days ‘playing Gaucho’ in rural Uruguay.

The term gaucho can loosely be defined as “cowboy” though it refers more to a nomadic group that lived off the land from the very south in Patagonia, to the west in the Andes and all the way to the southern state of Parana in Brazil. A distinctive part of Uruguayan culture, the gauchos are known as proud, fierce horsemen and remain a symbol against corruption even today.

We spent the next four days riding horses, herding cattle and sheep, assisting (though you might have to check with Juan if we actually did help) the gauchos, feeding the orphaned animals, playing badminton and stuffing ourselves with the most amazing meals – all made on a wood-burning stove by Susann. Gourmet gaucho meals mean real potato salad, the most delicious beef, green salads with organic lettuce from the garden, vegetarian options and other tasty delights.  We had seconds at every meal…good thing gaucho pants are pretty roomy.

The estancia (ranch) is a true getaway.  Secluded in the countryside and limited to 2 hours of electricity per day (7:30 to 9:30pm – by generator) one can find the time to relax, think, read, walk  – encompassed in a comfortable silence where you can hear the beat of a hummingbird’s wings.

Playing Gaucho from Kels M on Vimeo.

« Older entries