I didn’t think Northern Argentina would be quite so memorable, but the scenery blew me away. From Cafayate we drove through the Quebrada de Cafayate which turned out to be a series of gorgeous canyons full of bright red rock formations.
Heading east out of Mendoza we made our way through Uspallata and eastwards towards the Andes. Driving through the dramatic valleys was an awesome daytrip in itself with some impressive rocky peaks, gorgeous colors, and railroad tracks that seemed to lead nowhere.
Arriving in Mendoza in the evening, we were happy to arrive and meet another milestone on our trip. We camped at Camping Suizo, northwest of the city center, which turned out to be an awesome little place where we met a couple of other travelers who gave us some helpful tips about the road north
Waking up to cloudy skies we felt even luckier that we’d caught the volcano on a perfect, sunny day for our climb the day before. We drove out of Pucon, on our way towards the border where we would leave Chile for the last time and enter Argentina for the last time. We’ve done a lot of back and forth across the border thus far and Chile has sort of felt like a home base and I felt a bit sad to be moving on.
We decided to take the crossing closest to Pucon, at Mamuil Malal. From a scenery perspective, it was amazing.
January 1st it felt good to officially start heading north, towards home, towards our families and friends, towards all the excitement of 2015. We headed out of Ushuaia early and started on the same route we had travelled south just a few days earlier. This time though, we planned to take a ferry from the town of Porvenir, on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, which would take us to Punta Arenas. We had tried to make a reservation for the ferry, but we weren’t exactly sure whether our emails were received, and we also weren’t exactly clear on when we needed to arrive, and how long it might take, so we planned to spend our first day driving as far as possible. We were thankful we hadn’t depended on getting gas at the border in San Sebastien when we pulled up and were told the power was out so the attendant couldn’t pump anything for us.
Our first full day in Ushuaia was my birthday, and it was really fun celebrating the beginning of another year by waking up in a place I never thought I’d visit.
I’m not sure how Santa fared this Christmas in Patagonia. Judging by the howling wind all night, it must have required monumental effort for him to fly around and drop down all those chimneys. The wind wailed all night long, keeping us both up for much of the night. In the morning, we had grand plans of a super early morning, hoping to seize the day, but after a rough night’s sleep, we gifted each other with sleeping in a bit :)
Once we packed up we finally made it to the trailhead. Our hike to an alpine lake with views of a glacier sandwiched between jagged peaks was stunning.
Over breakfast we chatted about the plan. Wolf’s research indicated that part of our “highway hiccup” problem could be dirty electrical collections, and after tinkering a bit more with the van, we decided that the responsible thing to do would be to put off the big day hike we had hoped to accomplish and go see a mechanic for some help. We drove a few blocks back to the shop we had spotted the day before. We stopped in and told him that all we wanted to do was have him clean a few specific electrical connections, but unfortunately he didn’t have the right cleaner and sent us to a hardware store around the corner where we picked some up. We picked up the laundry we had dropped off the day before and I set about putting things away and packing lunches to take with us on an afternoon hike while Wolf set about cleaning the connections. We were both feeling good and responsible and had accomplished our goal. We ran one last errand and then started towards the trailhead, but somehow, things had gotten worse. Now the car seemed to have lost the ability to idle. The first minute or two after startup were ok, but then it wouldn’t maintain an idle, and stall out unless we were giving the engine a bit of gas. Somehow our issue had gone from bad to worse.
Waking up at the lake was incredibly peaceful. We were all alone, and in the morning light, the lake looked turquoise, a stark contrast to the sandy dunes all around us.
Sunday morning we made a plan. We decided that we should try to push on to a larger town with, hopefully, a mechanic who might be able to give us a little more guidance. The car was driveable, after all. So after breakfast we packed up and headed out. Wolf had puttered around in the engine that morning, trying to figure out a few DIY fixes, so we gave it a shot, heading out of town. We made it about a mile down the road before the issue came back. After a quick chat weighing our options we decided to turn around and see if Diego could help us out. One thing Wolf thought would help was replacing the oxygen sensor, which seemed to be a popular solution to our problem in the online community. With impressive foresight, Wolf had thought to bring a new oxygen sensor with us, but we didn’t have the right tools to do so. We first stopped back at the hotel and borrowed a wrench from the owner (we brought a decent amount of tools with us, but just not the one we needed for this job) to see if we could change the part out ourselves. Brute force wasn’t enough to make it budge, so we made our way back to Diego’s place. We knocked on the door and found him hanging out with a few buddies, enjoying a Sunday afternoon which we were about to ruin.