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