Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's about time

Only 5 months and 30,000 miles on the odometer but I made it to Ushuaia. Took me long enough. And what an ignominious arrival it was. Not the glory, emotion and fanfare I anticipated. Well that wasn’t the expectation but frustration and embarrassment was not the way I envisioned it all those years ago. Although oddly enough Ushuaia is almost exactly how I thought it would be. It’s obvious the ongoing discontent between Chile and Argentina no longer involves land mines and militarized borders but it’s more subtle than that. You mention to a Chilean that you are headed to Ushuaia and they get mad and tell you Punta Arenas is a far better destination. I told my hotel clerk I was planning to ship out of Punta Arenas and you would have thought I just called his sister a whore. Part of what I assume is just more passive aggressive disharmony (can I really use discontent and disharmony in the some paragraph? Wow I need a better vocabulary) is the island of Tierra del Fuego. It is split between the two countries and the Chilean portion is flat and ugly and full of sheep and rye grass. The Argentines have the mountains, glaciers, the ocean, lakes, and forest. So what does Chile do? They allow their portion of the highway to fall into utter embarrassment. For a country with such splendid highways and scenic back roads the condition of Ruta 257 has to be intentional. It is the worst road I have seen outside of Baja or Bolivia. Dusty and potholed with a huge crown and awful ruts down the sides. It was a brutal 75 miles. And ugly too. Take northwest Utah/southeast Idaho and press it flat as a board. Yep that is the northern half of Tierra del Fuego. Brutal. Within 10 miles of crossing the 30k mark on the odometer I get not only my first rock chip of the trip (a miracle in and of itself I lasted this long) but the second also. Both quarter sized. So now I have an excuse to replace my leaking windshield. Cross the border into Arg and smooth as silk pavement. I stopped for a pizza last night and thought I heard a grinding noise coming from the rear end of my truck. I found a place to camp and this morning woke up full of excitement for the sunshine and the hour long drive into Ushuaia. Put the truck in gear and heard the noise again. It got slowly worse down the winding canyon road to the ocean. I pulled into town, took a pic of the Ushuaia sign and went in search of a hotel with a parking lot. Found two, both too expensive. By now the noise was a loud screeching metallic sound. I rolled out west of the city, parked on the side of the road and began my search. It sounded like a driveline so I took out my rubber mallet and started smacking things. Nothing. Figured it might be one of the rear brakes or ebrake. Hadn’t swapped rear pads all trip so I began that project. I needed it. Then the rookie mistake. My dumb ass forgot to chock the front wheels. There I am basically hugging the rear driver’s side rotor taking the caliper off and then Ruby decided to roll off the jack. I managed to get out in time but I was a bit rattled, and even more embarrassed because the foursome on the tee box next to the road had just asked if I needed help and I told them I was totally fine and had it under control. So then I had to get out the hi-lift jack, which because of the amount of travel in my suspension was maxed out getting the bottle jack back in place. Let’s say 4 hours to rotate all 6 tires and change brake pads. Oh and it rained the last 90 mins of that time too. That project in a garage with a floor jack and air would take 45mins – 1hour at the most. Never did find an issue so I climbed back under the truck. Now that the truck had rolled forward I could see that the cap on the rear ujoint on the rear driveline was cracked. Sweet. By this time I was sick of the rain and mud and being cold so I drove back into town, ignoring the stares, waves and points at my howling rear driveline and found a hotel. Ruby is sitting parked on the street below waiting for me to go down in the morning and pull the rear driveline. It’s 2wd from here on out. Should be fun going back through the Chilean fiasco they call a road. I had a wonderful dinner of steak and potatoes, some excellent ice cream again and now, finally, it is starting to sink in that I am here. And with that a new paragraph.

You all might be expecting some ‘follow your dreams’ rant tonight but that’s not going to happen. There are plenty of books you can read or seminars to attend for that spiel. What I am going to talk about is what it was like to fulfill mine and I’ll hold off on the emotional confusion I have from being here for a later date.The hardest thing to explain or have someone else fully understand is the factor that J brought up in his guest post. I mentioned a few months ago of how it felt like this trip has lasted years. I mean that in a good way. Think back to the last vacation you went on. After a week you can’t believe how fast the time has gone by but it also seems like the previous weekend was months ago. Now extrapolate that over 30 weeks. Only 3 or 4 times have I traveled the same road more than once. Essentially every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month for five months has been a new experience. It is no wonder my mind is tired and I have a hard time processing what is going on. It’s been inundated with new information nonstop since I left home. I was not a sedentary person before my trip. I lived a pretty active life. I still feel like I’ve learned and experienced more in the last 5 months than the previous 10 years. Hell I’ve been surviving using a language that is not my own. That alone has wrought a huge change. But what about these experiences? What are they? Why are they so impactful? Fairly simple actually.

I apologize to any female readers but the following analogy will be a bit more germane to the male audience. I made a comment to my friend Traske a few months back about spending hours on the road in Colombia and not remembering having any conscious thought. Just the other day in Torres del Paine I realized I’d been staring at a mountain for almost two hours with nothing going on in my head. So think back to when you were 11 or 12. If you struggle to remember back that far (paul) watch Stand By Me and the chat Gordy, Chris, Teddy and Vern have around the campfire. Annette from Mickey Mouse Club. Goofy being a dog. Cherry Flavored Pez. Then recall that time when you and your friends had no concerns. The time in your life when you could spend an hour or a week building a track in your neighbor’s field for bmx races. Or scrounging supplies for the jump on which one of you would inevitably hurt yourself or your bike. Or the time you and Chad Hawley rode your skateboards to all three 7-11s in South Davis County (WX, Centerville, Bountiful) to get Slurpees only to realize you covered about 20 miles that day. BB gun wars, baseball and basketball games, riding atv’s, building tree forts, playing Zelda, Metroid or Contra. When you would wake up, call your friends and whatever you did you did and it was a blast. No concerns of mortgages, time clocks, deadlines etc.

That has been my last 5 months. I can’t think of more than a dozen times where I actually had something to do. 6 of which involved friends and airports which was something I was excited to do. Some days I woke up at 6am (hot as hell beaches in Costa Rica or Mexico, bitter cold photo taking of Cerro Fitzroy) Some days I woke up at noon, just in time to check out of my $12 hotel. If I liked a place I’d stay far longer than planned like Huaraz, Peru. Some towns I got there and couldn’t flee fast enough like Guatemala City. Making decisions one at a time without concern for the next is a very pure process. When I got to La Esperanza the other day and there was no gas I decided to go to Rio Gallegos instead of Puerto Natales. I had no idea what was in Rio Gallegos except gas stations so that’s is where I went. Torres del Paine would be there if I took 1 day or 3 days to get there. The headaches of border crossings and petty policia are very minor in the grand scheme of life. They cause great frustration in a trip like mine because they are such a contrast to the contented bliss I spend the rest of my time wandering in. But it hasn’t all been contentedness. To paraphrase Everett Reuss I have been moved by the natural beauty I have seen to the point of tears. (he possibly killed himself over it) Or at least manly pseudo crying. Of course it also usually came after a few days of very little food or sleep where my system was just overwhelmed but again I’ll use the word pure because that is how I felt at those moments. There are many people who questioned my logic in quitting a job I liked and spending all my money to go on a ‘road trip.’ I appreciate their concern and practical approach to living. But that has never been me. If I feel like doing something I do it. If I feel like saying something I don’t hesitate. For 33 years there were always conditions or consequences to such an attitude. I’d need to evaluate my vacation time or arrange with my friends around their vacation time. Did I have the money or would I credit card it and pay it off later? As I got older it began to involve the school schedules of my friends’ kids and mortgage payments. That is the normal life and the one most of us live. I will not feel any guilt or frustration going back to that life. I was happy in that life. But for 5 blissful months I DIDN’T live that life. There were no schedules and no concerns other than ‘what do I feel like right NOW.’ And it’s 1 am again. Before this post gets even longer I’m going to call it a night.

I’m sure the mental and emotional turmoil will hit me even harder over the next few days and I’ll do my best to share it with you. Luckily I have the task of shipping to keep my mind occupied. Or is it preoccupied? It took until Ecuador to realize that I was on my dream trip. My guess is somewhere flying over Ecuador on my way home the reality of the finality will sink in. Until then I’ll just live moment to moment. Of course one of which means lying on the wet road and pulling a driveline tomorrow. Yep enough of this melodrama. For all my cube jockey friends I hope my bliss lifts your Monday morning spirits. Oh and just because it is that time of year and my mind is now looking toward home….

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location: Ushuaia, Argentina
Distance: 1 km(s)
Time:03/31/2008 02:04:43 (GMT),-68.3005&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tried to edit my post from my phone but couldn't do it. So an addendum to 'confusion' from the actual road. The majority if not all of the pics in the Argentina and Chile folders inthe gallery are new. A handful are from j the rest are all mine.

Since I am so pleased with my out of nowhere JJ refrence I am offering up a free Expedition Americas sticker to whomever names the source first. Just leave a comment below with your name and I will have Darren send one to you. Yep a trivia contest from the southern tip of the world. Or at least pretty close.


I made some changes to the gallery last night. Going to add pictures country by country. However I was working on the gallery directly and not in the frame of the website. It will need some tweaking but that might have to wait until I get home. Here is the direct link to the gallery. I’ll figure it out. I’m just not that smart when it comes to that stuff and honestly I gave up about midnight last night and watched the NCAA tourney on the laptop instead.

Along with that confusion comes the confusion of where I am sitting. Punta Arena, Chile. A day’s drive from Ushuaia. I’ll be there tomorrow morning. How do you reconcile 10 years of dreaming and planning coming to an end in less than 24 hours? If I knew how I wouldn’t be asking you. I’ll gather my thoughts, like JJ trying to figure out how to get his ambulance through the roadblocks AND let Victor fix the slipping transmission. Unfortunately it won’t be as easy as radioing the flatbed truck in front of me. Yes this little obscure allusion made me laugh out loud. I am such a dork. Why any of you would be following along on my journey still baffles me but I hope you find as much entertainment in reading it as I do in writing it. So Ushuaia awaits and off to my filthy dirty truck I must go. Oh wait I need gas and lunch and over to the market for some grub for camping tonight.

Enjoy the gallery. I’ll send a SPOT out tomorrow and write a few words. Maybe a lot of words. Have a wonderful weekend kids. Or if you get this on Monday morning make that ‘week.’

Thursday, March 27, 2008

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location: Estancia Pudeto, Chile
Distance: 8 km(s)
Time:03/27/2008 23:08:58 (GMT),-72.9098&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

here it comes

Another late night ramble.  I have no idea where I’m headed with this but usually these turn out the best.   It all starts out with losing my internet connection. Sweet. I may be typing for my own benefit.


2am and kicking it with an awful piece of Argentine beef in my stomach.  Last two nights were excellent. I gave the tri-fecta a shot and failed.  Joint was recommended by my hotel which is odd since this a nice place and the food was awful.  Why am I in Rio Gallegos, Argentina tonight and not Torres del Paine, Chile?  Because La Esperanza had no gas. Station was out of gas. Really.  So the YPF’s lack of fuel forced me to head here. It is good since I’m trying to arrange shipping home. Which is starting to shape up a bit like Panama.  Oh Joy! If you any hook ups don’t be afraid to send me their info. So I’m getting some email done, then tomorrow after a late checkout I’m off to Chile and some more hiking.  I need a good night’s sleep but tonight is not that night.  Last night was another back of the car night.  The wind blows here non-stop. I got 17mpg today with the 40mph tailwind. It’s also the wind I slept in last night. My truck is like a sailboat.   It gets blown all over the road and is just as bad while parked at night. Needless to say I slept poorly last night. But hey I have a single bed with peach colored sheets on it tonight to make up for it.


I really have no clue where this post is going.  I should give some props out to Jim Jackson while I have the chance.  Jim works for ARB-USA.  For those not in the cruiser world ARB is a manufacturer of off road products and for a long time was the only real aftermarket supplier for Land Cruisers.  My bulbar, my snorkel, my suspension and my pimp 60liter freezer/fridge are all imported by ARB USA from Australia.  Jim and I met at SEMA a few years ago and as they are responsible for all the Americas he has connections through ARB distributors all throughout my route and has been giving me contacts along the way.  While in Chile he one contact resulted in a series of contacts that resulted in specific info on the Atacama to visit, a sweet lunch and afternoon in Copiapo, another contact in Osorno which resulted in another contact to get my exhaust re-welded and repaired as well as a trip to the airport.  It’s amazing to how much comfort you get from locals knowledge. Doesn’t matter if it’s a simple ‘go here to camp’ or if it’s trusting someone to work on your car.   Seriously Jim’s contacts have been invaluable all along my entire route.  So thank you sir.


It finally happened. The white noise in the background is finally complete. I have seen an episode of Friends in every country on my trip.   More importantly however I was able to catch and episode of 30 Rock tonight. In my mind it has surpassed The Office, My Name is Earl, and Curb Your Enthusiasm as the funniest show on TV.  Of course that is subject to opinion.  It pains me to say as much too because I think Jason Lee is the funniest man alive.  If Earl doesn’t convince you go watch Mallrats or Chasing Amy.  Yep I’m running out of things to say.  It is almost 3am.  Maybe I’ll add some more in the morning as I’m trying to track down a shipper.

Oh did I mention I could possibly attend opening day  at Fenway Park?  Yep I need to have Ruby Claire on a boat by April 6th.  10 days is doable right?  Either way I’ll be done and headed up home by tax day.  Good thing I filed that extension right? So not a lot tonight but something.  This is more like a daily log and guess what. Nothing happened today.  Oh I did have ice cream again.  Ahh now I’m smiling.  Argentine ice cream……

Sunday, March 23, 2008

insert clever title

Some more random thoughts that may or may not contain another story about Latin American restrooms. Or lack thereof. You have been warned.

I’ve taken some good pics lately. If I may toot my own horn. But sometimes the camera slides down your backpack and you don’t make it across the rocky stream in the 10 allotted seconds.

A gas fill up in San Pedro de Atacama cost $168.00.

The tomato, basil, goat cheese empanada I had in San Pedro may have been my favorite meal of the trip.

I need to correct an error. Not Just Knee Deep Funk is Funkadelic NOT Parliament. My IPOD pointed out that mistake to me the day after the Lazy Descent post. But cut me some slack. That was in my kindergarten years. To me it’s all George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars anyway.

Although it might be unwise it is indeed possible to get a fully laden expedition weight 80 series Land Cruiser in the air. Yep all 4 tires. Smooth as silk landing too. Gotta love the ARB comp springs. Done by choice, not accident. Had to do it once although I’m not sure that the middle of Patagonia hours from the nearest town was the right choice.

Me and my IPOD. I’ve really learned to enjoy Led Zepplin, Morphine and Mike Doughty. Artists I enjoyed but never went out of my way to listen to. That has changed. Artists I’m not sure will make the rotation ever again. Van Morrison and Pink Floyd. Yep had enough of both for now. And for a long time to come.

I’m almost out of Sprees. I picked up a movie theatre size box at the Pilot Truck Stop in Mountain Home, Idaho while chatting with my boy Eric V and they have lasted this long. Granted I didn’t open them until Bolivia but I’m saving 2 for the road into Ushuaia.

Karma sucks. I’ve been mocking Stewart Scott’s listing (did I spell that right?) eye for years on Sportcenter. Well that and that he thinks every athlete is his best friend and guess what I realized tonight while making sure I have two eyebrows instead of one. Yep even in Patagonia I tweeze. I realized my eyes are sucking back into my head and you can’t even see my upper eyelids anymore. Damn Stewart Scott.

Everytime I see a kid with down syndrome the whole world seems smaller to me. At the tiny Chile/Arg border crossing a car showed up right behind me. The couple had a son with down syndrome. As weird as this sounds it is a reminder that despite ethnicity, policitical or religious differences people are still faced with the same challenges everywhere in the world. People I know at home struggle with the same issues at the couple I met at Paso Roballo, Arg.

It’s 2am I shouldn’t be writing right now.

Calafate is the Sun Valley of Argentina. Just about as much English spoken here too. Except they’re all Canadians.

My goal by summers end (I have a lot of time to think) is to be a sub 5 handicap. With no money to play golf I’ll have to resort to practice since it’s free. It will be a challenge but might just be doable.

Speaking of Calafate. The gas station had to fill their tank. Shut down for 30 mins. I then sat in line for 40mins to get gas.

Speaking of Calafate again. I showed up here stinking and dirty. All I wanted was a shower. 6 days of camping and one long sweaty hike. Sometimes I should look at a calendar. Easter weekend. Like Moab during Jeep Safari or Daytona during spring break. Not a room to be had anywhere. All the campgrounds full. No public land open to camp on. Found a spot in town to camp. Went to bed at 4 because of the many drunken Argentines on vacation.

Argentines on vacation means very attractive women everywhere. The rumors are true.

Other true rumors. Arg beef is excellent. Had a Poor Man’s Steak (eggs, grilled onions, French fries) the size of baseball bat barrel. Accompanied by pepsi though. Great steak. Cheap.

I no longer yearn for Breyer’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. They LOVE their ice cream here on the east side of the Patagonian Andes and take delight in the presentation. All that weight I lost in Bolivia and Chile is back.


Leading up to my hike to the Piedras Blancas glacier I had been surviving on granola bars, pineapple juice and coke. Like 4 days worth of that. Some bread thrown in every now and then. After my hike I rolled into Chalten. A town of 25 hotels, 30 restaurant and bars and not one ATM and they only accept cash. There I found Patagonicus Pizza where I partook of some bottled water, a damn tasty lamb, oregano and mozzarella pizza followed up with a piece of lemon pie. I liked it so much I bought a tshirt and planned to eat there the next day as well. I hit the road out of town to take pics of the sun setting behind Cerro Fitzroy. I was playing with my camera and writing in my journal when the gurgle happened. I looked around, nothing but steppe and scrub for miles. Trouble. I was too far from town to make it. I grabbed my roll and baby wipes (no time for the shovel) and made a sprint toward the only bush taller than 10 inches that I could see. All 24 inches of it. Did I mention the wind was blowing 40mph hour. No lie. Luckily the bush sat on the edge of a tiny ravine. Split second decision on which side to face into the wind. And as Neil Young so poetically penned, ‘there ain’t nothing like a friend, who will tell you when you’re just pissing in the wind.’ So I took an angled approached and let fly. It was bad. 4 days of gunk forced out of my at a very rapid pace. Wind almost knocked me over. THAT would have been bad. A very traumatic experience. A cold windy disaster beneath what is possibly the most sublime tableau I have ever seen. Then wave two hit. After it was over I actually utter out loud to the beauty around me ‘I’m sorry Argentina.’


Again I need to learn to proof read before I hit send.

Isn’t there some basketball thing going on in the states right now? I forgot all about it.

J made me a peanut butter sandwich on the fly while rolling through the altiplano of Bolivia that was 3lbs of peanut butter and one tiny piece of stale bread. It took him 30 mins to clean the peanut butter off my knife. Don’t let him make your kids lunch.

Have I talked about my ant infestation? In Panama I picked ants while parked at the Hotel Montreal. I mean ANTS. All over my car. Ants marching across my dashboard from vent to vent. Dozens at a time. Crawling all over my legs and arms. When I opened my tool bag in Colon to take my tent off, 1000s of ants came pouring out. Disgusting. I actually ended up shaving my legs in Cartagena because all day long it felt like ants were crawling up them while the ac was blowing. Somewhere in Ecuador they disappeared. Figured it was the cold or elevation. Then in Lima they showed up again. Away they went in Cuzco and I thought they were gone for good after a week in the Altiplano. I was wrong. They began their march again in the Gran Chaco. Yep 2 month of tiny black ants everywhere in my car. However now I think they are finally all gone. Haven’t seen any since my second sojourn in the Salar de Uyuni.

It’s now almost 3am. I am SLOW tonight.

I bought my mandatory insurance for Argentina while in Chile. Computer wouldn’t accept my US address so the agent used his office address. Guess where I’m going to fwd all my junk mail?

I crossed 25,000 miles on my trip somewhere between Cochrane, Chile and Tres Lagos, Argentina.

After hundreds of stops, thousands of miles and a 100 bucks spent at the AAA office in SLC someone finally asked for my international drivers license. Glad I had it. Could have meant losing another tshirt.

I went shopping for shoes yesterday. Apparently 6 pair isn’t enough. What is wrong with me.

My REI Dividend was $110.48. yep do the math. You sure you want to go on a trip like this. Too bad I don’t get points from Menlove Toyota Scion. Oh wait they gave me cash. Thanks Wes.

I’m going to the Perdito Moreno glacier tomorrow. Named after a dude who rerouted a river from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. Yep that is right. Played mother nature on a river’s ass to claim the land for Argentina over Chile. Funny story in my eyes.

I could be to Ushuaia by Tuesday if I wanted to.

I’m spoiled. J and I spent a few hours kicking it at the base of Volcan Osorno. His first time ever seeing the glacier. Me and my lack of tact pointed out how mediocre the glaciers actually were. I’ve spent my whole life with intimate access to amazing landscapes and natural wonders. I forget sometimes how lucky I have been to have lived less than 2 miles from an enormous and beautiful glacier in Juneau, AK or that my parents were taking me to awe inspiring canyons of southern Utah since I was a wee lad. It was good to see J’s awe at the glaciers. Reminding me of how I should be.

I saw Cerro Fitzroy and I was in awe.

Enough for now? Yeah I think so. Off camping for another week or so. Part two (or would it be 4 of 5) of random thoughts isn’t too far out. Amazing Chilean hospitality and the lady in the junk store with the haunting blue eyes.

Speaking of haunting. I can’t get the Atacama desert out of my head. Awake or asleep it is there. Even after all I’ve seen since it haunts me. I loved that place. Not sure I’ll ever experience something like it again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

where am I?

It has been a few days since the last post. Blame it on desolation and lack of internet options. When last we spoke your humble narrator was just pulled out of his lazy descent by two kind strangers. (although I appreciate all the supportive emails as well and once I get a good connection I will reply to each one.) I’ve attached the pic of Luis and Odile from the next night after our ferry ride. Upon further conversation I realized that our chance meeting the night before had helped them too. Two days in lovely Quellon will do that to you.

The next morning after my last post dawned clear and sunny. I drove down to the southern terminus of the Pan-American Highway. Took some pics, found a place to eat lunch and took some more pics. The ferry arrived nice and late. 2 hours late. We finally left Quellon at 9pm . A 5 hour ride across the ocean to Chaiten was a piece of cake. Almost Famous, The Office and DMB at Piedmont Park on the DVD player while I attempted to organize my thoughts for Overland Journal. I failed. After taking a very casual conversational approach to my blog it seems as though I’ve forgotten, not sure I ever really knew to begin with, how to write proper and grammatically correct prose with structured paragraphs and flow to the article. But I’m working on it. I said goodbye to my new French friends, found a place to park and slept in the back of my truck that night because it was so late, (3ish) and it was cold. I woke at the fine hour of 11am. A good solid 8 hours.

Another glorious day in Chile. The Carratera Austral is a sometimes rugged, sometimes placidly paved road through incredible scenery. I was trying to amalgamate a collection of landscapes to convey to you, my dear readers, the beauty that I was travelling through. One part Teton National Park, Wyoming. Two parts Banff, Alberta. One part Glacier Bay, Alaska. One part Rhohan, in Middle Earth during the Age of the Elves. Or exchange that last part to the place in New Zealand that they used to film the land of the Rhohirrim. Then as I began the long circumnavigation of the, surreally, Dr Suess-esque blue, Lago Buenos Aires it dawned on me the ideal description for the beauty around me. It looks EXACTLY like Northern Patagonia. Sorry. That’s the best I can come up with. Found a place to camp as the rain hit. It rained for about 18 hours. Had the worst meal and service of my trip in Coyhaique, Chile. Two hours for a crappy pizza and Fanta. First time I haven’t tipped also. Slept again that night in the rain near Cochrane. Did I mentioned it rained for 18 hours straight? Yep standing water on my passenger floorboard due to a leaky windshield.

Yesterday was another glorious morning however. Cold and clear. Then an even more glorious thing happened. I crossed into Argentina in my shortest border since Mexico. 30mins including the 15 min drive between stations. I was poking through the book on the Argentina side. 8 people came through this week. He averages about 25-30 a week. This was about 2 hours into my morning. A morning that would be the start of one of the best days of my trip. I managed over 500 miles of washboard and sealed gravel. Another 80 or so of pavement. It took about 50-60 miles for my arms to loosen up but I settled into my groove. I’m ready for the Baja 1000. Got our truck bought yet Darren? Actually the roads were rather pleasant, gorgeous desolate landscape and then another conversation. This time with two guides at the gas station in Tres Lagos. I was looking for a camp spot and they said push on to Los Glaciares National Park and camp there. I told them I didn’t want to miss anything in the dark. They urged me to do it. Said I wasn’t missing anything in the 90 min drive.

Los Glaciares was my destination today anyway so I trusted them. The full moon began to light the landscape and dull the surrounding stars. Then I had my epiphany. Clear skies and towering Patagonia peaks in front of me. Yep much like the beach in baja I was up until 2am taking pics again last night. Woke early to take some more. Went on a 6 hour 10 mile hike today. Good hell my left knee is shot. I forgot how torturous it can be to hike on a glacial moraine. So with a sore knee and sunburned nose I’m sitting on the side of the road typing this post waiting for the moon to rise again. So along with Luis and Odile I’ve included pics of Lago Buenos Aires, last night, this morning, my lunch spot, and my sunset this evening. (just added them and you ended up with 11, you can only guess how many I have for the gallery when I can ftp to my server. )

Apparently Cerro Fitzroy, the major mountain in the pics, can be shrouded in clouds for weeks on end. It seems as though Ma Nature is making up with me for all the rain she dumped on me in Ecuador when I spent days surrounded by 18k foot volcanoes and never saw one of them. She certainly is a fickle gal isn’t she? I need to figure out what I’ve done to swing her to my side and keep her there for the next two weeks as I wander through the southern tip of the world. Tomorrow another hike then off to the South Section of Los Glaciares and some more hiking. I hope to post before then but we’ll see. It seems as though I’ve hit the region of the world where my SPOT isn’t 100% either so if two or three show up it is because the last four have failed. Did I mention they have ice cream next to the internet café? Well they do. And with that I’m done. Back to town to send this out and get some ice cream. Enjoy the pics. I guarantee I had more fun taking them. And sharing makes me feel pretty damn good too. I’m a lucky man. But we’ll save that for the next post. Oh wait the next one is more random thoughts (I’ve been taking notes) THEN we’ll get to the lucky man post. See I told you J leaving would mean more posts to read.

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:03/21/2008 21:27:01 (GMT),-72.8189&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another guest post this fine evening from the Carraterra Austral. This one come from J. I told him I would leave his post unedited or commented on but I lied.

I like it a lot. J is a huge backpacker and hiker and was worried about how he would take to my style of road trip but I think it had an impact. Part of his post mirrors a conversation he and I had while camped at the base of Volcan Osorno. Too many people rely on guide books and magazine articles to choose their next destination. We both think there is a lot more satisfaction, even if it isn't the perfect spot as identified by Outside or Lonely Planet, in picking a spot on the map that has cool topography or a dirth of inhabitants and finding our way there. Enough drivel from me, on to the wonderful words (he is going to force me to write better after this) of J Arthur Ralls....

Everyone counts their fortunes differently, and another friend of mine and I used to proclaim that it is he who dies with the greatest number of experiences, not dollars, who winds up the richest. If that is the case, then I just made a huge deposit into my account. Like many "rich" people there was some luck to my fortune, and as is most often true, it arrived in the sense of that commonly quoted phrase "it's not what you know, but who you know" that counts. Knowing Dave (or "DCon") was my fortunate investment. So if I have any "financial" advice to readers it is this: make friends with a slightly-obsessed 'Cruiser fanatic or become one yourselves. I've already been indoctrinated and converted, going so far as to give a name to my own traditionalist frenetic fashion. What would cause such monomaniacal behavior? Perhaps it comes from inhaling the icy thin air as your vehicle--and your lifeline-- slowly but steadily carries you to the top of a 17,900 foot Andean cerro; or by the confidence instilled by it as it brings you over labyrinthine landscapes from long-evaporated senderos. This entry is not intended to be about the Toyota Landcruiser however, or any other particular vehicle (though I have difficulty in condoning anything but the 'Cruiser). It's about taking a road journey and what it strips you of and what it brings you to. Replacing the flat panel of your monitor with the curved panoramic view of a windshield in alien territory is a thrill and a therapy that is wholly rewarding. A back-roads ramble forces you to peel away all senseless and unnecessary material and mental clutter so that all that is left is what will fit into your vehicle (DCon claims I could have done a better job of least materially). What follows is a freedom which allows you to view unfettered the world in it's most raw elements of earth, water and sky. Few places offer such minimalist grandeur in greater amplitude than the Andes of the Atacama desert. Rising up from the coasts of Chile and stretching to the hinterlands of Bolivia and Argentina, the Atacaman Andes paints a shockingly stark yet vibrant picture of overwhelming proportion. It's a place of bare necessities, and because of such there are no distractions. It's a place so open and ample that you can fully unfurl the sails of all your thoughts and let them fly out across the landscape. Thus DCon and I launched into it's heart, armed only with a map, a couple of cold Coke's, and Dave Matthew's Band. In a sense, we followed the bull-bar of Ruby Claire. Some 1,600 miles later (roughly) we had watched the desert towers grow verdant with the replete rainfall of far southern Chile. The rich details of changing landscape and culture are too voluminous for anything less than a book. I could actually recommend one, but I'd rather focus my point on advocating the writing of your own...even if it never makes it to paper. Go take it trip! Fill your memories with things like chocolate-covered alfajores, cold carbonated water, Alpaca-knit hats, national park pamphlets, dusty pillows, souvenir mate (mah-tay) mugs, or whatever your particular path has to offer! It doesn't have to be to Bolivia, or Chile. Go cross a state border or visit a lake you've never been to. Pick the faintest line on the map as your road, and then sit back and watch a new world unfold.

Thanks for the post Jota.

With that I bid you all a hearty goodnight.

Monday, March 17, 2008

a lazy descent

I stumbled across a magnificent peak today. If it is possible I didn’t even have to climb to get there. Perhaps it’s because it was an emotional peak and I’m using a common cliché to describe the day I had.

After 3.5 weeks of travelling with someone I woke today to solitude. Solitude that really sucked. It has been raining for 2 days straight, I slept rather poorly in my overpriced hotel and I ventured out onto the road southward. Because J and Justin have a shared loathing for rap music I started my day with some good old Public Enemy and yes 911 is a Joke. I moved on to NWA, Dr Dre and then rounded it out with Digital Underground and the OG George Clinton. Despite the rain and repeat miles (j and I had been here earlier in the week)my spirits were high and I was excited for the road ahead. Somewhere between the ferry to Isla Chiloe and town of Quellon everything went south. Maybe I should have thrown on some Tupac. Regardless of the cause I was miserable.

When J was here we watched Long Way Round (the documentary of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s around the world motorcycle journey) during the boring Central Chile stretches and killing time waiting for the wind to die down in our Altiplano camps. I never should have watched the final episode. It stirred emotions about the impending finality of my trip that I’m not ready to deal with. The harsh reality of renewed solitude, dreary grey weather and dropping temperatures only added to the thick blanket of reflective melancholy that has been covering me for the last week. It doesn’t help that it is Sunday. I can anticipate half a dozen emails each day M-S. Sunday however is usually silence. Very rare is the Sunday email. The thoughts, as I spiraled deeper into my funk, no not knee deep funk (okay that is an obscure Parliament reference that I feel needs to explained) the funk that morphed my melancholy into an authentic malaise ran something like this…

I miss Kitty Pappas’ Steakhouse.

I miss Breyers Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

I miss clean water.

I miss Thursday lunches with my friends Ryan, Adam, Paul, Cory, Jason, Dave, and Occasionally officer Lange.

I miss Training Table and Crown Burger.

I miss C22.

I miss playing golf while arguing baseball and politics and work with my friends in the intense summer heat.

I miss the search for and pure feeling of a well struck 3 iron.

I miss having a vocabulary. I miss talking to people in English about things beyond just ordering food, booking a hotel, asking for directions or talking about my trip.

I miss sitting on the porch and talking about nothing for hours.

I miss grass. Oh man I miss grass.

I hate the sound of my exhaust.

I hate the squeaky roof rack and rear hatch.

I hate my dusty dashboard and gauge cluster.

I hate the feel of my steering wheel and uncomfortable driver’s seat.

I hate missing half a tooth and shaving my head with the $9 crappy clippers I picked up in Chiclayo.

I would kill for toilet paper that is not made of 220 grit sandpaper.

I would love to drive through a town and not have to suppress the gag reflex because of the stench of garbage and dead animals.

I’d like to sleep in a room with walls that aren’t hollow, where I can’t hear neighbors snoring and the massive dog population fighting in the streets until 4 am.

I would love for Bob Barker to find his way to South American TV and talk about the benefits of spaying and neutering your animals to control the pet population.

I am really, really, really getting sick of being stared at wherever I go. Gringos are not that special. Just ignore me please. It was two years of people staring at me in Alaska that made me such a socially inept freak to begin with and it’s getting old really fast. Say hola or yell at me, anything. JUST STOP STARING.

I’m frustrated with my poor Spanish and even more frustrated with my inability to understand people.

I just want to be home.

Now I can hear each of you right now. Sure the phrasing may change from town to town or mind to mind but essentially it goes like this…

“dave what the hell is wrong with you? You’re living your dream and mine too, you’re on your way to Patagonia and all you can do is feel sorry for yourself? I’m stuck here in this cubicle dying to be outside and you’re sleeping in the Andes. You suck and you need to grow up.”

It’s okay. If I were home reading a similar bitchfest my response would be the same. 12,000 miles from home with uncertainty ahead and the bad fog of loneliness creeping in it ‘s very easy to venture too far down the path above. So there I was in the middle of Isla Chiloe hoping to get an email tomorrow (which will be today by the time I post this) saying my boat was leaving Ushuaia next week so I’d have an excuse to bust ass there and head home.

Then a funny thing happened. The ferry was delayed 24 hours. The town of Quellon is a hole. Dirty, gross and your basic fishing town. But oddly not at all like the fishing towns J and I visited last week on the same island. Those towns had charm and personality. This town has nothing. So what is the funny thing? I stumbled upon Luis from Spain and Odile from France. A multi-lingual couple “on holiday’ from France backpacking through Patagonia. They too are stranded here because of the delayed ferry. I spent about 6 hours in the hotel restaurant chatting with them about their trip, their jobs, politics, my journey, language, and the inflatable evacuation slides on Airbus airplanes. I was instantly pulled out of my funk and my mood brightened. Amazing what conversation with a new friend will do to your soul. From the proverbial valley to the clichéd peak my day ran the gamut.

And yes it included the Humpty Dance, which as we all know IS your chance to do the hump.

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:03/17/2008 17:59:04 (GMT),-73.6173&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

A guest appearance

Since I can't find an internet connection in the glorious town of quillon chile I am going to fwd justins Blog entry from my phone. Enjoy. I am also sending out a spot message from the southern terminus of the Panamerican Highway. I wrote a nice long Blog past last night but is sitting in my outbox waitng for a connection also. If I track one down it will be a 3 post day.

"The only uneventful hour of the 10 days I was in South America with Dave, was the time I was waiting in the Airport in La Paz to fly home. Other than that it was one adventure after another. Bolivia far exceeded my expectations, Argentina left me wanting more, and Paraguay was better than I had remembered. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite part of the trip, but if I had to, I would probably say it was the treacherous mountain road from Camiri to Sucre Bolivia. River crossings, washed out roads, beautiful tropical landscapes, water falls, high mountain villages, etc, made this 18 hours of the trip unforgettable. Dave, if you ever want to go back to South America in your Land Cruiser count me in for the ride.....

Justin Kirkham"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

two lingering topics

I’ve found the motivation to recount the tale of my shipping adventures but first, La Policia.


So Chile has reminded me that I need to expand upon my experience with the officials through the countries of my trip. Chile only has one police force.  It is the first since the US.  All others have 3 basic forms of legal enforcement.  The names may be different but they are essentially as follows.



Usually on the road, random checkpoints, first stops after border crossings. Very abundant in Guat, Colombia, Peru, Panama.  These guys are usually serving their mandatory one year in the military. Young, cool, like to joke around. Usually check the papers, make fun of me for my bad Spanish and wish me well on my trip.  Give me a military checkpoint any day.  I like these guys. Make me feel safe and always have a good time.  They are the ones who were so helpful during my lost hours near Medellin, Colombia. I am grateful for all the military guys I have met along the way.


Tourist Police

Primarily found in the larger cities. There to cut down on petty theft and crime.  Oddly enough most are female. They are PERFECT for asking directions when lost, are always helpful when not distracted with traffic duty.  The name may change country to country but essentially there to help out the tourists, gringo and otherwise, in the larger cities.  Not as cool as the military guys but still amiable and good to have around.


Transit Police

These are the petty little bastards that as far as I can tell are around to do nothing but harass Americans.  These are the guys who will walk 75 yards through 4 lanes of traffic in Mexico City to single me out for $20. The guy who stole my knife in Panama from the center console, when I caught him he just asked if he could have it, meaning I am taking this or you’re not getting your passport back. The same guys who will stop me and justin at 4am, keep asking questions until they find one minor thing they can charge me with then demand $200 for the made up charge. I refused to pay and spent an hour arguing with them. When we finally paid a far lower price they pretended like they had done US a favor by taking our money.   I’ve begun taking the approach with these people that I am going to try and say the most ridiculous thing I can to them just to make myself laugh.  Things like ‘you know your belt doesn’t match your shoes does your commanding officer know that?’ I need to find a way to entertain myself in those situations.  When I quickly pay the bribe I get mad. When I fight it I get frustrated.  When I try and negotiate I just get tired.  Not once have I had a good feeling coming out of one of these transactions. I’ve paid probably $500 to these jokers on my trip.  I’ve yet to figure out how corruption is the ‘latin way’ but it is frustrating. If I was breaking the law, or acting inappropriate fine me. Don’t do it because of my fancy truck and your perception that I have money. All gringos have money is the theory. The one that really pissed me off was a guy in Peru just south of Lima.  Transit police. Looked at all my docs and was set to let me go.  Then he says he wants my sunglasses. Oh I’m sorry. He wanted something ‘American.’ I was not giving up my sunglasses to some petty bully with nothing better to do than harass me. I need them and no way in hell was he getting that expensive of a bribe.  So he kept demanding something ‘American’ before he would let me leave. I searched and searched my car for something cheap to give him.  What did he end up with?  A DMB concert t-shirt from the fall of 1998.  Yep that’s right a 10 year old tshirt from my trip to a Halloween concert in Oakland. Worst of all he sat there and smiled through the whole thing like we were bonding as some sort of friends.


If I had to venture a guess I’d say I’ve been stopped 200 hundred times on my trip so far. Only about 20 of those have required a bribe to continue on.  It’s obvious those 20 put a sour taste in my mouth for the ‘authorities’ of latin America.  I try to remember all the good experience and long term I’m sure I’ll forget the bribes.   Most of all I wish that I had all the money these guys think I have. If that were the case I could just keep going and gladly pay the bribes along the way.


Now I am sure you are just dying to know what it is like ship a truck around the Darien Gap.  It all begins with trying to forecast what day you’ll arrive in Panama.  Once you establish that date you email 25+ shipping companies/agents trying to get information on shipping a vehicle to Colombia.  You think 3 weeks notice is enough to get replies.  You finally get replies 6-8weeks later. That is not an exaggeration.  I was in Peru and still getting replies to my initial inquiries.  After spending 3 days in the Hotel Montreal in Panama City still trying to track down a company you finally find a name after a 6hr Google search.  You call this name, Evelyn Batista at Barwil and find a true saint. You go visit her and she explains to you the entire process and it goes like this.


When you enter Panama you get a vehicle stamp in your passport and sign a document stating you will not sell you car in Panama. When you leave the country by plane you have to have proof that you didn’t sell you vehicle and that process goes like this.  You wake up at 8 am and go to Evelyn’s office to get all the shipping documents.  You then proceed to the Policia Touristica and they inspect your vehicle to make sure it is the same as when you entered the country.  That process takes about 2 hours. Then you roll, on foot, across the street with the document confirming your car is the same one and fill out more forms. Here you sit as you watch one woman take 3 hours to type up 5 forms. If you’re lucky yours is on top. If you’re not it’s on the bottom. You spend most of that time fighting the urge to offer to type the document yourself but don’t want to offend so you sit and watch as she hunts and pecks and moves the electric typewriter around the preprinted form only to be interrupted every 30 seconds by flirting co-workers and telephone calls.  After you get permission from the police to leave the country you then have to go to customs.  Fortunately Evelyn gave you a map to find the customs office buried in the back of some industrial park with no sign.  Even then you have to ask for directions 3 times to find it. This process goes smoothly with the matronly old woman very excited to hear your story and almost forget to stamp your passport. All this done you have to hightail it back to Barwil finalize the paperwork.   At this point you have 3 days to get your vehicle out of the country.  Of course you can only shop up to load you truck in the container one day in advance or else you pay a fee for each day it sits there.

So back to Hotel Montreal for another night where the employee apathy and disdain for hospitality and customer service make you question why you have stayed in the same hotel for over a week now. Two days go by, including a mandatory detail and wash of the truck, and you drive up to Colon on the Caribbean coast.  Luckily Barwil has an employee that will help you get all your docs stamped and negotiate the enormous maze they call the port.  This only takes 6 hours.  Another 2 to enter the port and load the truck in a container. I talked about the separation anxiety I had with my truck at that time but it needs to be remembered. 3 months of making sure you truck is nice and safe and suddenly you are alone. Truck is locked up in a container out of your control.  Back to Panama City on a bus and one more night in your stunning and memorable hotel


The next day you check out at noon for your 8pm flight at the airport and eventually find yourself in Cartagena at 11:30 at night.  A 3 day delay on your boat leaving Colon gives you a chance to explore the amazing city and hang out with friends.  One of the few positive benefits of this awful process.  Finally you get an email stating your truck is in port.  You’ve managed to track down a Colombian shipping agent who can get your truck out of the port. They hook you up with Lucedes, one of their runners, to walk you through the process. Day one starts at 3pm after the email arrives. Some paperwork (I don’t even remember anymore what it was) get filled out and stamped. Day 2 arrives and you finally get your truck out of the container.  You park it and go to lunch. Why? Because you get a randomly assigned customs agent and that is unchangeable.  Mine, a nice portly woman, very friendly and hard working.  8-11am and 3-5pm. Yep 5 hours a day.  So after a great lunch of chicken and patacon you return to the port and wait.  As you wait for your inspector to finish with her other containers you get in the most bizarre conversation ever with one of the dock workers.  For 20mins you try to figure out why he wants to buy your shoes.  He keeps saying he wants them and asks how much they are. You continue to inform him you will not sell your shoes and if you do what are you expected to walk around the burning hot dock in?  finally it dawns on you, he doesn’t want the actual shoes on your feet but shoes like yours. A good laugh is had by all and still you wait for inspection.  Finally you get your inspection.  30 seconds of it.  Papers stamped and back into the office. More paperwork done, and finally 8pm on day 2 your truck is back in your possession.  Just in time to get gas for your empty tank that you had to have before you loaded it in the container.


Grand total: shipping, agents, extra nights in hotels, meals, calls, flights etc just over $2k to get your truck around the Darien Gap.  The money is one thing. The days of delays and hours spent waiting for a paperwork is the real killer.


And yet I’m glad the process is so difficult.  It separates the wheat from the chaff. Yes I just compared myself to a grain.  Although I’m not sure which part.  It requires a commitment to which the casual traveler is not willing to acquiesce.  The satisfaction of traveling with your own vehicle through South America is that much greater due to the difficulity of getting it here.


Lots of words tonight. I hope they were enjoyable. J left for home earlier today and now instead of talking to friends I’m back to conversing with my keyboard. That bodes well for more than SPOT posts between now and Ushuaia.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:03/13/2008 23:12:26 (GMT),-72.5356&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

OK ESN:0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Nearest Location:not known
Distance:not known
Time:03/12/2008 15:38:45 (GMT),-73.4965&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Friday, March 7, 2008

more pics

As you can tell from the numerous SPOT messages recently I have been camping since last Saturday. My friend J is here and we are sending them out to keep his family updated on his progress. Loaded up a ton of pics tonight in the gallery. Well they don’t actually weigh 2000lbs but 89 is quite a few.  Bolivia and Chile. All desert. And what an amazing desert it is.  I’ll find time to write more words on Sunday night when we get to Copiapo.   Hopefully the pics can entertain you until then.  Between j and I there are about 1800 pics to look through over the last 5 days.  If I try really hard I might finally be able to come up with why I prefer the desert to all other landscapes.  I can feel it. Just not sure I can express it. 8 years of longing for a trip through the Atacama may have led to disappointment. My experience so far greatly exceeded my expectations.  Wow is that alliteration?  3 words starting with ‘e’ in one sentence. Or is it assonance? One of them I’m sure.  On that note, time for bed. A nice clean sleep after 5 nights with no shower. Not sure I can handle it.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -23.6878
Longitude: -68.3281
Nearest Town from unit Location: Tilopozo, Chile
Distance to the nearest town: 13 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 03/07/2008 01:30:10,-68.3281&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -23.066
Longitude: -67.6697
Nearest Town from unit Location: Unknown
Distance to the nearest town: Unknown
Time in GMT the message was sent: 03/05/2008 17:19:51,-67.6697&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -22.1902
Longitude: -67.8193
Nearest Town from unit Location: Unknown
Distance to the nearest town: Unknown
Time in GMT the message was sent: 03/04/2008 18:55:22,-67.8193&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Monday, March 3, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -21.5065
Longitude: -67.6069
Nearest Town from unit Location: Unknown
Distance to the nearest town: Unknown
Time in GMT the message was sent: 03/03/2008 23:54:26,-67.6069&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, March 2, 2008

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

This thing might be getting a lot of use soon. I am lost (in a good way) in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina or Paraguay
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: -19.9353
Longitude: -66.863
Nearest Town from unit Location: Unknown
Distance to the nearest town: Unknown
Time in GMT the message was sent: 03/02/2008 22:52:55,-66.863&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

6 pairs of shoes

Yep, that’s right. I have 6 pairs of shoes with me on my trip.  I guess that is one of the luxuries you can indulge when you roll solo in a SUV.  The list…


Vasque hiking boots, full steel shank, crampon compatible for Patagonia and hopefully Antarctica.

Salomon trail running shoes. Easy to slip on, comfortable, covered in mud.

Adidas running shoes. More comfortable, lighter, and not as hot as the Salomons. Felt like a waste until Cartagena where I walked for 5 days. I was glad I had them.

Chaco sandals. Primarily for the ocean and beach. Sometimes for longer walks where bugs/snakes aren’t a concern.

Chaco flip flops, quick hikes, short saunters through town, showering in iffy motels.

Reef wicker (no other way to describe them) flip flops. For driving. Very thin, absorb the sweat, cheap and easy to throw away when I get home.


So after all I have been through over the last 10 days why would I be talking about shoes?  Well I posted a bunch of pics in the gallery. You’ll notice a ripped and bloody big toe.  That is exactly what you get when you wander through a under-construction gas station in the wicker Reefs. Among the other highlights, the 14 year old kids ‘piloting’ me and Ruby Claire across Lake Titicaca on a single vehicle barge. Many Salar de Uyuni pics, the Falls of Iguazu. Sunsets in the Gran Chaco and Altiplano.  Toothless locals enjoying a hit of coca. A rampant addiction that affected the majority of the men Justin and I talked to in Bolivia.  Crowded colonial streets.  Water and more water. We missed the worst of the flooding in Bolivia (although it is raining so hard outside right now I’m not sure tomorrow is going to be so easy) but managed to spend a bit of time dealing with the effects.  The river that almost swallowed my truck, a dark pic of the muddy creeks we crossed dozens of times. Draining the diesel fuel out of my tank at 11:30pm. And a few pics of the town of Huari.


I’m going to save most of the time spent with Justin here for print because it was that memorable and adventurous but I want to talk about Huari and the surreal event that occurred there.  Huari is a town about 3 hours south of La Paz, Bolivia en route to the Salar de Uyuni.  How we ended up staying the night there is the result of a dozen different factors, any one of which would have changed the course of our evening.

Justin’s flight was 2 hours late arriving in La Paz.  I spent 3 hours on the phone with AT&T trying to fix my phone at the hotel.  The abundance of toll booths between here and there.  The blockade outside the town of Oruro. Essentially a bunch of upset locals filling the road with rocks and burning tires.  Getting lost in the disgusting town of Oruro.  By far the dirtiest, grimiest, lest appealing town of my trip. I could try to describe it but I would fail.  Since camping was on the agenda we stopped in Cha’llapata to track down food. That took 25 mins to find some bad bread.  A few more stops clarifying the right direction with locals and then Huari.  As we were passing through on our way south to camp we spotted a kid in a KC Royals hat carrying a laptop.  I backed up the truck and rolled down the window.

“are you guys really from Utah?”



Brandon is in Huari with the Peace Corp helping them with obtaining potable water.  Come to find out there were 2 Peace Corp volunteers in the tiny hamlet of 3000, primarily indigenous, Bolivians.  Not only that but 3 others from the region were also in town because the blockade outside Oruro had altered their plans. Having been alone and spoken with very few native English speakers (my Canadian friends on motorcycles) since the first week of December I found myself in Huari at a table eating dinner with 6 other Americans.  I really struggled to wrap my head around it.  To make the night even more surreal after returning to our $4 motel we sat and chatted with Jessica for over an hour. A young lady, and Fulbright Scholar, from Texas researching the role of females in the indigenous cultures.  


So our time in Huari satisfied a few different needs.  I was able to speak English exclusively for a few hours.  We gained insight into the local culture and community from people living there amongst them. Info you can never get from the locals as you pass through. They are too hesitant to open up to strangers.  I felt like I was asking way too many questions, to the point of sounding like a 5 yr old arguing with a babysitter. ‘but why?’ and ‘how come?’ and ‘what about?’  they were good to answer the questions Justin and I threw at them and more importantly for me I felt some sense of Americanism in the heart of the Bolivian Altiplano.  I wasn’t looking for it  and didn’t realize how much I missed conversation, true communication, but I found it in Huari and it felt good.   A very unexpected and appreciated gift in the middle of my journey.


Huari was not only the site of the unlikely gathering of Americans but also a very quirky town in itself.  Home to the Huari Cervezaria it is very different from all other towns in that it is clean. The brewery pays a staff of locals to clean the streets of trash and debris.  They also take all the water from the community and employ very few of them in the plant. A very weird arrangement.  The shared ‘bathroom’ at our Alojamiento required the following procedure to flush.  You had to carry water, in a cut in half milk carton, from the 55 gallon drum of collected rain water and dump it into the toilet.  Luckily for me one trip was sufficient.  I’d hate to see how many trips it would take if I had really used the toilet instead of just adding a fresh coat to the putrid urine scent.  The whole town was this way. Sacrificing their water to the brewery, that employed very few of them and clouded their skies in exchange for clean streets.  A weird town. A surreal evening. Both I doubt I will ever forget.


Justin flew out yesterday and J is arriving in a few hours.  More English and the entire length of Chile lie ahead.  But first another stop in Huari on the way to the Atacama.