Monthly Archives: May 2013

Farewell Ginger!

After a few days of recovery, and shopping, in the warmth of Las Vegas we have the energy and the technology to write this blog! It’s been a tough and tiring couple of weeks since the last entry. So here goes…

Our latest travels

Our latest travels

We spent a cold and wet night by the ocean in Puerto Montt, where even the local dogs were surprised to see us there at this time of year.

Hey guys!! You lost?

Hey guys!! You lost?

This ended up being as far South as we would make it on this trip. We had over a week to get back to Santiago, and planned to cross over to Argentina and travel a small part of the famous Ruta 40 on our way North.

Waterfalls along the way

Waterfalls along the way

We were so happy to finally cross the border into what we thought was our final country and blog namesake, Argentina! We found a great campsite by a lake and got cozy in the van.

Argentina! We made it!

Argentina! We made it!

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Lakes and rainbows

Lakes and rainbows

The next day we went to the tourist town of Bariloche which is right on a lake with the beautiful Patagonia mountains surrounding it. We parked a couple of blocks from the tourist centre and then made our way there to get some information on local campsites and hikes. After about an hour or so we returned to Ginger and a big mess.

That small window sure had a lot of glass

That small window sure had a lot of glass

The remains of our possessions

The remains of our possessions

The van had the small front window smashed out and all three front locks were messed up from an amateur robbers handiwork. They tore the place apart and eventually with the help of our very own tools got into the safe. They got everything – laptop, hard drive, iPad, passports, cash, GPS, everything. We immediately sought help and the police were there shortly after. Christine also talked with the owner of the car next to ours who hooked us up with the local radio and TV station. Radio Seis showed up approximately 45 minutes later and did a TV and radio interview with Christine that was aired right away.

Christine _ Argentina's newest TV star

Christine – Argentina’s newest TV star

By the time we fumbled through a spanish police report and made it to a campground we received a call that all our documents and cards had been anonymously dropped off at the radio station. We were very happy about this but still were missing the most valuable stolen item, all our trip photos from this past year+ of travel. The radio station continued to air the story and the TV station did a follow up the next day where Christine offered a reward for the return of our hard drive or photo files. We also plastered the town with posters of our hard drive and the reward.

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

We stayed in the town of Bariloche for 6 more days hoping something would come up but so far no word.

We couldn’t wait any longer or do anything more and had to return to Santiago to meet the buyer of Ginger. We had managed to fix all the destruction and to do a bit of a clean up before meeting Peter on Wednesday, the 15th.

Did we say it was cold in Chile?

Did we say it was chilly in Chile?

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Dave getting distracted while working on the van...

Dave getting distracted while working on the van…

We got a few vehicle ownership documents notarized but in order to get the van out of Christine’s name and passport and into the new owners we required a border crossing. The theory is that Christine would exit the country and then the new owner would produce new papers and enter the next country with the vehicle imported in his name. Sounds easy but the Chile/Argentina border where we crossed had integrated both countries customs offices together so we could not switch the papers. This was a huge glitch in our plans and meant we needed to find another border to cross. Peter was planing to head to Uruguay on the east coast, so we decided that we’d all make the 1500km+ drive together and cross there. This also made sense as Uruguay had no previous record of the vehicle either.

We did manage to have a stopover in the steak and wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza, and got a steak as big as our head!

Argentinian steak and red wine - just what we needed!

Argentinian steak and red wine – just what we needed!

The next 2 days were dedicated to driving. These were not without incidents; like a mud highway where we thought for sure we would be stuck for a few days. The pictures don’t give you any idea of the slipperiness of it or the mess that we got into. And this was a big highway!

Ginger skating sideways in the mud - the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here...

Ginger skating sideways in the mud – the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here…

The next big problem was the corrupt Argentinian police that stopped and held us until we produced money. The infringement fine started at $510 USD but quickly disappeared when Dave presented a US$50 bill which was quickly slipped into the officers pocket… the officer then shook his hand with a big smile and sent him on his way. Dirty buggers! This was also where Dave somehow lost one of his hiking shoes (which was covered in mud after the previous incident…).

The Argentina/Uruguay border we crossed was supposed to be on separate sides of a bridge and we were very surprised when we found that the 2 countries also had integrated borders! This made us very nervous but in the end Christine checked Ginger out of Argentina and at the next desk Peter checked her into Uruguay. At one point we thought we were caught but one of the officers thankfully didn’t look too close at the names. Phewf!

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Once we got into Uruguay we booked a flight to Vegas and got the heck out of there!

Saying farewell to Ginger-Lee

Saying goodbye to Ginger-Lee

 

Farewell Ginger!

Farewell Ginger!

We left South America feeling beaten, as though everything of value had been stolen or taken from us. Not a great end to our fantastic drive from Canada. I think we just need some time to get everything into perspective! Hopefully some warm weather will help!

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Las Vegas was lovely and hot and we had 2 nights to get ourselves organized. This included Christine getting a wedding dress (YAY!) and Dave figuring out what electronics we were going to need to replace (a new Microsoft Surface tablet!). After shelling out a small fortune we got most things accomplished, picked up a rental car and headed for the hills! Well Zion National Park anyways.

It was Thursday before the Memorial long weekend and of course everything was chock full. We eventually found a state park and tried to take shelter from the gale force desert winds for the night. The next morning we returned to Zion to try and snag a first come, first serve campsite. We really appreciate having the language as we asked a fellow camper at the park gate about the process of getting a site and he offered for us to share his site with a couple of his friends! You’re allowed to have up to 3 tents and 2 cars so we were set. We’ve met some really wonderful people along our way.

Exploring Zion National Park again

Exploring Zion National Park again

Rock scrambling

Rock scrambling

Christine hanging on

Christine hanging on

We had a good day hiking around Zion and a nice night hanging out with our fellow campmates. We headed for the tent early and had a much needed sleep in today. We are currently at McDonald’s using their free internet and eating sundaes.

We are spending the next couple of weeks car camping around America (Utah, Colorado etc) and hope to do a bit of hiking before heading back to Canada for the next adventure.

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Chilly chilling in Chile

This weeks route

This weeks route

We started out from Antofagasta 11 days ago refreshed and relaxed after our great visit with Shauna and Julian.

Thanks again guys!!!!

Thanks again guys!!!!

Checking out The Arch north of Antofagasta

Checking out The Arch north of Antofagasta

We kept heading south and found a good place to stop for the night at Pan de Azúcar National Park right on the ocean.

Checking out some bizzare artwork in the desert

Checking out some bizzare/cool artwork in the desert

In Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread) National Park

In Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread) National Park

Our beachside camp

Our beachside campsite

Definitely not warm enough for swimming though

Definitely not warm enough for swimming though

Dry desert hills and beaches

Dry desert hills and beaches

The next morning we dropped into one of Chile’s best seaside resort towns, Bahia de Ingles, to have lunch before deciding to head to Huasco for the night.

Lunch by they beach

Lunch by they beach

The beach and blue water

The beach and blue water

On our way to Huasco Dave felt something go with the front brakes while stopping. We looked and couldn’t see anything obvious so continued. A few kilometres down the road we began hearing some scraping and then all of a sudden we didn’t have any brakes! Brake pedal to the floor with no results… We managed to slow to a stop without hitting anything and again checked everything over. We took off the front wheel and had a closer look. We saw that the left front brake was completely missing a brakepad! Not good. The brake backing plate was still there, but all of the brake lining was gone! We tidied it up as best as we could, and then with the help of a friendly neighbour, Juan, we plugged the brake line so we could at least get to a repair shop. Of course it was a Friday night as well. Juan said we would have to go back 45 mins to the larger town of Villenar to get new pads installed. We camped out in front of Juan’s place and took off the next morning and very slowly, made our way to the mechanics.

We managed to find a brake specialist garage in Villenar, but unfortunatley there we no pads to suit our van anywhere in town. Thankfully they knew what they were doing and set about making a complete new set of pads by using our old backing plates. This involved cutting and drilling new linings and riveting these to the existing backing plates. This was all done by hand – we didn’t even know this was possible. New hand made pads fabicated and installed for less that $80. Not bad at all! And best of all they work great! We decided because it took most of the day that we’d head back to the coast and to Huasco where we hadn’t managed to see much the night before.

It was a Saturday night and we thought we could park at the waterfront for the night. However we were soon accosted by many a passersby (mostly drunks) and so we returned to the safety outside of Juan’s house! This time he invited us in to meet his wife and of course partake in some Chile Pisco. They also have a crazy dog and I was trying to ask them what his name was but with my barely passable spanish I only got doggy. Guess it turns out his name is ‘Doggy’ or when he’s misbehaving, ‘Dog-ito’! We also learned that Juan’s 3 previous dogs were also called ‘Doggy’. Juan may not be the most creative sort but he was a great help, and host, to us!

In the middle of the night we woke to hear some kids walking by and then some time later we woke to a thump and the van shaking. Both of us woke up yelling to ward off the culprit who had assaulted the van and Christine even jumped up in a flash and was at the front doors. When we quieted down we looked around, listened and heard nothing. Oh well, the punks must have done a runner! It wasn’t until well into the next day that we realized what had happened was that one of the suspension springs had given way! It was the cause of the middle of the night disturbance, not hoodlums!

So the metal spring that broke was not in our plans at all. We gingerly drove back to Villenar and went to see our new friends at the brake garage to get a recommendation for this next repair. He gave us one and said that they’d be able to look at it first thing Monday morning. Being Sunday we had to try and entertain ourselves in this small little town which we found not to be so easy…

On Monday morning we got the van looked at. The mechanic dismantled the suspension system and removed the broken spring. He tack welded it back together and then indicated that we should come with him to get a suitable replacement part. We all jumped into his car, for what we thought would be a trip to the spring shop. So we were quite surprised when he pulled up outside a car salvage yard. Because we were in a small town, and the van is an ’88, they had no replacement parts, and no way to make any. Oh well – so we started hunting around for similar size suspension springs.

Christine out spring hunting

Christine out spring hunting

Amazingly we found a great match that looked in good condition and paid by weight. It was less than $5. By 5:30pm we were back on the road with a new (to us!) spring and ready to get going south. After weeks in the deserts of Peru, Boivia and Chile we were desperately in search of trees and forests!

The next 2 days were completely dedicated to driving. We even slept on the road both nights, one night next to at a police control stop and another at a highway rest stop. Great amenities here with free hot showers at most of the rest stops. We eventually made it to the start of the Chilean Lake District that we were so excited for! We stayed 3 nights in the Villarica and Pucon area, however we had lots of rain and cold and didn’t manage to do much besides trying to stay dry and catching up on emails.

Ginger back amongst the pine trees

Ginger back amongst the pine trees

Today was the first day that we actually could see some of the volcanoes that are around these parts! We’ve come a bit further south again, and are checking out some more of the lakes district before going up and over the pass into Argentina. Our last and final country!

Volcanoes over the lake

Volcanoes over the lake

All our winter gear on again!

All our winter gear on again!

And we are also counting down the days we have left with Ginger as they are numbered…

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