We had planned on getting a good start to our day, maybe even driving 600km, but at least making it to the coast. Well, none of the above happened. We left hours later than planned, debating on even staying another night in El Calafate, but we forced ourselves to go.
The Last Gravel Road That Killed Sandwich
The route across the country from west to east was atrocious. Ruta 40 and Ruta 3 going North and South on opposite sides of the country are phenomenal. However the in between, the last stretch of gravel, destroyed us. It took the crown for being our last and worst road in 7 months. We only made it 100km down it the first day, giving up early and lying in the back, watching a movie in the windy valley. It rained that night and the dirt road turned into a drifting frenzy and with mud every where by the end, we could barely see out of any other window beside the front one.
Time To Go North
We were now turning left, going north officially for the first time in months. It was so exciting for the first hour until 2800km later it still looked the same. The landscape never changed for 7 days straight. Just vast wide open flat spaces, and a road that went on into the horizon forever.
We had planned a couple things to do on the way up to break up such a monotonous drive however we discovered so more bad news. Every road off the main road was gravel, and after Ruta 9 from east to west, there was a halt to ever driving on gravel again. Our transfer case mounts underneath the car, the only thing holding it in place, had broken. This meant that unfortunately, we would have to miss out on visiting the penguin colonies and watching a specific group of Oracs beach themselves during high tide to eat sea lions, something we had been looking forward to for so long! It was a tough decision but really the only option, as there was no option in not making it to Buenos Aires in time.
The Exciting Stretch Of Gas Station Camping
So our next 7 days driving North turned into 400km stretches, either driving really slow or pulling over every hour as our transmission oil kept overheating. We had a streak of 3 nights in a row sleeping at gas stations, having dinner in our bed/kitchen/dining room/ living room. I worked on our blog posts and the magazines I am making of this trip while Frederik threw earbuds in, turned on several podcasts, and rocked out thousands of kilometres like it was nothing.
It is hard to keep a steady pace on this road, not because of other cars, but because of the thousands of Guanacos (llama deer), Rhea (mini Ostrich), Armadillo, foxes and peasants. They are so habituated to cars that they cross the road in no hurry, almost asking for a death wish, and do not get scared off when Frederik blasts the horn at them. The one really nice thing we did get out of driving in this terrain is the sunsets and sunrises. Every day there are no clouds in sight, and every day and night you can see the little ball of bright light rise of the flat horizon and set, really illuminating the whole sky into marvellous colours perfectly blended.
Finally, after 3 nights sleeping in gas stations and 3 days of making lots of miles we stayed at a municipal campground. The attendants insisted that it was free, maybe because we were in the offseason, and we did not argue. After a McDonalds Wifi visit, a trip to the grocery store, we were back at the campground. Tonight was a special night. It was our 222nd day on the road and we celebrated it by grilling up some steaks, drinking wine and beer and watching the musical The Greatest Showman! My mom had bought my a travelling set of the game of charades for Christmas which I had been wanting to use forever but kept forgetting. I convinced Frederik to play with me, who reluctantly agreed at first, however, ended up loving it and continued to play the following morning and the next couple days in the car as we continued north. We started our morning off with our last crepes we would ever make in the car. Little Nutella, dulce de leche, jam, banana, honey, cinnamon and grilled pineapple. This is why we are both getting fat…..but fat and happy.
It was back to a gas station again for the following night. I was cleaning our windows, I guess accidentally using the squeegee that is used on the ground. So the 2 customers beside us, who were talking up Frederik taking an interest in our car, just grabbed the bucket and washed our windows all again for us then left! In Frederik’s opinion, this was the worst place we have stayed this whole trip. It had rained so it was dirty and muddy and all round not that appealing. I couldn’t be bothered with the surrounding and said it was fine to stay for the night and started cooking. He laughed and called me a real overlander, sleeping in such a place and not seeing anything wrong with it. I had to write this down as evidence in case he ever takes it back!
Our Last Night Sleeping In The Car
It is our last 200+km day, tonight will be our last night sleeping in our good old Land cruiser just outside of Buenos Aires. We wanted to make it a great last night in the car but I guess you have to work with what you have. There was a municipal campground in the town that we paid way too much to stay at so we could organize all of our belongings and pack down the car, ready to empty it into our Air BnB the following day. Well, the last night did not go as planned. Around midnight, we woke up to discover that the campground was on the drag strip of the town. Every car with the loudest engine possible, playing their music so loud we could feel the vibrations in our bad was out. And they were not just out for a few hours, no, this lasted until 6 am. The campground dog had taken to peeing on our car and calling it his, so he hung around all night barking constantly at everything until Frederik got out of the car at 2 am and ran him off. We were then woken up by the noisiest birds I have ever heard in my life and a construction vehicle driving through the campground. Not the best start to saying bye to Sandwich but it really sums up our trip.
It is crazy to think it is coming to an end so fast. The last 2 months, spent between Chile and Argentina, have been amazing yet flown by. We have rented and Air BnB in Buenos Aires for just over a week to get the car ready for shipping and enjoy our time together in one place before we have to fly home. We had both talked about the possibility of needing an adjustment period before going home, between this trip, from what we know as life currently, to life at home. Originally it was going to be spent flying to see friends however we have acknowledged the need for the Air BnB at the end and how it works for us as a buffer. Living in this little home for a week gives us the adjustment from living out of a car, on the road, ever moving, to a city appartment with kitchen and a small sense of stability. Frederik will go home to living on his own in his apartment and I will go home to living with my family of 4 others. We have spent 24/7 together for the last 8 months and have developed into something of a limb off each other so this type of transmission is needed so our move home isn’t such a stark contrast to not only travelling together but our way of living.
The Shipping of Sandwich
After getting settled into our Air BnB in the heart of Buenos Aires we were off to get cash to pay the shipping of the car at the ports the following morning. I do not understand why, it is almost like Argentina does not want tourists money, but we and many others have problems taking our money at ATMs here. And if, by a stroke of luck, it does work for you to take money there is a 9-12$ service fee!!! So luckily we were in the bank district. We had to have tried over 10 different ones by the time we got as much cash as we needed. The max amount you are allowed to withdrawal is $2000ARP= USD100, occasionally if you find the right bank 3000ARP= 150USD. Frederik needed 36,000ARP in cash which meant we were about to work like money launderers. Around 11 transactions, 10 banks and 4 cards later we had the cash stuffed in our pockets and hoped that today was not the day we got robbed. We had a ridiculous stack of bills after, why, because we got stacks of 100ARP =5$USD…… insane.
So the following morning Frederik was off with the Landcruiser to the port, to officially retire it from this trip, where it’ll make its way to Denmark for a full ‘Frederik’ repair. It is always a little more challenging than it needs to be when you cannot fully speak the local language, especially in important procedures like this one. So he was fortunate to meet another overlander couple, who spoke but English and Spanish, and made the process to smooth and easy. It would have been quick too, if the drug dog didn’t take 4 hours to make its appearance. Meanwhile I was at home being lazy, I dropped off and picked up our laundry in this time, had dinner ready and started to get concerned because I hadn’t heard from Frederik all day. Well after finding a coffee shop to notify me he was 30 minutes out the door opened and a champagne bottle was pulled out and the cork went flying, followed by a delicious huge strawberry tarte. It was a good occasion to celebrate the car but this celebration was for the news we had been waiting for, Frederik got the job he had been wanting and would be starting as soon as we returned! Everything has been slowly falling into place.
Exploring Buenos Aires in Our Last Week
Our Last Night Of Our Journey
Well this brings us to the end of our blog, because there is nothing left to write about pertaining to ShareASandwich. I flew out the day before Frederik to Chicago, where I spent the week visiting friends before making the last stretch of the journey home. Frederik flew out early the following morning, and with a few delta in flights and luggage arrival, is back in Denmark settling in and catching up. Thank you for following along on this journy with us. We have loved every moment, good and bad, and we hope our stories were not to boring to read, if so I hope the amounts of pictures made up for it!