>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
(>Pictures at the bottom!)
We had to be patient for a long time; now the day had finally come when we had to say goodbye to all our family and friends for a longer period of time. For us personally, something “tangible” was finally moving again and the next big adventure was within reach. After more than 4 years of travelling “on our own”, we will join a guided group through South America to experience the Panamericana. This time we preferred the safety of a group to the absolute thrill. After the two years with Covid, we are looking at things a bit more soberly and don’t want to be exposed to the arbitrariness of the authorities somewhere alone.
From Basel we took a flight to Frankfurt; by train to Frankfurt and from there by plane, the flight alone would have cost 300 euros more than the feeder flight. We were not fully aware of this pricing policy and the nonsense of such passenger steering, but unfortunately our ecological footprint became somewhat larger as a result.
We could already make out the first familiar faces at Frankfurt airport and, using the photo list, we were on the hunt for more participants. But before we could somehow spot them all, we had to get on the plane and make ourselves comfortable for the next 14 hours. In any case, I (Tom) could hardly wait to have solid ground under my feet again; 10,000 metres above the Atlantic would probably be a bit of a high dive into the cool water. Without jumping or other daredevil things, our steel bird landed safely on the ground in Buenos Aires/Argentina and we were allowed to move around a bit more than we had been able to in the last few hours.
Immigration was a short affair on our part and we were not quite sure whether it was because of the red passport or because we were with a very accommodating official who processed our entry very expeditiously; others had longer processing times and one participant in our group was sent back to Europe immediately (problems with the passport).
After taking over our luggage, we met our tour guide and together with all the tour participants we headed towards the centre of Buenos Aires. The rest was short, already various activities were on the agenda, so that we were familiarised with the Argentinean way of life in no time at all. Apart from the many organised activities, such as a typical dinner with lots of meat, a tango show and guided tours of the city, we still had enough time to move around the city and its surroundings on our own.
The relaxing days at the hotel were soon numbered. Early in the morning, a bus picked us up and took us to Zarate, where all our vehicles were waiting to be picked up. But it was not that easy to “unload” our cars and we all had to rely on the energetic help of our tour guide. Last but not least, the computer at the customs office went on strike. It almost seemed as if we had to return to the hotel without having achieved anything.
All’s well that ends well; shortly before the customs officials closed for the day, the last of our group received the keys and after loading our luggage, we set off on our South American adventure. We drove the first few kilometres to the first campsite a little cautiously and I was partly surprised at the different driving customs in this country. Also, main roads can have huge potholes, where probably half the car could fall in, and this in the immediate vicinity of the Argentine capital.
Not only we, but everyone else too, needed a whole day to put our camper away properly for the journey and to arrange everything so that it was again in line with our habits. We will probably rearrange a few more times until it is right for us again, or other needs demand it.
Our car was finally ready in the evening, as it should be, and we were already called to the briefing. Yes, this was new territory for us and we listened anxiously to our tour guide. But everything was not so bad; our tour guides – Natalia, Michaela and Frank from Panamericana – gave us a lot of freedom and possibilities to arrange our trip according to our own needs right from the start. Well, that already sounded very good; certain programme points can also simply be left out. With prior agreement, the specified overnight stops can also be left out or travelled to in a different way. Super!
Already on the second day we used our freedom and left the given route, headed for country roads and tracks and enjoyed the first kilometres on the gravel roads. The dust plume behind our jeep was correspondingly large and the camp compartment was powdered with fine sand dust in the evening. But off the busy roads we had more fun and the evening “dusting” at the overnight camp soon became a ritual. We suffered a slight disadvantage right at the beginning of the joint trip; gravel roads always meant lower driving speeds, so that we usually no longer had a choice of an optimal place to stand on the joint sites for the coming night.
What we also underestimated right away was the size of Argentina and the long driving distances. Some of the daily stages were beyond our imagination; we had already been sitting in our car seats for hours, longing for our destination. It was just as impossible to “get off” again and again as it was to linger longer at any of the beautiful places. We would totally lose the connection to the group and also the support of the tour guide; so, let’s stick to it and keep on speeding up 😉
Our way led us along the east coast in a southerly direction towards the Chilean border. Soon, however, the first parks with huge penguin colonies and other sea creatures slowed us down. We could already observe the first sea lions on the peninsula of Valdés, when in Trelew our knowledge of the earth’s history was refreshed and animated to further detours on the itinerary.
In Puerto Deseado, a boat tour was organised. From the water, the wildlife observations are sometimes much more interesting, as the distance to the wild animals is much closer than would be possible on land. In addition to penguin colonies, we came “eye to eye” with the sea lions and the many seabirds rounded off the tour on the water. I dropped the following offered boat tour to an offshore island and we headed across the landscape to the petrified trees inland. More than 100 million years ago, these giant trees stood in this now very barren landscape and fed the herbivorous dinosaurs. What we see today in the stony landscape was made by the earth’s history over the many years that have passed, and our human smallness can only be guessed at.
In a wide arc we roamed the further hinterland, skirting the “Madre E Hija” volcano and reaching almost deserted areas where today many “estancias” are left to decay. Where once sheep breeding enabled a family to survive in the vast areas, today the houses are exposed to wind and weather and are again falling into oblivion.
After about 2’500 kilometres we reached the first border to Chile and the first paper war was on. As spoiled Europeans, we soon no longer know what a border crossing even is and how it used to be with us. In any case, the whole fridge had to be emptied beforehand and anything that looked “fresh” was not allowed. A few kilometres later, we enter Argentina again and probably have to fill out a lot of papers again.
Let’s hope that the border crossing to Chile will go as smoothly as the previous food and police checks in Argentina; then nothing will stand in the way of our journey to Tierra del Fuego.
>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator