Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tierra del Fuego (Plains of Fire)

Glacier at Puerto Moreno.

The next morning we woke early, excited for our journey to begin. We had arranged for a rental car the night before, and while we waited for it to arrive, we invited anyone who was awake to come along. A Canadian, Khalil Rihane, who we had not really gotten to know yet, decided he had nothing else better to do and packed his belongings just as the rental car showed up to the hostel. Little did he know, he was in for a wild ride.

Soon enough, we were on the road and headed south. A note that will become important later in the story is that Felix had no license and didn't really know how to drive. On any account, I took first turn at the wheel and soon we were surrounded by the foothills of the Andes.

Our plan was to drive south, see the glaciers (largest in South America) at Puerto Moreno, and then drive into Chile. From there, we would have to take a ferry to Tierra del Fuego, and pass back into Argentina.

The weather quickly turned frigid as we continued south, and soon it was painful to get out of the car. I did not take too many photographs during the trip, and the ones that I did take were rushed in order to get out of the cold.

That night, we did not stop, because there were no places to stay before we reached the desert. Oil had recently been struck and men had flocked from all over Argentina in the hope of finding work. We back tracked over 100 miles in search of a town with a single vacancy. We were unsuccssful, so drove to the end of the tundra, filled our car with gas and hoped for the best. Civilization ended for the next 450-500 miles. We didn't know if we would be able to make it on a single tank of gas, but we decided to chance it.

All of us were exhausted, and after we had all taken a turn at the wheel, we decided to risk letting Felix drive. We were awoken to the sensation of spinning not much later. As I looked out of the window, I saw the world rushing past, spinning out of control. The road had turned to ice in the night, and Felix, having little experience driving, had continued to travel well over 90 mph regardless of the ice. I thought, rightfully so, that we were about to die. Miraculously, the car remained on all four wheels and we found ourselves in a shallow ditch on the left side of the road. 5th gear was no longer fully operable, but we were able to continue on.

Tierra Del FuegoI am going to keep this post brief for now, as I didn't write much in my journal during that time. The details are fuzzy as to what places we saw in what order. I will repost when my fellower travelers fill in some of the blanks for me. For now, I will leave you with this picture of Broos, right before we were arested by the National Park rangers for jumping the fence to explore around the glacier: