beginning the new year from end of the world

putting all my faith in a rope - Queenstown, New Zealand
putting all my faith in a rope – Queenstown, New Zealand

Once Patagonia was thrown on the table for our winter trip, it became impossible to remove it. Even though it costs a million dollars to get there. Even though the car rental for two weeks is practically more than the flight. Even though I should be saving every penny I make for my See The World journey. Even though we can’t really afford to stay in an actual place with walls once we get there after being two million dollars in the car and flight hole and we’ll be tenting it the whole time, politely knocking on the doors of estancias, hoping some gauchos think we’re pathetic/disgusting enough to offer a shower in exchange for a couple of pesos. Patagonia became so engrained in the wood of our trip destination table, we couldn’t scrub it off if we tried.

So, my friend Michelle and I are headed to El Calafate in December, renting a million dollar car, and driving down to Ushuaia, also known as the End of the World. At least I think we rented a car. I had to scan my passport and driver’s license and send it to the agency so they could draw up papers for us to cross over into Chile with the rental car…I also had to wire 30% of the rental car cost to a bank in Florida. Yeaaaah, sounds sketchy typing that out. Sooooo either my identity was just stolen for the small price of 30% of a million dollars, or I’ve secured a car for the most awesome two weeks of my life.

We don’t usually plan much beyond transportation as we prefer to just go where the locals point us next. But Patagonia seems like a good place to learn a little something about first, especially since we’re planning on camping our way across it. Turns out, it’s pretty common for people to pitch a tent on any patch of landscape that looks pitchable, which is good news, since we don’t have a Plan B. I also learned we should fill up on gas every chance we get, because we might not get another one, carry plenty of snacks, but eat them all before we cross into Chile. And then I read something that made my heart do a little dance.

According to Fodor’s Travel Intelligence on Argentina, if we are in Ushuaia in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, we’ll be “dwarfed by a mad mix of four-wheel drives, enormous customized German trucks, and worn-out bicycles with beaten panniers.” Apparently it’s tradition among overland explorers to spend Christmas and New Year in the southernmost city in the world. Vehicles often have their routes painted on the side and travelers share stories of their journey through places like Siberia and northern Africa, and “if you’re lucky, you’ll encounter some who’ve ridden, driven, or pedaled the Pan-American Highway all the way from Alaska down to Ushuaia, a 17,000-mile journey that takes years to complete.” As luck would have it, barring any unforeseen travel delays, our loose itinerary puts us in Ushuaia on December 30.

This trip might the worst possible financial decision I could make at this time in my life. But I’m a sucker for a good story.

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