A travel journal
to Chile by roy
Quote: This journal is about my four wheeling trip in South America.
These are the highlights of my trip:
April 15, 1996
Folks, So many of our friends have asked us about our trip to South America we felt that a note from time to time would keep everyone abreast of the trip. The trip will be done in 8 legs or so each about two to three weeks. We will do a leg every three to four months.
Our trip first started with a farewell party at our CPW apartment. Our only regret was we had to call it over too early to get a 6:00AM start the next morning. We left about 7:30 only to rush over to Carmen Charles our travel agent to pick up our return air tickets that she forgot to deliver. The only thing we forgot was the ham we cooked to eat along the first couple of thousand miles.
The preparation of the Land Rover was accomplished by DAP of Springfield, Vermont and updated with work by Tom Sircausa at our local gas station in Englewood,N.J.. We know that the car could make it on any trip anywhere. The 1967 Land Rover has a top speed of 55 mph so our excitement was high when we passed 4 cars. It only took us to Texas to pass the last slow car. We stopped for the night at Charlottville North Carolina, Biloxie Mississippi and Corpus Christy , Texas the third night. Lots of hours behind the wheel was the way to move through the USA.
Chile at last but one little problem - they stamped my passport saying that I could not leave the country without the Land Rover. Later we figured out a way to get around this little quirk but it really caused some gray hair until we found the solution. This is a nation on the move with all the action of a modern state set down in South America. The police or military never stopped us the entire time in Chile. We normally are pulled over every hundred miles in the rest of South America.
The town of Arica where we pick up our auto insurance contract has little bistros serving great meals and wine on the sidewalks just as in Paris.
Running on, we entered the Atacama Desert the driest desert in the world. This was the sight of our first real sand storm after more than 1200 miles of desert driving. You cannot see more then a few feet in front and the wind was howling up to 45 knots. It slowed down the Land Rover to about 20 mph. I was thinking of stopping for my concern that sand would be pulled into the engine. Again, the small tank of the Land Rover gave us additional concern for we were into our first reserve tank when a gas station can into view right in the middle of the desert. You can never have too much gas.
Iquique the vacation resort and Antofagasta the mineral center were just places to spend the night as we moved south. The flooding in La Serena washed out the bridge south but we just made it across in time; again el Nino.
After crossing the border it took four hard driving days through deserts to reach Santiago de Chile. You could almost say a switch was turned on from the change to grass lands and wine country. Flowers, another export, were growing all along the road until we entered Santiago. Santiago is a major city with a ski resort, with the best skiing in all of South America just 50 miles for the center of town. Here is where we met Alejandria Aranguiz, our auto insurance agent. We even won a prize for being the first to purchase insurance from her firm over the Internet. You could put Santiago in any country in Europe and not know it was part of Latin America for all of its sophistication. Each night we visited a different night club for dinner floorshow and dancing.
We again had a little problem the car would not start except with a crank or a push. Upon arrival at the official Land Rover dealer in Santiago across from the polo fields, the problem was resolved. While there we checked a few things and found the compression was down in the #two cylinder. The high mountain passes burned a valve. To get out of the country I had to legally turn the car over to Arturo de Lara the service manager at the Land Rover dealer, and have my passport signed by the customs to leave Chile. Arturo said that when we return our little truck will be right for the next 50,000 miles, as long as we keep to the low lands.
Our next trip will take us to the bottom of the earth, about 1500 more miles. You all know about the extra seat for this should be one of the best legs of our trip for its natural beauty.
To read more about my Chile trip click:
more on Chile
December 1997: Hi Folks, We finally made it down to the end of the roads in all of South America with great ease. We will take you on this last leg from Santiago de Chile to Ushuaia Argentina.
Santiago was a great place to start any trip for it is a warm and friendly place full of great people. Our Land Rover was almost ready when we arrived only lacking a couple of hours' surgery to get her in shape for the assault to the south. We found in the dealership five Land Rovers from England. It turns out that the Camel Trophy race will go south from Santiago through Patagonia and the Rovers were the test cars to see if the trip was possible. They were all here so look for the videos from Land Rover in the spring of 1998.
Jose Trisotti joined us at our hotel for drinks and just mentioned he had his military specification Santana out in the parking lot. Wow what a car. It along with his other two Landies makes him the grand daddy of owners in Santiago. Just wait until his Series I is complete, it should hold the South America trophy for restoration. Can you imagine trying to find parts for a 50-year-old car in South America?
Moving south in Chile was a breeze all the roads are in excellent shape and marked as well as any in the States. Our first stop Talca was a large and interesting city just at the south of the wine country. The Plaza hotel had a bathroom the size of a small apartment with sitting chairs and the like. We learned here that a Completo is a hot dog with the works. Temuco farther south was a stop that was most interesting. I had to get the head bolts tighten after the repairs in Santiago and the owner of the garage was so gracious to do it for free. I guess it was a courtesy of one road warrior to another. That evening we took in a play at the municipal library.
The next day took us south into the commercial tree harvesting area. Miles and miles of pine with beautiful meadows in between with great herds of dairy cows and Black Angus cattle was our days ride. Osorno a town out of Germany came next. The people, houses, commercial building everything look like a town on the Rhine. How they transported a German town here we will never know but they do speak Spanish so it is only an illusion. We arrived in Port Montt for the wait till our ship the Port Eden sets sail to Chiles Patagonia.
In Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue we had a delightful lunch with the Avial family. We were referred to them by Karen of the South America Explores Club. They have a wonderful warm home soon to be filled with the addition of twins. Ximena is on maternity leave from the University in Port Montt and her husband is a manager of a salmon farm. It turns out that this area is the hub of salmon farming in Chile. It is no wonder that you get great salmon on every menu. We hope to return to Puerto Varas for it is an exquisite spot for fishing and relaxing. All the hotels are either four and five stars and the feeling of the place is very German.
Port Montt was a port city with all sorts of activities. We went to the mall and found every imaginable item as in any big city plus a major display of wood stoves for the folks who live out in the county. We had an extra day so we took the ferry to the island of Chiloe. The pastoral beauty of the area was amazing for its likeness to upstate New York. If you were dropped from an airplane, you could easily ask which way is Utica.
The ship Port Eden is a Ro/Ro freighter which takes up to 150 passengers. Almost all are backpackers from around the world traveling to Torres del Pine National Park. The passage south through the coast is awe inspiring in one of the last uninhabited area on earth. Just one town with three hundred souls in nine hundred miles of traveling. We arrived in three days to a true frontier town Puerto Natales. Up to see the glacier at the park by boat was a full day of hard travel. From here on south are all gravel roads.
Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan is a real treat. This large city of 150 thousand is really impressive when you come out of the plains of Patagonia. Night life starts at 11 PM just like NYC. The town is very prosperous and the central park is dedicated to business men at the turn of the century. A three-hour ferry ride across the Straits brought us to Porvenir, a sleep town of 5,000 of which 25 percent are Yugoslavian decent, and the final 250 miles down Tierra del Fuego. We stopped along the highway near Rio Grande in Argentina to see a local rodeo with full dressed Gauchos from the great sheep and cattle stations in the area. On past Guanacos a sort of llama and Rheas a big ostrich like bird by the jewel called Lake Fagnano.
Ushuaia the last true city on the continent at last comes into view. It is a wonderful town on the Beagle Channel. We dined with Jose Tibaudin the document producer of videos on the area and learned a great deal. The trip to the end of all roads is only about 12 miles out of town in a National Park. Now on the next trip we will start the trip north. We still have an extra seat open for the drive to Buenos Aires.
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Let me tell you about my personal adventure around Cape Horn. It was only a short sail comparable from City Island in the Bronx to Montauk Point and back but not the same.
I met Eric Barde the captain of Philos my charter in Port Almanza Argentina in the Beagle Channel about 9:00AM after a hour and a half taxi ride from Ushuaia over a rutted gravel roadway. The port consisted of a short pier put together with salvaged part from who know where. His boat a 48 foot steel schooner rig looked shipshape floating at the dock in the morning mist.
His wife Grdule and son Paul were just getting up and we enjoyed breakfast together before cleaning the customs to leave for Chile. The crossing of the Beagle Channel at this point to Port Williams is about a half hour under motor.
For the most part the Beagle Channel is very much like sailing in our home waters of Long Island Sound. It is not as wide but a pleasant body of water with a few very large sheep Estansa on the coast line. The close in mountains are only one to three thousand feet and are free of tree in the upper reaches due to the cold.
We arrived in Port Williams the most southern town in the world to clear into Chilean customs. The town has eighteen hundred and fifty souls with about two thirds military personal. The Port Williams Yacht Club is an old rusting costal steamship for the turn of the century firmly resting in the mud. All the boats (about five) raft up in a very protective cove. The town has several stores with marginal inventory. When you find something you need you buy as much as possible for they may not have the items for another month. The tavern which was our first stop could have been from the wild west of the states in 1880. The only difference was that the beer was ice cold and came in cans.
We filed our sailing plan with the Navy and departed about three in the afternoon. Winds were very light so we used the iron jib to reach our first overnight stop at Port Toro. A excellent harbor for the two fishing boats that ply the waters. As we came into port the dock was full of people to see who was coming. The total population of the village is sixty souls. We tied up to the dock and enjoyed a dinner of Santorio the large local crab with heavenly tasting white meat. Eric traded a bottle of wine for ten of this delicious creatures. We went to bed early for the next day sail into Nassau Bay.
The early morning was again dead calm so we turn on the iron jib and motored out passed the mouth of the little port. At the very edge of the point all the trees were bent away from the southwest due to the constant wind. I was to find this on all the islands. However, the trees are really big bushes south of Port Toro for the geography becomes sub arctic in climate.
We raise the fisherman, full jib, and mail sail under a blue sky in a pleasant breeze of about 10 knots. We sailed past a couple of very small islands covered with guano. You can smell them from over a mile away. Guano may be great fertilizer but it does not encourage close neighbors. Sooty Shearwaters seem to dive at us and the penguins are not many but are very busy fishing. The wind starts picking up and we drop the fisherman, reef the main and rolled in most of the jib.
After about an hour with the sails down to a minimum the wind is really blowing. The spray hits you eyes so hard your blinded for a few seconds. The trick is to just duck you head under the dog house before the next wave comes over the bow. We continue to sail like this for about three hours before we arrive a Scourfield Bay. On the charts it is the nearest and that is what we go for with the storm still building. The local charts we used were drawn by Captain Fitzroy in 1830 and by the H.M.S. Beagle in 1834.
The tiny anchorage of Scourfield was very welcome to weather out a storm. All during the night and for the full 36 hours we held up .The wilywaws came screaming down the mountainside at up to 100 knots. The wind at times tossed the 48,000 pound boat about as if it were a dingy. The barometer fell to 992 during the first night. The weather fax showed a new depression on the way but we figured it would be more then 36 hours before it hit the area from the south pole.
We left very early on the 14th of February for the Horn. Nassau Bay was relatively calm with winds only 10 to 15 knots. Just in case we did not raise the fisherman. In about 30 minutes the wind picked up and we put two reefs into the main and rolled the jib to a handkerchief. Hermit Island can into view and as we were about to enter the Pacific Ocean a large group of Dolphins joined us for a couple of miles.
Past Hull Island and into the ocean the swells piled up and now the waves were between 18 to 20 feet and the wind was steady at 45 knots with a few gusts to 50 knots. The sun was out and it looked like a great day for a sail. Sailing in that was not easy. You clipped on and hung on if you were not at the wheel. The physical and mental drain required is almost overwhelming. To move about your concentration is so limited you can only think, "now where do I clip on and how do I rest until my turn at the wheel," your mind limits your actions to what must be done. There is a large rock just to the southwest that is partially covered and we spotted it to port about 200 yards. That was to close for comfort and since I first saw it we called it Roy Rock. Do not forget to mark you chart of the area.
It was impossible to stop in at the three man naval station on the east side of Horn Island so we headed for the nearest shelter on Herschal Island to spend the night. The whole rounding from Scourfield Bay took a total of nine hours. Later that evening we spoke to Isabel Atesse on her race from New York to San Francisco and early the next morning we spoke again on the VHS to Mark Rudiger on EF Language doing this leg of the Whitbread Race.
The trip back was an easy sail with the wind on the port quarter varying from 15 to 20 knots. By the time we reached the Beagle Channel we had to use the iron jib for the last 20 miles back to Port William. Again in port we check in with the Chilean Navy and waited for customs to check us out to go over to Argentina and my ride home to Ushuaia. It is interesting in the Yacht Club two boats were heading out looking for crew one for South Africa and the other to Germany. We made Port Almanza at 10:00PM and I arrived in Ushuaia by 1:00AM to my wonderful wife Gladys who put up with all my little adventures. We left the next day for the two thousand mile drive through Patagonia to Buenos Aires and home.
To read more about my trip click:
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