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Argentina Trip - Part 2
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Mr. Driver

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I thought this sign on an Argentine road on the way to Chile was nicely formal, and a little funny: Mr. Driver.

Senor Conductor

Part 1 - Crossing into Chile: A bad start

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My trip into Chile didn’t start off well. On the first attempt I didn’t make it beyond the hotel.

I walked out to the car and oil was all over the street. The car rental agency said it would take a day to get me a different car. Then a dry cough kept me up all night, my sunglasses got lost, and it took 1.5 hours to find the road out of town due to a lousy map and no street signs. I was in a really bad mood.

Cafe de Te

But then things started to change. As I got on the road it became increasing beautiful with the long blue lakes and forests. About 10 kilometers from the border of Chile I saw a wooden sign for a cafe and decided to take a chance.

It was down an unpromising dusty gravel road, but I’m glad I went there. It was a perfectly maintained, very German, log cabin. Outdoor seating, flowers, and about 500 meters from the lake.

Chicken and riceTo eat, I ordered a chicken and rice plate, and a small bottle of Coke. Both were delicious - I don’t drink Coke a lot,  but I think it tastes better outside the United States (I’ve heard it’s because they use real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup - it seems to have more of an acidic taste which I like). At the least it is more appetizing because it comes in tiny glass bottles rather than the plastic ones.

So from a really bad start, my day got better, and I hadn’t even reached the border.

Just wait until you read what happens next. And yes, it involves a hitch-hiker.

Besides the volcanoes …

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I really like the clouds here in Chilean Patagonia.

img_2231

img_2241

Shutter lag happens at the worst times

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While taking a break 3/4 of the way up the volcano, these guys decided to get a picture taken of them in mid-air. I guess with the background if the ground is out of the picture it looks like they are free-falling.

Well, if you have a ever used a compact digital camera, you know there is delay after you press the shutter button. I took this picture on their fourth attempt - we all got a good laugh out of it. They would tell the guy taking the picture to half-press the shutter button, and press all the way when they were in the air, but he wasn’t getting it until maybe attempt number six.

Shutter lag on volcano

Up and back down a volcano

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I made it to a town in the Chilean Andes called Pucon, the major feature of which is a volcano that towers overhead.

 

It was a tough, four-hour trek up that volcano side through rocks, snow, ice and strong winds, but ultimately worth it. Here I am taking a brief break - notice how the clouds in background are below me.

Here is a picture of me at the edge of the volcano, which last erupted in the mid-eighties, but now is believed to be safe. I have on a helmet to protect me from falling rocks, a cloth hat covering my head and neck with an opening for my face, lots of sunscreen, wrappings to keep snow out of tops of my boots, and I am leaning on an a type of ice axe (not sure of official name). Unseen are my mittens, sun glasses and snow pants.

This is a shot looking into the volcano. We could not see any lava, but smoke and sulfur gasses were coming up and every once in while there was the sound of an explosion like someone setting off dynamite far down below.

The views of the surrounding lakes and volcanoes were unbeatable from any other location.

I was exhausted at the top of the mountain, but we still had to go all the way down. Luckily it was much easier. They had us put on the snow pants, get on our butts, and slide down grooves they had made in the snow.

We left the town at 7 a.m. and returned at 4:30 p.m., tired, sore and soaking wet from the snow. I managed to stop by a restaurant to eat some local salmon and then headed for bed. Best night of sleep I have had since getting here.

Watch those narrow mountain roads

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I saw this story about a wreck on a mountain road in western United States and thought that it could easily have happened here in Chile or Argentina (though the emergency response would have been different).

The roads are tiny and many times there is a mountain wall on one side, and drop-off on the other.

In Uruguay I met a British woman who rented a 4×4 truck to drive around Bolivia and once met a bus driver who either couldn´t or wouldn´t get any closer to the mountain wall. She was scared to get closer to the cliff, so did the only alternative: waive the driver on by and let him scrape the side of the truck and break off the sideview mirror.

So far nothing like that has happened to me which is good because the car I´m driving would crumple into a tiny tin can in that situation anyway.

Driving in Patagonia

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As you can tell from the video, it was some rough driving through the lake district of Patagonia, but well worth it for the views. Something must have happened to the car because yesterday I was about to take it out and there was oil all over the street.

So didn’t get out much yesterday, but today they dropped off a new car for me. Next stop: Chile.

Made it to Patagonia

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David in Patagonia

It’s been an amazing time since my journey here started on New Year’s Eve. Patagonia is an incredibly beautiful, exciting place to be. If you have never rented a car and explored this place, it is something to put on your “to do” list. And move it to the top.

New Video: Driving in Uruguay

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As I’m about to get another car  and drive through Patagonia, I thought I’d post a short collection of scenes through the window of me driving through Uruguay. You’ll see trees along the road, me passing a motorcycle and me driving behind a horse and cart, just before passing them (I thought I should put the camera down while passing a horse).

A little awkward at the Piriapolis bathroom

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The beaches along Piriapolis do not have actual public restrooms, but there are  four or five ¨johnny-on-the-spot¨ portable bathrooms set up for people to use.

Normally these are gross, but here each one had a woman seated next to it, with a cleaning bucket. I asked how much it cost to use and the woman said ¨gratis¨, so I entered the facility.

It wasn´t clear to me how the women were paid - I guess it was by either the city or national government. Or maybe they did this for the tips?

I asked the owner of my apartment if we were supposed to tip them, and he wasn´t sure, but suggested maybe five pesos.

When I was done and opened the door, she was standing right there, her head coming up to my chest. She had put on her red latex gloves and stood there with her bucket, looking at me. I didn´t tip her and I´m sorry if I was supposed to - there was no mess, but I just wanted to get out of that whole situation as fast as possible.