Subagon North

In the style of Forrest Gump, when we hit the end of the road at the tip of South America, we figured since we’d gone this far we might as well turn back around and just keep on going. So that is what we did. We turned the van north heading for warmer weather, some final adventures, and eventually the port city from which we would be shipping Chimera back to the United States.

Perpetual pampas.

Perpetual pampas.

After leaving Tierra del Fuego we headed up the vast stretch of pampas that covers eastern Argentina. We put in several long days of driving the straight, open highways through harsh cross winds. Although the roads were paved, we got some of the worst gas mileage of our entire trip. Chimera does not like high-speed driving (over 55mph) especially with wind.

As we waved goodbye to Tierra del Fuego we turned back to take one last shot of the End of the World Route.

As we waved goodbye to Tierra del Fuego we turned back to take one last shot of the Route of the End of the World.

Amazing rainbow sunset.

Amazing rainbow sunset.

Looking back at Tierra del Fuego from yet another great boondock spot.

Looking back at Tierra del Fuego from yet another great boondock spot.

Oh the allure of the open road...

Oh the allure of the open road…

Chimera posing in the sunset.

Chimera posing in the sunset.

One of the windiest spots along the drive north, as the clouds show. We were tossed about like a beach ball.

One of the windiest spots along the drive north, as the clouds show. We were tossed about like a beach ball.

Yes, these are ketchup flavored potato chips, and yes they are delicious.

Yes, these are ketchup flavored potato chips, and yes they are delicious.

This is how I roll.

This is how I roll.

Our first destination was Parque Nacional Monte Leon where we walked through a large colony of Magellanic Penguins. Much smaller than the King Penguins, these little guys settle in a few select areas along the east coast of Argentina, forming colonies of tens of thousands of breeding pairs. They were not afraid of us at all and seemed rather curious. These penguins make a noise much like a donkey braying and collectively the colony made an enormous racket.

A glimpse of the massive magellanic penguin colony, Parque Nacional Monte Leon.

A glimpse of the massive magellanic penguin colony, Parque Nacional Monte Leon.

Magellanic penguin affection.

Magellanic penguin affection.

Penguin face.

Penguin face.

Awkward molting teenager.

Awkward molting teenager.

Where's the fish? Photo by Corey Axtell.

Where’s the fish? Photo by Corey Axtell.

Happy feet. Photo by Corey Axtell.

Happy feet. Photo by Corey Axtell.

After two solid days of driving we reached the touristy beach town of Puerto Madryn. Just like that we were out of the bitter Antarctic gales and back to sunbathing on the beach. We took a break from driving to visit the nature reserve on Peninsula Valdes. The area is rich with birds, guanacos, foxes, armadillos, and marine mammals. In the spring southern right whales breed in the bays, and throughout the year the coastline is covered in sea lions and elephant seals, but the biggest attraction for us was the possibility of seeing an orca. Peninsula Valdes is the only place in the world where orcas have been observed intentionally stranding themselves on the beach as a hunting technique. Our timing should have been right, hitting the month and tide timing when the orcas are normally observed. We spent about four hours out on the point with camera and binoculars in hand, watching the sea lions and birds and waiting for the orcas to appear. Alas, they didn’t get the memo that we were there and failed to show up.

Sea lion colony, Peninsula Valdes.

Sea lion colony, Peninsula Valdes.

How could the orcas resist this delicious pile of sea lions?

How could the orcas resist this delicious pile of sea lions?

Emily waiting for the orcas.

Emily waiting for the orcas.

We had a bit of time left before we planned to ship home so we decided that instead of hanging out with the guanacos and rheas on the pampas we would head back across the country to one of our favorite areas – the Lakes District. This time we had the roads and campgrounds mostly to ourselves. The summer crowds had departed and fall was settling in – which meant cool nights and colorful trees. We went back to several of our favorite places, and found some new ones.

Crescent moon and Jupiter over Lago Nahuel Huapi.

Crescent moon and Jupiter over Lago Nahuel Huapi.

Perfect place to fly a kite.

Perfect place to fly a kite. Lago Traful.

What? I took a swim and found a skull to chew on. Don't bother me.

What? I took a swim and found a skull to chew on. Don’t bother me.

Mounds of meat, Argentinian parilla style in Bariloche.

Mounds of meat, Argentinian parilla style in Bariloche.

Soaking up the afternoon sun on the shore of Lago Aluminé.

Soaking up the afternoon sun on the shore of Lago Aluminé.

One evening as we were enjoying the fading dusk at a great boondock spot on the bank of the beautiful Río Aluminé three catarafts floated down and beached on the rocks. A man in a half-fisherman half-gaucho outfit came up to us and asked if we were camping there and if we wouldn’t mind watching the rafts overnight. He was guiding a fishing tour group and would be back in the morning to continue downstream. He was very friendly and soon even offered us the oars and said Corey (who has steering experience) could take out a raft if he wanted. Tim and Corey took advantage of the opportunity and pushed off at first light the next morning.

Early morning fishing expedition from the cataraft.

Early morning fishing expedition.

The early bird gets the fish. Photo by Corey Axtell.

The early bird gets the fish. Photo by Corey Axtell.

Río Aluminé boondock.

Río Aluminé boondock.

We were particularly happy to be able to return to one of our favorite boondock sites on the bank of the lovely Río Pulmarí at the northern end of the Lakes District. On our way south we spent three days camped in the sunshine and being teased by the huge trout in the beautiful pool just downstream.

One of the few camp sites we returned to on this journey, and just as awesome as the first time.

One of the few camp sites we returned to on this journey, and just as awesome as the first time.

Tim fishing the big daddy fish hole, Río Pulmari.

Tim fishing the big daddy fish hole, Río Pulmarí.

Sunset vista from our awesome Río Pulmarí boondock site.

Sunset vista from our awesome Río Pulmarí boondock site.

On our first visit, Tim had struggled in vain to catch any of the big fish that could be seen patrolling the large pool. This time he was determined to hook at least one. He spent hours trying different dry flies and woolly buggers in the slow-moving waters of pool with Corey up on the rocks spotting fish to tempt. Many of his casts got semi-interested looks, but no nibbles. That afternoon Tim decided to try casting near the river inlet. As he was tying on a new fly he noticed several of the large rainbows patrolling the incoming water. He switched to a nymph and within minutes hooked a beautiful, large rainbow trout, the biggest fish he had ever landed. The next morning, he was able to land two more big daddies, including a nice 20-incher, breaking the previous day’s record for his biggest fish. It was a triumph to be skunked for so many hours by these beautiful fish and finally figure out something that worked. We decided that these big daddies were simply too beautiful to eat, so we snapped a couple photos and sent them on their way.

Here fishy fishy fishy. Photo by Corey Axtell.

Here fishy fishy fishy. Photo by Corey Axtell.

Fish on!

Fish on!

Tim finally caught the big daddy!

Finally caught one of the big daddies!

Leaving this beautiful riverside camp was tough, but we needed to make our next push north toward the port. We still chose to follow the remote back roads rather than zoom up the more traveled, but less interesting paved routes. We wound along the mountains in Argentina then crossed the border into Chile at the very remote border of Pichachén, which sits at the base of Volcán Antuco. This last border crossing ended up being one of the best, not only for the beauty of the surroundings, but also the very friendly Chilean border officials. We quickly made friends and got some good recommendations on how we should spend our last week in Chile.

Salto Agrio, Copahue. We boondocked in the parking lot here and had a view of this amazing waterfall out our back window.

Salto Agrio, Copahue. We boondocked in the parking lot here and had a view of this amazing waterfall out our back window.

Driving the back roads along the Argentina border, where the dirt was covered in hoof prints instead of tire tracks.

Driving the back roads, where the dirt was covered in hoof prints instead of tire tracks.

As soon as we were in Chile we pointed Chimera west and headed for the beach. With the upcoming week of Samana Santa, we wanted to find some remote coastline to avoid the vacationing masses. We boondocked in two amazing and remote beach camp spots that had been discovered by our friends from Carpe Viam as they drove south along the Chilean coast. Further north, we spent two nights in the surf town of Pichilemu, eating empanadas and watching the awesome and crowded point break of Punta Lobos.

One of our more spectacular beach boondock spots. We had this whole rocky cove to ourselves.

One of our more spectacular beach boondock spots. We had this whole rocky cove to ourselves.

Urban boondock on Punta Lobos, Pichilemu.

Urban boondock on Punta Lobos, Pichilemu.

The amazing rolling breaks of Punta Lobos.

The awesome rolling break of Punta Lobos.

These mouth-watering empanadas came out hot, dripping grease, wafting delicious aromas, and as big as your hand. Pichilemu, Chile.

These mouth-watering empanadas came out hot, dripping grease, wafting delicious aromas, and as big as your hand. Pichilemu, Chile.

From Pichilemu, it was an easy drive to Valparaiso where we met back up with Corey and prepared to ship our vehicles. One of our first chores was to buy Hobie a kennel so we can check him onto the plane with us. He was never crate trained, in fact Hobie had never been in a kennel before, so we were worried that he would hate it and refuse to enter. But once again Hobie showed us just how adaptable he is and soon after we put his bed and blanket in his little house he crawled in and curled up. We even put the kennel in the van that night so he could stay cuddled up in it.

Hobie in his little home.

Hobie in his little home.

Last morning in our rigs.

Last morning in our rigs.

We found a great top-floor apartment to rent in a historical district of Valparaiso well known for its street art and quaint little cafes. It didn’t take long to settle in to our new space. Our first order of business was to get the vehicles loaded into the shipping container. The process took the better part of a day, but most of that time was spent sitting in our vehicles reading while our agent haggled his way through the bureaucracy. Finally the paperwork was ready and it was time to load. Unlike when we shipped across the Darien Gap, this time we were able to drive our own vehicles into the container, disconnect the batteries, lock them up, and walk away with the keys. It was easy and the whole process went smoothly. Before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Chimera and it was time to leave. The container will be loaded onto a ship in about a week and will head through the Panama Canal to Galveston, Texas, where we will pick up our vehicles in about a month.

Chimera on the street outside our Valparaiso apartment.

Chimera on the street outside our Valparaiso apartment. All clean and ready to load.

Puerto Valparaiso.

Puerto Valparaiso.

Puerto Valparaiso.

Puerto Valparaiso.

Ready to load into the container.

Ready to load.

Easy and successful container loading. Bon voyage Chimera!

Easy and successful container loading. Bon voyage Chimera!

We have spent the last three days enjoying walking the streets of our great Valparaiso neighborhood, checking out the cute little cafes, drinking wine, and relaxing. We consider this time period our vacation from our vacation, and the first step in our reintegration program. We are learning again how to bathe regularly, sleep in a big soft bed, wear clean clothes, and attempt to fit into the non-overlanding lifestyle. All in all it’s going pretty well, but we already miss our sweet little van home.

We had the very good fortune of meeting up with Benedicte and Edison here in Valparaiso, who we shared a container with when we shipped across the Darien Gap, then sailed with through the San Blas Islands. Being on different travel schedules we hadn’t crossed paths with those two since Cartagena, Colombia, but finally the timing was just right again. We spent two wonderful evenings talking about life, the universe, and everything. Benedicte and Edison are those very special type of people that we know will be in our lives again in the future – we have no idea where or when, but we know our paths will cross again.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Street art, Valparaiso.

Emily and Hobie taking in the Valparaiso vista.

Emily and Hobie taking in the Valparaiso vista.

Riding one of the many old ascensors on the steep hills of Valparaiso.

Riding one of the many old ascensors on the steep hills of Valparaiso.

The wheels that run the ascensor.

The wheels that run the ascensor.

The view from our Valparaiso apartment bathroom window.

The view from our apartment bathroom window.

Our colorful neighborhood in Valparaiso.

Our colorful neighborhood in Valparaiso.

Tomorrow evening we will board a plane and in less than twenty four hours we will soar over all of the countries we drove through in the past year and arrive back home in Boulder. It feels rather surreal that our trip is just about over. It will take some time to reflect on this past year and put our thoughts into words. For the moment all we can say is that it has been one heck of an adventure. And now we are ready to go home.

Ciao!

Ciao!

10 thoughts on “Subagon North

  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful journey! No doubt you will miss your nomad life. Wishing you a smooth transition as you draw from the wealth of memories that you have made. We look forward to your return and the next time we meet.

  2. Yay, Tim and Emily!!! We enjoyed reading about your adventure and drooling over your photos. Good on ya!!!! Love, Julia

  3. I love you guys! and miss you three!!! Hobie looks like SUCH A STUNNER as always, and the street art is so vibrant and the picture of Tim holding that trout and and and Emily with the penguin…. I’m overwhelmed with so much love and appreciation for you all— safe travels home and all my love your way—

    t

  4. this last set of adventure pics were the BEST. maybe more striking given they were the end of a striking/stunning journey !

  5. omg I’m sorry to say I am SOOO behind… I didn’t realize you’d already returned to the US. Loved the last couple of posts and great pics. Hobie seemed right at home in his crate :) Hope the return to the US isn’t causing too much reverse culture shock!

  6. I just now read about the marvelous conclusion of your adventure! I hope you have many more goods ones…. Thank you for sharing. May good vibes be with you.

    Bill

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