Van Captain Log: Day 1

We woke up in a parking lot in Punta Arenas and had to scurry to find some loo’s, which is making itself to be one of the more difficult part of the journey. Although and THIS IS BIG NEWS…we found peanut butter!!! This may not seem like a huge deal but down here, almost at Antarctica, its rare. We bought a 250ml jar for about 2200 peso’s which is about $5. Totally worth it!

We made some breakfast and I took off to get Alfonso insured… after 4 different companies, 18 uses of google translate and a whole lot of determination we are insured in Chile! Also insurance in Chile is only $20USD for 109 days… pretty reasonable I’d say.

A couple we met in Santiago (Ivan and Tash) came down and are joining us in Alfonso for the trip to Ushuaia and then back to Torres Del Paines (from there, we’ll see how much we still like each other and go further with them if it works out). We started our journey again grabbing some groceries and prepping for our trip to Ushuaia.

There is an area in Punta Arenas called Zona Franca, which is a massive outlet store area with amazing deals and no tax, so Ivan and Natasha bought sleeping bags (2 for $80) and we got some bits and bobs for Alfonso for the kitchen. Our next stop was a Shell station that Christian recommended to us to fill the propane for Alfonso and get some gas. At this point I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable at driving Alfonso through cities and the highway is a breeze (or gust). We left for Ushuaia aiming to get about half way before making camp some where. The drive was lovely, the Patagonian prairies are amazing and full of wildlife.

On the way to Ushuaia you have to catch a ferry, which is an amazing system they have locked down. We got a spot and for one vehicle it’s only 15000 pesos. The ferry was very cool. It’s only 30 minutes and forges some pretty rough sea. The wind here is truly impressive. We made land and started driving for somewhere using an app called iOverlander, which has been recommended by everyone that has driven down here. On it are spots, marked by other drivers, that they have either camped at or passed by. They have reviews and are really helpful for other overlanders to find nice spots for a night.

We were starting to get tired and hungry and pulled into a town called Cerro Sombrero (yes, direct translation is Hat Mountain), and Becca found us an AMAZING campsite. Free wifi (awesome), wind protection and a brand new free bathroom facility, hot showers and all. It was a treat after a day travelling and learning Alfonso’s nuisances (which are many, but we love him anyway).

We got our campsite all set up and then Ivan started cooking us 1 pot chicken fajitas. He’s a chef back in Australia, so definitely a good guy to have on board. Tash is also lovely so we’ll let her stay as well. Dinner was great but by the time we finished it was already 10ish and everyone was zapped so we all went to bed. Tash and Ivan are in a tent that came with the camper, which has actually kept them more dry than we’ve been in the van!

The next morning we took our time getting on the road. Everyone had showers and we enjoyed a lazy breakfast. Ushuaia was only about a 5 hour drive from Cerro Sombrero (though there was a border crossing). We took off around 11 and the drive was really smooth until about 50km from the border when the entire road turned to bad potholed dirt track. So we began to crawl towards the border which felt like torture, poor Alfonso is not a huge fan of dirt roads with crater-sized pot holes. At the border, after using some serious google translate and finding a certain piece of paper that was tucked away in a secret folder, we were through the Chilean side of the border. There is about 15km of more (slightly smoother) dirt road between Chile and Argentina, so again we crawled.

The Argentinian border went quite smoothly, we had all documents in order and flew through! After that we drove the 250+ kms to Ushuaia with a quick stop for gas. I think it has rained just about the entire time we’ve been in Ushuaia but luckily during one of the most stunning drives I’ve ever encountered, we had blue skies. The road takes us along Lago Fagnano which is surrounded by snow capped mountains and beautiful forest.

Then, once entering Ushuaia, it’s like entering chaos. The traffic and drivers in this city make no sense. People turning left have the right of way and there aren’t really stop signs, just some yield signs that are ignored. However, again after some iOverlander magic, Becca found us a pretty awesome “unofficial” campground that sported an impressive view of Ushuaia and the surrounding mountains. Ivan again (he’s coming a hero) whipped up an impressive pasta dinner using soup powder and magic I think. Tomorrow night we’re going to be sleeping in the National Park of Tierra del Fuego, very excited about that and hoping the clouds break, even a little.

(Photos to follow, the wifi in Ushuaia does not seem to want to add photos to our blog!)

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