The drive north from Ushuaia, Argentina on RN3 was really just an exercise in keeping ourselves entertained. 3,094 kilometers to Buenos Aires in five days isn’t really that bad, but the straight roads, relentless headwinds, and never changing scenery meant we had to keep busy between gas stations and empty campgrounds. We spent months driving south along the Andes, so it took some time to get used to flat plains and the epic sunsets through the driver-side window of the truck.
Our road trip Groundhog Day looked a lot like this: wake up at the empty campground (it was off season) or behind the YPF gas station (beside the truck drivers), fill up on fuel and coffee, and settle in for a long drive. We had some audio books, so we started listening to the longest one we had, Shantaram, and drove north for hours and hours. When the sun went down we found another campground or gas station and prepared to do the exact same thing the following day.
The drive north along RN3 to Buenos Aires, Argentina is flat and straight with minimal traffic so Richard was a bit surprised when out of nowhere a red Land Cruiser with Montana plates that read “WEH8MUD” filled the sideview mirror. Jeff and Monica? We only knew these two through social media so it was crazy to see them in what felt like the middle of nowhere.
We pulled off the road and finally met with Overland The World… in the middle of nowhere Argentina on RN3. We stopped for a chat, then ate an impromptu lunch together, and before we knew it three whole hours had passed before it was time to part ways.
Once again we shake our heads at how small this world is. We knew each other through other friends (and the power of the internets) but ended up meeting randomly at the bottom of South America.
Ah, something else to break up the long day. Penguins! We stopped at the Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve in Chubut to see the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins in South America.
You can see thousands of penguins here and many of them will be an arms length away from you, but as the sign below says, don’t pet the penguins.
Welsh Tea in Gaiman
The province of Chubut is home to the largest Welsh community outside of the UK. During the 19th century many Welsh families emigrated to Patagonia after British officials attempted to restrict the use of their native language. In the 1800s Argentina was very welcoming towards immigrants, especially those who agreed to live in the isolated land outside of Buenos Aires. In 1865 a large group of 150 Welsh people sailed to South America, far from the influencing reach of the English. The greatest concentration of remaining Welsh people and the hub of their culture can be found in Gaiman.
A large part of the Welsh culture are the tea houses. Ty Gwyn is one of the oldest in the area so as we rolled into town, road weary and hungry, and knew this would be the most authentic place to stop and experience the “Welsh tea service.”
We were excited for tea and snacks, naively unaware of what was about to come. A never ending pot of black tea, covered in a knitted cozy of course, was first to arrive. Our tea with fresh milk was a perfect accompaniment to buttered fresh baked bread, biscuits and jam, and small cheese sandwiches. This alone satisfied the road hunger and left us rubbing our protruding bellies.
And then a couple of extra plates of desserts arrived. What is happening? Cream-filled chocolate cake, lemon tarts, apple pie, raspberry cream pie, blueberry scones, and some sort of Christmas cake finished up service. We did our best to make our way through this gauntlet of desserts, put the remainder in our ARB fridge, and continued to enjoy those leftover desserts for two more days.
It became harder and harder to tear us away from RN3 to go and see anything. As we motored north the pull of Buenos Aires became stronger and stronger. The burrowing parrots at Balneario El Condor were only a half hour detour, but we were so focused on making progress that we almost didn’t stop here. We realized that we were being dumb, so a quick u-turn and detour brought us to El Condor and one of largest colonies of burrowing parrots.
San Antonio de Areco
This is where
shit stuff starts to get real. After 12 months of travelling through South America it was time to clean out the truck and load it on a boat destined for Florida. We stopped in the small town of San Antonio de Areco in the pouring rain and had to make a quick accommodation revision when the local campsite was not only closed, but completely flooded as well. We found an inexpensive and completely empty B&B and started the lengthy process of cleaning out the truck.
All that hard work required sustenance and we found plenty of it in the form of picadas. All of the local bars, cafes and restaurants served their own version of meat/cheese/bread on a platter. We sampled these delicious spreads from every restaurant in walking distance. After 3 days of indulging we were longing for a salad.
Finally shipping day arrived. We had contacted K-Line about their RORO (roll on, roll off) service from Buenos Aires to Jacksonville, Florida approximately a month before and had the drop off and shipping date pre-arranged. Pablo gave us a time and contact person at the dock so all we had to do was show up.
The process in person was ridiculously easy compared to shipping from Colon-Panama. We unbolted the small and easy to steal parts (just in case!), locked up everything else, signed a couple pieces of paper, handed off our key, grabbed our bags, and gave Little Red a couple of thank you pats on the hood before heading for our Buenos Aires apartment.
So there we go, 48,800km over a total of about 18 months from Vancouver to Ushuaia, Argentina and a drive north along RN3 back up to Buenos Aires.