Elvis Lives

Joined May 2016
  • Day774

    Footy, Footy, Footy

    June 29 in Argentina

    After Bariloche we headed back to Angostura where we crossed the border, as its a much smaller town and way more RV friendly. Plus there's loads of great bars to watch the World Cup.

    The last Argentinan game was a shocking performance, but this time they pulled off an unlikely winner and the bar we were in went crazy and the streets soon filled up with singing & flag waving fans, despite the fact it was lashing it down. There was a little less atmosphere for the England game, but the way the lads are performing we made enough noise to make up for it.

    So we spent a happy week and half, eating and drinking! A humongous steak and sides only costs about $13, and if we weren't stuffing ourselves we were enjoying a bottle of red (under 10 bucks) watching a game.

    We did venture north through what is meant to be some of the most beautiful landscape in the continent, but the weather was pretty awful and thick snow clouds blocked all the amazing views. After a few days exploring we slunk back to the bars and the footy with our tail a little between our legs.

    We made the right move coming back into Argentina and enjoying our wealth again (the dollar rate has gone from 25 to 29 in the 2 weeks we were gone!). I was definitely missing mates with the fever pitch of 'football coming home' but we were in the right place to enjoy the football spectacular.

    Time closing in, as was the weather, and we had to get back on the west side of the Andes. Snow came down pretty thick that night and in the morning we got to use our expensively acquired snow chains for the first time (in my life). They provided quite a bit of extra security when driving up the Argentinan side, but as soon as we saw the 'Welcome To Chile' sign the road was completely cleared.
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  • Day770

    Patagonia!! We Made It!

    June 25 in Argentina

    We didn't quite realise it, when we crossed back into Argentina we saw a sign saying we'd arrived in Patagonia! I thought it started way further south than this, but was super chuffed to be able to tick it off the list, although we definitely have to go back and explore its wonders in the summer at some point in the future.

    As soon as we hit a town we immediately went for a delicious lunch of steak and chips with a fried egg on top - delicious, and one of the main reasons we came back over! We were so happy to be back and after a night by the lake we drove to Bariloche which has been an aim of Phils for the last few months. Although the town wasn't that great we managed to find a real ale bar showing Argentina vs Croatia and they let us camp in the car park for the night! We enjoyed their happy hour (6-10pm), playing pool and found it a very quiet campsite - mainly due to the very poor Argentinian performance!

    The next few days were spent driving around the national and local parks, finding some beautiful free campsites and doing some walks in either drzzily rain or stunning sunshine.

    We were in need of hot showers so drove to a promising sounding campsite on iOverlander. The owner Anna met us but had the disappointing news that it was shut. Despite that she let us stay anyway, turning on all the heating and hot showers. She even let use the kitchen and a room with a heater, which was very welcome as it is very getting pretty damn chilly down here. We spent a happy few days here doing a bit more hiking and enjoyed an evening cooking a meal for Anna. She is one of the most friendly welcoming people we've met on our travels and would only allow us to leave a bottle of wine or two to show our thanks.
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  • Day760

    It was wierd coming into Chile after spending so longer in countries of varying (i.e. low) levels of development. My yankee friends won't like me saying this but I found the US a lot less modern that you would expect, but compared to everything else it was the most like home.... until we got to Chile!

    Firstly the weather - we're now on the western side of one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world and bordered by the coast, so unsurprisingly it's wet. It's not wet like the east coast of the states, where we'd never seen such powerful storms, but wet in the depressingly British sort of way. Grey clouds are the norm at this time of year, along with drizzle to heavy rain, reminding me of aqua-planing along the M6 (fortunately both Mol & Lynds were passed out after a rough night in hospital when Lyndsey shattered her ankle at Toby's wedding down south).

    Secondly the prices were a bit of a shock to the system - petrol isn't that far off UK prices (but at least someone pumps it for you). We're finding we can't justify eating out, even an empanada (think of a small cornish pasty) costs more than a 3 course menu-del-día in most countries, and a pint is nearly as eye watering as at home (normally a beer out is only fractionally above a beer from a shop, double at most - I can only wish that was true at home, or in the states).

    Lastly, we walk into the local supermarket and are stunned to see a Tesco's section. Although slightly more wierd is the fact only a single product was recognisable from home. The beer section (not Tesco branded) was much more familiar, and we took good advantage of the Adnams beer on special offer, and my personal all-time favourite of Wychwood's Hobgoblin ale :)

    Its funny as when we drove into Argentina we said it reminded us of the US, but I wasn't expecting this of Chile and it's certainly not what we want when our final journey home is looming ominously large on the horizon.
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  • Day758

    We high tailed it out of Dodge, sorry Santiago, and drove south as fast as we could heading for the Lake District. The weather was pretty dismal but at least the road was a good (flat, dual carriageway & no potholes) so we made good time. We stayed one night at a rather noisy Copec, but these are the most glamorous service stations you could imagine (hot showers & WiFi), and another a nice rest area just off the road. After a 3rd day driving we rolled into Villarrica, a nice little town by a big lake and thought it was a nice place to spend a night, although we soon realised there wasn't much going on so the following morning we drove the half an hour down to Pucón, the tourist centre for the area. It was like arriving in a posh ski town in rural America or even New Zealand.

    Elvis's new travelling companion is temporarily living here, so we got in touch to see if she would like to meet up and were delighted to be invited around for a curry. She was lovely and knows what it's like travelling and also offered us showers, so we felt very much at home.

    The following day was absolutely glorious, and having wimped out of an expensive guided volcano climb (mainly because of the dog, plus it was half the height of my last climb!), we decided to try and hike around the base. This was easier said than done due to a huge dump of snow - we were advised to install our chains but thought we could creep a little way up without them, but after sliding around a bit we soon ended parked up back at the entrance. We had a lovely walk up the way we thought about driving, and had to help a 4x4 stuck on the ice! When we got to the end of the road we ventured off to the side and were soon waist deep on snow!

    After a quiet night at a lovely spot on a black sand beach we drove a little north to do another walk but were warned we would be in deep snow again so decided on a shorter hike to 3 waterfalls followed by a soak in one of the numerous thermal baths around here.

    We continued winding our way around the lakes staying at lovely free campsites and one day we even braved a quick dip in an extremely cold lake to freshen up.

    Although the area was very pretty, due to the price of everything we made the decision to head over the pass back into Argentina where we would be able to afford steak and red wine again. It also meant we would reach Patagonia which felt like a good way to end our Southern trajectory.
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  • Day752

    The Final Frontier(a)

    June 7 in Chile

    Maya is dictating this part of our trip as we have to be in Chile a minimum of a month prior to her (and Jo's) flight home so, despite desires to stay longer in Argentina, the fact that the pass was open after a few days of heavy snow meant we had to go for it.

    The drive down the Chilean side was a very different - it's soooo steep! I remember this road really clearly from our last trip and driving it myself was even more intimidating. You've never seen a road switchback like this - even Chris Froome would be having kittens! The ice on the side of the road kept you alert, but you couldn't help but stare at the awesomeness of the terrain they'd somehow built this road though.

    We stopped off for a few hours in the town of Los Andes, trying to sort out the basics (money and SIM card) plus we had to restock on fruit & veg as you were allowed nothing through the border. The next day we continued down and were soon in Santiago, and unbelievable we had another noise eminating from the front end of the van (argggh).

    We dealt with Maya's stuff first and got that clock ticking, then off to yet another mechanics. They found a problem and sent me off to search the part shops to find a replacement 'idle arm' (don't ask - I might just bore you with the answer). I eventually returned triumphly, just as everything was closing for the day. After an exceedingly unglamorous night at the local petrol station we returned and they installed the new part. Immediately on the test drive around the block I knew it wasn't any better so back we went. Next we replaced the shock absorbers but still it wasn't sorted. Finally we found one of our newly replaced ball joints had some play so again I went off part hunting. Fortunately this time I didn't have to ship from the states, but when it was installed the following morning (after another unglamorous night) there was still some noise. The mechanics were at a loss and were shutting for the weekend, but stressed anything remaining wasn't serious so we had little choice but to head onwards (later update: the noise seemed to diminish over the following few days, and the work was all done well and needed - it's just frustrating to be still dealing with this).

    I don't really have any photos for this blog so I've just added a selection that sum up our time in Argentina (i.e. a lot of eating & drinking!)
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  • Day750

    Not So Good, Not So Bad

    June 5 in Argentina

    This post is named after my favourite tagline from a local restaurant. Needless to say, we didn't eat there!

    A short drive out of Mendoza and up a valley in the impressive Andes we found some lovely thermal pools. We arrived at 7pm after everything was shut so we spent a quiet night camped outside.

    The next day we spent 7 blissful hours soaking in hot bubbly water made all the better as you could bring your own food and drink in. Our friend Tony arrived along with his girlfriend Carol so we all decided to drink a bottle or two of wine and spend another night in the car park!

    The next day we drive through some gorgeous scenery with craggy peaks and turquoise lakes before climbing up to about 3300m to cross the Andes at Frontier Los Liberatores into Chile.

    What a beautiful border crossing this is - the peaks were covered in fresh snow and we had a perfectly sunny day. We had been a little worried about entering Chile as we'd heard tales of overzealous officials pulling everything out of camper and looking for contraband fruit, veg, meat, dairy etc etc, plus that snow chains (bought at great expense) were compulsory. However we ticked the box as having food to declare, gave them a bag with a few old veggies in and after a cursory inspection and stamping of Maya's papers we were on our way down the windiest road in the world (fortunately no chains required)!
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  • Day747

    Dozy In Mendoza

    June 2 in Chile

    We are struggling a bit with the Argentinan lifestyle and how it ties into Overlanding - over the past 2 years we've generally been getting up with the sun and going to bed at 10ish. However here the time zone is skewed towards Buenos Aires so it still pitch black at 8am and really doesn't warm up until 10ish, then by the time we've eaten breakfast and got ourselves going all the shops and businesses are shutting for their 4 hour lunch break... and then the restaurants don't open until 9ish! Anyway the above means we didn't get to San Juan until the extended lunch break so there was nothing for it but to eat a big steak with roquefort sauce and huge tasty caprese milanesa!

    After an uninspiring night in a petrol station (not as bad as it sounds as they are set up for truckers with wifi, toilets, etc and it was reasonably quiet) we finally arrived in Mendoza. Here our luxurious accommodation was a 24-hour car park but it was smack in the centre so it meant we could go out out! Queue a few more parillas and steaks :) We also had boring admin stuff to do - laundry and dog papers to prepare for Chile.

    We decided we'd had enough of carparks and petrol stations so drove just south of the city into the vineyard area and found a lovely hospiaje run by a former overlander who let us park next to the vines but sit inside by the log burner - bliss! We met a fellow traveling Brit, Tony, and spent the next day touring vineyards and breweries on our bikes. Maya was very happy to get a chance to properly stretch her legs and we've been doing a lot of cities, eating and driving - not her favourite activities. Of course staying out much too late so we ended up tipsily riding home in the dark with no lights....

    Unsurprisingly the next day was a bit of a write off and we spent another night around Mendoza, but this time in a nice little campsite with WiFi, electricity and hot showers (what more could you ask for!) before heading back into town the following morning to pick up the stamped dog papers.
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  • Day741

    Valle de Luna

    May 27 in Argentina

    After Cafayate we headed to a small sleepy village to the northwest. There wasn't much going on but we visited a micro brewery and had a nice night in a huge but completely deserted municipal camp ground.
    Next up was a looong drive south to Mendoza, down the iconic Ruta 40 that runs the length of the country tracking the Andes. After a good day's drive we stayed in a lovely community camp ground at Pozo Azul (Green Wells), with a gorgeous red rock canyon.
    After another longish stint we ended up in Chilecito an old mining town which had an incredibly ambitious cable car system built in the early 1900s to link the mines in the Andes to the railway line. Very impressive but now a rusted old relic. The memorable thing about the campsite here was that we had to ask the owner 30mins before we wanted a shower so he could start a wood fire to heat up the water!
    We had a short hop to La Rioja, which was a larger town as we wanted to make sure we had somewhere to watch the Champions League final. Just as we called a cab into town the fancy hostel found the big match on the TV there, as Jo was feeling a little under the weather so we stayed local to watch it.
    Another 4 hour drive and we arrived at the Valle Del Luna regional park. The national park next door costs 4 times as much and offers less, so it wasn't a hard decision which to visit. Its a strange set up as you can only drive through the park, and only in convoy with a guide, but as we got here late in the day there was only 3 cars and we got to see it in the gorgeous late afternoon orange sun. The unusual geogology make up means there's a huge area rich in fossils from across all the epocs and the landscape is pretty epic. One of the most amazing stops was the marbles you can see in the photos - they are not made by erosion but by layers upon layers of sand deposits around an organic embryo, like a dead fly - truly bizarre. We finished the tour just in time for an amazing sunset, and spent the night at a great spot with free WiFi and brand new toilets - better than most camp sites!

    We then took a bit of a detour off the main road and down a small windy side road that wound through more gorgeous scenery, and spent a lazy day cooking stew on a camp fire at a dusty little free camp ground.
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  • Day735

    Wine Country

    May 21 in Argentina

    Cafayate has been raved about by many of the travellers we've met, and is the wine capital of the north. Its not a large town but is surrounded by vineyards, that cover the flat valley floor and hemmed in by steep sides. The soil is predominantly sand which sits on a solid rock base, and the area receives a measly 20mm of rain a year - who would have known this is perfect for growing wine grapes?

    The wine here is quite different to the normal 2-4-1 stuff we all buy at home. It's very full bodied and very strong (14.5%) - if you describe the stuff at home as rounded, then I'd said this has some pretty nobbily corners on it. It's due to the altitude (~1,500m) which causes large temperature differences between day and night (~20°C) so the grapes have thick skins and are extra sweet. You'd be thinking it's easily a 20+ quid (£ for the foreigners) bottle when you'd only pay 5/6 bucks (£3/4) for it.

    We had a great tasting at Porvenir Bodega - a morning visit due to the crazy opening hours I described in the last post, which set us up nicely for the day. Prices are incredible here at around 6 bucks a bottle for a decent tipple and we lugged the inevitable case back to the van. Lunch was a fantastic selection of fresh empanadas, amazing cheeses and delectable dried meats - all washed down with a couple of bottles of course!

    There was also a great microbrewery on the main square but we were a little disappointed we couldn't find the same standard of restaurant as we'd quickly become accustomed to.

    Sam and Don had to head off as they were heading back to Canada for a few months in the(ir) summer. Strange to think we'd met them on a beach in El Salvador exactly a year ago, and we'd really enjoyed travelling with them for the past month or so.

    We did another tasting at a vineyard just out of town, and we could choose the wines from a large selection. This meant we could compare their cheaper and premium ranges, and surprisingly we often preferred the cheaper ones. The tasting was accompanied by a huge bowl of delicious cheese and view across the sun drenched vineyards was gorgeous. Also the $5 tasting was free of you bought a $6 bottle of wine, which obviously didn't need much thinking about, although liked this stuff so much we manged to buy another case!
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  • Day729

    No Salt in Salta (Argentina)

    May 15 in Argentina

    After short hop to the boarder and minimal fuss we were in Argentina, country number 13. Almost immediately you feel like you are back in the modern world, with good roads and clear signage its a big change from the past 18 months - you could even be driving in America.

    We found an entry on the iOverlander app claiming to have the best empanadas (mini cornish pasties) in the country, so obviously we had to stop and we weren't disappointed. A few hours later we were in the city of Salta, staying at a municipal country on the edge of town. It's a bit of a revelation to have multiple camp sites to choose from, let alone municipal ones.

    We spent a few days enjoying the town and its wonderful restaurants. The highlight was definitely Viejo (Old) Jack's for Sam's birthday where the waiter cut our steak with a spoon!! Honourable mention goes to the real ale house where happy hour ran from 7 until 9pm so a decent american style IPA only cost 2 bucks, and they served incredible loaded chips. We even visited Barny Gómez, a legendary bar we got drunk at 13 years ago although frustratingly I couldn't replace my long since disintegrated t-shirt.

    At this point I should probably explain the Argentinan schedule, as its quite unlike anything we've come across. The day starts at 9am as usual, but runs until 12 when everything bar the restaurants shut down. The siesta time lasts until 4 or 5 when the day resumes and continues until 7, 8 or 9. Prime eating time is around 10pm and some bars don't even open until midnight. It's all very strange and we become slightly nocturnal (this is helped by the fact we're on a Buenos Aires timezone so it doesn't get light until 8am) but it's actually a bit of nightmare for overlanding life when you lose the afternoon and it's chilly in the morning so you stay in bed until the sun warms things up. Still Argentina has a lot of things going for it so I think we're going to enjoy our time here.

    Unfortunately I came down with a bad bout of man flu, which laid me low for a few days. When we came to leave Jo even drove for the first time since America, and it was one of the nicest drives we've ever done!
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