We crossed the border with Argentina without any problems after the weather didn’t allow us to reach the Villarrica summit in Chile. In Argentina there was still a massive distance ahead of us, before we would reach the end of the world. Between us and Tierra del Fuego there was one of the more interesting parts of our trip, Patagonia. One of the least populated areas on the planet.
The first stop was in San Martin de Los Andes. A nice mountain town, although rather touristic because of the lake and the mountains. When we headed up the mountain we ended in a short Maps.me adventure. A extremely narrow gravel road gave access to one of the Chapelco (a local ski field). Partly washed away due to the rain and water from the melting snow.
On the parking up the mountain we had one of the many interesting encounters with (local) people. Grisu is a rather unique and interesting appearance, which leads to many questions since nobody can classify Grisu. This time though, it was a little different. We met Marcelo and José, who had come to the mountain not for the snow, but to repair a (military) vehicle. Part of their job is to maintain the fleet of military vehicles throughout Argentina, which is mainly Mercedes. And Marcelo especially, knows a lot about the Mercedes G-Wagon as his own personal favourite vehicle. And this is the basis of the 4×4 conversion for Grisu, which he immediately recognised. After the usual tour around Grisu, we exchanged phone numbers and stayed in contact.
Our first two weeks were still “real” winter, and our main focus was hitting the snow as much as we could. With a mix between our touring gear with Layla, and some lift tickets on other days. Slowly we made our way down south, not covering too much ground towards the end of the world. The area reminded us of home, as well as New Zealand in some ways, with lakes between the snow covered mountains.
Our final stop in this area was one with great significance, Bariloche. Not only because it hosts South America’s most famous and modern ski field on the nearby mountain Cerro Catedral. It’s also of significance in the area, around the time just after the WWII. Unfortunately, Bariloche is also known for being a criminal hot-spot amongst overlanders. Car break-ins specifically target overlanders since typically all peoples possessions are inside. Being aware and alert, our focus was on the snow and to meet some friends that we knew were in the area as well.
We had a great time the few days we spend in and around Bariloche, and (luckily) nobody was stupid enough to attempt something illegal towards us. Soon after we left, the landscape changed. The mountains flattened out and the road took a route a little more inland. Now, the long way down to Ushuaia had really begun. Although travelling much more relaxed than before arriving in Chile, we were still time restricted. Therefore we had to pick out stops, the next one was Fitz Roy.
Fitz Roy is a snow destination as well, not to slide over, but to look at. It features probably one of Patagonia’s most iconic sites and many pictures. Fitz Roy is visible from far away, and is getting bigger and bigger as your approach. The last stretch is a one day return hike from the town of El Chaltén. The day we had chosen was perfect with sun and a blue sky which provided us astonishing views all day long.
Argentina is far more relaxed when it comes to ski/snowboard touring with Layla compared to Chile. But just as Chile it doesn’t allow dogs in National Parks either. Since we have Layla, and do almost nothing without her, this was one of the reasons to (unfortunately) skip some other spots. The policy is understandable in a way, but for no reason in the situation of Layla specifically. This is sometimes (or always) very hard to accept. As in many situations, some people (those with bad behaving dogs in this case) ruin it for others like Layla.
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) is an island, part of it it Chile and part of it is Argentina. Coming overland from the north you can only enter the Argentinian part through Chile. This meant we had to enter Chile once more, this time people were far more relaxed and it took us 45 hours less than the first time. The landscape on Tierra del Fuego is much like the rest of Patagonia, and as we left the mountains south of Bariloche we entered them again just before we got to Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is the southern most city of the world, a lot further south than the most southern points in South Africa and New Zealand. When we arrived, it felt like “a destination”, we made it to The End of the World. We spend a few days relaxing, shopping, hiking and skiing/snowboarding on Cerro Castor. Cerro Castor isn’t only the most southern ski field in the world, it’s also the lowest mountain we’ve ever skied/snowboarded on. You get on the lift under 200m altitude and the top is just under a 1000m.
We had driven to the end of the world, where the road stops and you can’t go any further. Although it’s very relative, it felt like an accomplishment.