Sunday, 28 February 2010

El Fin del Mundo - The end of the world

It's 13,500km to London and we're closer to the South Pole than Northern Argentina. To our south is the Beagle channel that Charles Darwin sailed through enroute to the Galapagos Islands and to the north we're enclosed by snow capped mountains and cut off from the mainland by the Straits of Magellan. It's also a tad on the windy side.

We finally set off from Buenos Aires on Tuesday afternoon having cajoled our shipping agents into I suspect unprecedented levels of activity, by turning up at the port on Monday morning and harrying them along for 6 hours. Shipping a car to Buenos Aires requires patience. Fact. With the car prepped and good to go and the weather finally sunny side up our morale was soaring and though we've made some good friends there (special shout out to the girls at the hostel, particular Paula who had the unenviable task of walking round with Tom searching for parafin, of which there turned out to be a national shortage) it was great to be finally underway, particularly as our official starting point was over 3,000km away!

We knew our British plates would probably attract attention and within the first hour of leaving Buenos Aires we were pulled over by a slightly rotund policewoman (I'm not fattest; she was) who inspected Phil's passport, driving license, international driving license, insurance, port entry stamp and finally his passport again. Satisfied, potentially disappointedly, that everything was in order she then proceeded to check that our car was ship shape. Surprisingly, it was not. Unbeknownst to us and no doubt all other western travelers, she kindly informed us that our "Roo" bars were infact illegal in Argentina. This constituted an offense that was punishable with an on the spot fine of $300 US that could be conveniently paid directly to her. If however we wanted to pay at the police station it would be a lot more expensive. Apparently it was not necessary to state how much more expensive. After a fairly brief huddle we informed her that we had no money and would happily drive with her to the nearest bank which she had informed us was 60km away. This solution was unfortunately a "grande problemo", we countered with varying degrees of gallic shrugs, it was a stand off, the atmosphere was tense. Then, as quickly as it had started, it was over. Go, she said, and go we did. Proudly displaying our unaltered Roo bars and resisting the temptation to wave considerably more than 300 US dollars at her.

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful. We camped for 3 nights at Azul, Rio Colarado and Comodoro Rivadavia which were all pleasant enough. Each day our distances improved as "faffing" (potentially caused by the only member of our team not inclined to wear green and shout hoo-rah after each press up) was replaced by "good admin". On our 4th day we reached Rio Gallegos and then had a bit of a Forest Gump moment. Having missed out on the first ship due to sail Barry to BA we had waited around for 3 weeks for the next boat, then waited in BA for that boat to turn up, then waited for our shipping agents to do anything shipping agent-esque, then waited for customs inspectors to inspect it.... The starting point was finally so close we drove all night, took the ferry across the Straits of Magellan, crossed into Chile, drove over Chile, crossed back into Argentina and finally down to the south coast of Tierra del Fuego to Ushuaia. The drive across the Patagonian mainland had been mind-numbingly dull, with roads so straight you could see the white lines marking the road aligning perfectly all the way to the horizon and with buildings so sparse that our map actually named a hotel on it. But Tierra del Fuego is mountainous terrain and as we twisted and climbed along the steep bending roads the sun crept towards our most southern dawn and the scenery was spectacular.

We drove straight into town and, having only managed an impromptu in-car sandwich for dinner while waiting for the ferry, went straight for the first open cafe. Thank God Ushuaia is a tourist town (and a cool one at that) because eggs and bacon was on the menu. Back of the net! Obviously having had next to no sleep we were keen to get our heads down, but being the kind of macho men that Chuck Norris has nightmares about, we spent yesterday looking around the town instead and then steaked, wined and beered ourselves all the way to the nightclub dance floor for a devastatingly impressive display of British shape-making.

Tomorrow we are onwards and upwards, literally, with the aim of taking in penguins, icebergs and all the spectacular scenery southern Chile has to throw at us enroute to Santiago. Obviously the unfortunate earthquake is going to make things a lot more difficult, something like 500 roads are now impassable, including parts of the Pan-Am, but those difficulties pale into insignificance when compared with the plight of all those Chileans... No doubt my keen wit, Tom's spectacularly lunging and Phil's boyish arianism will cheer them up.

Tender by Blur has just come on the radio. Tender, Tenderloin, Biffe de Lomo, it's steak-o-clock.


Scott said...

Where? All the way to the end of the world!

Not only are you at the end of the world, but you boys are in the perfect place to watch the end of the world too... Im a little jealous to be honest. I always wanted to be in Chile for the apocalypse. Stock up on canned goods and find a high mountain to climb as the waters rise. Not too close to any volcanoes of which there are plenty in Chile. Finally, build a raft and come fetch me from the terrace of 2 Roman Way... mucho appreciado.

Mikey B Baz said...

Nice cloud scapes - polarising filter?

Paula said...

U mentioned us haha ...Nice photos...Hope u are having fun.
Take care and stay in touch guys

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, welcome to La Paz, Bolivia, the heart of South America. I really enjoy our conversation about your wonderful trip, and for the pictures I think I will follow your entire trip. Please take more pictures,
have a nice stay here with 4000 mts above level sea where we can touch the sky.
Buena suerte en tu viaje amigo

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