tyler trotman at rest
It is time to fill all y'all in on what has taken place on Caravana
Pan-Americana since we left Ushuaia. Excuse me for using the word y'all.
After living with two people from Louisiana for five months I felt it
was time for me to use the word for the first time. I promise to limit
my use of y'all.
I do not remember what Jeanne said in her dispatches about Ushuaia.
Her last update was around new years eve or new years day. By that point
Jeanne was definitely ready to get back on the road. I on the other
hand was staying in a nice hotel with my girlfriend, my sister and three
other friends. Leaving was not as urgent for me, but by the time my
group of friends left I could understand where Jeanne was coming from.
one of my friends who came down to Ushuaia, would be driving with me
for a week and then would find a way to get to Buenos Aires to catch
his plane home on January 10. Brian arrived in Ushuaia, a week before
the rest of us, with his girlfriend Niara. Niara, Wini (my sister),
Stephanie (my girlfriend) and Karen (my maid) said farewell to Ushuaia
early on the morning of the 3rd. Jeanne, Shay, Brian and I were to leave
Leaving was not so easy. We all needed to do x, y and z before leaving
town. The two vans needed propane. My van needed new brake pads. We
also could not forget one last stop at Maco Burger, the best burger
joint in all of Tierra Del Fuego. Maco was a success and so was getting
propane. The problem was we never made it out of town. Jeanne's left
front outer CV joint finally failed. We took it to a mechanic who removed
the axle making the van 3WD instead of 4WD. By the time he was finished
it was too late to leave Ushuaia. It was not that bad. We stayed in
a nice hotel and were able to go see Charlie's Angels at the one movie
theatre in town. I liked the angels, just the angels. I also liked that
it was acceptable to drink beer in the theatre.
morning of the 4th we were up and out of Ushuaia in no time. The drive
just north was interesting if you are not afraid of heights, a little
scary if you are. The road winds up the side of a mountain and the sides
get steeper. I will get to the point quickly this time. If you go off
the road, and there is no rail or anything to stop you, your car will
bounce down a cliff and blow up. Christian, the guy I picked up hitchhiking
a couple days before we got to Ushuaia, said that one of his uncles
was in a truck that dangled off the cliff for a while. He is still alive.
Our plan was to drive to Porvenir and catch a ferry to Punta Arenas.
There are only two places to get a ferry to Tierra Del Fuego so it seemed
logical to try them both. This ferry was supposed to be a couple hours
long unlike the one we originally took to get to Tierra Del Fuego. We
arrived in Porvenir and my van arrived with two flat tires. Luckily
we were at a gas station and the tires could be fixed. Jeanne went to
town to check on the ferry schedule while my tires were being fixed.
She came back with bad news. The next ferry would not be leaving for
another 24 hours and we might not even be able to get on that ferry.
decide to drive back to the other ferry which was a couple hours away,
but was closer to Ushuaia than where we were. In other words, it would
have been much quicker just to have driven to the ferry we originally
took on the way south. I was not a happy camper at this point. We were
just across a body of water from where we wanted to be. Now we had to
drive a couple hours east just to double back and drive even more hours
west. If you are confused please look at a map.
About half way to the ferry I noticed that my tire was again flat.
Brian, Shay and I got the tire changed and we were off again. We arrived
at the ferry around 7pm. This ferry runs every half hour so catching
it would not be a problem. As we were waiting in line a hitchhiker asked
Brian and I if she could have a ride to Punta Arenas. We said sure.
Her name is Daniela. She is a Brazilian hitchhiking her way to the United
States all alone. Some of you readers think we are crazy to be doing
what we are doing. I wonder what you think about a Daniela's trip?
Around 11pm we arrived in Punta Arenas. We found a gas station and
were permited to camp behind it. Daniella pitched her tent. Boots and
I got the van ready and Jeanne and Shay were asleep.
A warm morning of blue sky and sunshine greeted us as we awoke. Jeanne
and Shay took off to Puerto Natales while Brian and I went shopping
for a new tire in the duty free zone of Punta Arenas. I bought a new
tire, a different brand but same number. My tires are 205/75R14s. The
new tire I bought was the same. However, my tires are really 295/75R14
93C and the tire bought was 205/75R14 95C. The new tire was about an
inch taller. The tire that I replaced was totally destroyed. The inside
of the tire was a ton of back dust from the rubber and a whole bunch
of metal line.
My van started to have another problem at about the same time. I would
hear a big bang coming from the bottom of the van about 10 minutes after
turning off the ignition at the end of the day. The ventilation lines
to the gas tank were clogged with dirt, which resulted in the banging
noise from the gas tank expanding and contracting. I would attempt to
fix this problem a couple times in January.
and I arrived in Puerto Natales a couple hours after Jeanne and Shay.
We were all sitting at a restaurant drinking beer when an American came
over. He was a fly fisherman and was traveling around Chile with his
wife. He was at the restaurant alone. He was drunk and painful to listen
to. It wasn't that he was bombed, he just wouldn't stop talking about
nothing. Brian and Shay got up and left. A couple minutes later I had
to do the same. Jeanne was left there alone with him. She eventually
comes out pretending to get a cigarette. She begged for us to come in
and save her. We did and we were out of there.
We found a place to camp right in town and arranged to take a twelve
hour tour of Torres Del Paine the next day. The park is named after
its super tall multicolored rock towers. The park also has a cool waterfall
and a big glacier. I will try to send some digital photos to the website.
Trying to describe the park would not do it justice. One
memorable moment was Brian attempting to get as close to a guanaco as
possible. A guanaco is a four legged animal similar to a llama. There
are many guanacos in the parks of Patagonia along with some you have
to avoid on the roads. We stopped at one of those places which had a
nice view of the bright blue lake, the sleek steep tower and white jagged
glacier. About fifty yards below us were a couple guanacos sitting by
the lake. Brian slowly crept down there and spent about ten minutes
face to face with one of the guanacos. The guanaco eventually grew tired
of Brian's face and ran away. The last part of the tour you walk to
a lake to see giant floating pieces of ice, which were once a part of
the glacier. Some small pieces of the ice were within reach so Brian,
Shay, Jeanne and I spent some time sucking on the ice. The ice is very
interesting. Ice cubes in your freezer or icicles hanging off your roof
are never totally clear. They always have bubbles in them or lines in
them. The ice from the glacier was perfectly clear, no bubbles or lines.
Jeanne is bringing back some of the water for her friend who is a water
quality engineer to examine.
those of you who have never seen a glacier or photos of a glacier I
want to mention that they have awesome shades of blue that comes from
the ice. If anybody knows what causes the blue, please tell me.
Our next stop would be El Calafate. We were now back in Argentina.
El Calafate is drop-off point for seeing Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
The Perito Moreno glacier is what everyone comes to see. The glacier
was beautiful or as Jeanne says gorgeous. It is too big to describe.
Try to picture thousands of jagged white skyscrapers all connected in
some way or another for as far as you can see. They travel for thousands
of year down the mountain just to reach the bright blue lake where in
one crash boom bang they become an iceberg.
The four of us spent two nights at a campground on the edge of town.
The first night was fun. We went out to dinner. Jeanne drank a boat
load of tequila, because I couldn't. I spilled mine on my lap. We spent
the night back at the campground playing Uno. Uno is Brian's favorite.
For those of you who know Uno, we make it a little more exciting by
playing with a new rule. It is the interception rule. In Uno, you take
turns playing cards of the same number or color. The interception rule
allows you to play out of turn if you have a card the same number and
color as the one on the table. Once you make the interception play continues
with the person next to you. Uno is usually fairly borrowing and this
rule keeps players on their toes and makes it a little more competitive.
Uno ended. Jeanne and Shay went to bed. Brian and I decide to hide
Shay's shoes. Maybe we had just a little too much to drink. The next
morning comes and one of the shoes cannot be found. Shay is running
around in Jeanne's sandals. Jeanne is a little upset that the shoe is
gone. The shoe was eventually found on top of one of the vans. The whole
shoe thing turned out to be a lot worse than it seemed.
Jeanne and Shay somehow got into a fight while discussing how Shay
could not get revenge on me for the shoe thing. You don't need to know
anymore about the roots of the fight. Shay was banished from the van.
He was to sleep on the picnic table outside the van. It was cold so
I invited him into my van to sleep on the floor in the sleeping bag.
Three boys in one van for the night didn't result in the nicest of smells
in the morning. Shay had bad athletes foot and it made the sleeping
bag reek. By the way, he is now using his foot powder that his dear
auntie purchased for him. His feet no longer smell.
would take a bus to Rio Gallegos then next day (Jan 10), where he would
take a plane to Buenos Aires and the fly back to New York City. Jeanne,
Shay and I were on the road again. The next 4 days we traveled on long
gravel road. The word for gravel in Spanish is ripio. We always dread
the ripio. After driving for many hours on the 10th we arrived in Tres
Lagos, a small deserted town in the middle of nowhere. The town had
a campground. Yes, it was deserted too. A couple hours after we set
up camp the owner arrived and welcomed us. He unlocked the bathrooms
and let us know how much we would be paying him for the night. It wasn't
much. The bathrooms were clean and nice but the toilets did not have
any seats. I hate that. Usually, if a campground has toilets without
seats I will find a new campground. This was the only campground in
town so I didn't have a choice. The worst toilets in South America are
the ones designed for squatting. This is a toilette in the ground with
a place for each foot. I refuse to use these toilets. I think Shay may
have used one in Brasil. You can ask him about it.
The 11th would be another long day on the ripio which would bring
us to Parque Nacional Perito Moreno. This is not the park with the glacier.
It takes two hours to drive into the park. The road gets very tricky
at some points. It is very important to know exactly where your tires
are at all times. Sometimes it was necessary to keep my tires on elevated
pieces of dirt in the road that were maybe two or three inches wide.
It can be a royal pain in the ass. Anyway, I don't recommend going to
this park after seeing Torres Del Paines and the glacier. I was at the
point where the last thing I wanted to see was another beautiful light
blue lake with a mountain behind it. The highlight of the day was leaving
the park. We stayed at an Estancia in the park, which had a hotel and
a campground. We stayed at the campground. The owner wanted to know
if we wanted to buy any gas as we were leaving. The gas was in a big
drum. I pulled up and before I knew it the owner put a hose in the drum
and siphoned the gas out and shoved the hose in my van. That cannot
be too healthy.
About two hours into the trip north I got my sixth flat tire. Jeanne
was well in front of me and it took her a while to realize that I had
stopped moving. My spare tire was flat from a flat I had gotten a day
before. Meanwhile, the wind was blowing so hard that I could jump up
into the air and it would blow me about two feet forward. Jeanne returned
to where I had stopped and learned that I needed her spare tire. Shay
and I got the tire changed and we were off again. Our resting point
that night, the night of the 12th, would be the town of Bajo Caracoles.
This is one of the most remote places ever. It is essentially just a
gas station with a motel hundreds of miles away from the nearest small
town. The three of us had cheeseburgers and played rummy 500. I had
to win because I just cannot sleep when I lose to Jeanne when playing
next day promised to be better. It was, at first, for me. I got to witness
Jeanne getting stuck in the gravel road and then getting pulled out
by the road scraper. I have a nice digital photo of the grannyjean being
pulled out by the road scrapper. Road scrapers are these giant machines
which flatten gravel roads so cars don't bottom out. Grannyjeanne is
the name of Jeanne's van. This name has two roots. The first is that
her license plate says vnajean. That is supposed to mean vanajeanne
which is similar to vanagon. Jeanne also refers to the syncro's low
gear as the granny gear. On a couple occasions she use the term granny
gear one too many times. Therefore, Shay and I renamed her van the grannyjeanne.
Our destination for the 13th was the town of Perito Moreno, not to
be confused with the glacier or the park of the same name � they are
all widely separated. The only good thing about this town was the paved
streets. We got to town and went to a restaurant named Ruta 40. Don't
ever go there. Jeanne and Shay's food tasted like metal. It was another
town, similar to some on the east coast of Argentina, that had a lot
of buildings and roads but no people. There is not much more to say
about this town. It does make my top ten list of places not to see in
The next day our trip would get more interesting. This would become
my favorite day of driving thus far on Caravana Pan-Americana. We were
driving from Perito Moreno, Argentina to Coyhaique, Chile. There was
a 20 mile section of road before the border that will always be remembered.
The road is on the map. It probably shouldn't be. On a road map the
road appears to be the most direct route from El Portezuelo to Balmaceda(which
is where the border is). The road is not so difficult at first but just
puzzling. Every half mile there would be a wire gate with heavy wood
posts. It would take two people to open and close each gate. One of
them we couldn't close. I wonder if there are any lost cattle. Once
we got past all the lakes we ran into a big mud pit. Before the mud
pit one could see from tire tracks that some cars did a three point
turn and chose not to attempt to pass. We decided to give it a try.
Jeanne went first with the grannyjeanne and I successfully followed.
There would be many more creeks and mud pits and cliffs and holes to
come. Some creeks involved rearranging the rocks of the creek to get
through. The process of getting through each obstacle was fun. Maybe
it wouldn't have been so if we had got stuck. One highlight for Shay
was on a narrow road at the top of a cliff. This part of the road worried
Jeanne the most. Heights do not scare Jeanne but she is definitely afraid
of being in a vehicle on the side of a cliff. She feels as thought the
cliff may collapse with the weight of the van. While Jeanne was negotiating
the proper tracks to take, Shay started tossing big boulders down the
cliff. I started doing the same too. The cliff was about 200 yards tall
at about a 65 degree angle. At the bottom of the cliff there was a river.
I have never had so much fun throwing rocks. The cliff's surface was
flat hard sand. Rocks would really bounce off the surface all the way
down and then through the river. A rock getting to the other side of
the river was a good shot.
I am sorry to take so long describing something that may seem so trivial.
Sometimes the most trivial things are the most memorable. I feel like
that any of you who have made it this far are not going to be able to
take much more. Today is Feb 3 and I have been sitting at this computer
for hours trying to remember what happened in the month of January.
I will call this dispatch Caravana Post Ushuaia Part 1 and then continue
with Part 2 some other time.