Beyond Tierra del Fuego

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Once we were feeling a little better, we thought it might be a good idea to bid Puerto Deseado farewell - before we got even more frustrated with the on-line connections and ended up strangling the manager of the local Internet Café! Although it is surely a pleasant little town during the summer season, once fall sets in it becomes rather bleak and desolate, and with the exodus of tourists there are only very infrequent zodiac trips to visit the penguins. Heading back across the cold and dismal pampa in the rain, we soon joined RN 3 again and turned north for Comodoro Rivadavia. This is a fair-sized city at the centre of the Argentinean oil producing region, and we were able to find a good internet connection, and a DHL office in order to send off our cheques to the Receiver General!

At this point we decided to abandon the featureless pampa of southeastern Argentina and turned inland to find more interesting landscapes. For a morning we drove west on RN 26 through a veritable jungle of oil rigs, derricks and pumps (that resemble some weird kind of oil-addicted praying mantis) with their accompanying pipelines, compressor stations, storage tanks and networks of hydro power lines, towers and poles. After joining RN 40 and spending another day driving north through the seemingly endless pampa, we finally reached the tourist centre of Esquel nestled in the foothills of the Andes at the southern end of the Argentinean Lake District.

Oh, one other interesting thing along the way. Throughout Latin America we have been fascinated by the number and diversity of roadside shrines. Many are quite modest but well-tended family affairs, that have been set up in memory of victims of a road accident. Others are quite elaborate, and are dedicated to a local soul or a saint - very often the Virgin Mary - who performs miracles and cures, or grants supernatural favours for believers in exchange for gifts and devotion. In southern Argentina we've noticed numerous conspicuous and intricate shrines surrounded by red flags. These are specifically dedicated to Gaucho Antonio Gil, a 19th century outlaw reminiscent of Robin Hood, who was an army conscript deserter and robbed the rich to help the poor. He was eventually captured by the authorities and hanged, but not before his fame had spread far and wide and his exploits became legendary throughout Argentina. The roadside shrines are filled to overflowing with offerings - candles, money, cigarettes, clothes, photographs...even hair clippings - testament to a continuing strong belief in his power to perform miraculous cures, provide protection and even grant financial favours.

Enough of myths, legends and strange beliefs. We seem to remember that in the last couple of Travelpod entries we've left you hanging with regard to our future travel plans. So where do we go from here? When we originally left Ottawa on this somewhat unusual journey, vague plans had us driving to the tip of South America and then returning to Canada, all within eighteen months. It has taken us fifteen months just to reach Tierra del Fuego, and we are definitely not planning to do the return trip in a mere three months. In fact, we generally do not like retracing our steps, so driving back up through Central America is definitely not in the cards. We looked at continuing north through the vast expanses of Brazil and then shipping the van from Venezuela to Florida, but weren't too enamoured with that idea. As we thought about it, we've been struck by three recurring themes from the trip so far: the astounding beauty and diversity of our natural surroundings; the amazing experiences we've had with people we've met along the way; and, what a wonderful way this is to travel (for us anyway!). We've come to realize that there's so much more out there for us to explore and experience, and to share with you. So........

At our current rate of travel, we might make it as far north as Buenos Aires by the end of June. By then a "holiday from our holiday" would seem to be in order, so we plan to fly back to Canada for July (in time for the 10th Annual Ottawa Valley Mid-Summer Herbfest), August and September!! Actually, the principal reason for returning home is for the operation on Sharon's second eye, although we are still awaiting confirmation of an exact date for surgery. If all goes well, we should be returning to Argentina in early October to continue our travels here, as well as in Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. We may possibly travel back to Bolivia and the areas of southern Peru that we missed, but we are not sure about that yet. With luck, we should then be ready by about April of 2006 to ship DC3 to South Africa to continue our journey north through East Africa as far as Ethiopia. Somewhere in between we hope to squeeze in a month or two for a special side-trip to visit our friend Sherry who has recently started a volunteer assignment in northern Thailand.

The Africa connection has been in the works since last March - Mike thought it was very "cool" that we would drive across to visit him. Although he will no longer be there, we plan to visit his many friends and colleagues who are still in touch with us. In fact, some of his best friends have informally adopted us as parents, so how could we not plan on spending some time with them?! (hope you're still going to be around by then, Nici and Mat!). We haven't travelled much in southern Africa previously, but East Africa is quite familiar territory - in fact, we met in Tanzania way back in 1969 and worked there as volunteers (Sharon with CUSO and Gerry with VSO) until 1972. Gerry subsequently worked in Kenya and Ethiopia until 1975, and Sharon embarked on a hitch-hiking trip around the world......but those are stories for another time!

As you may have realized by now, the Channers can convince themselves of pretty much anything, so our plans might change radically anywhere along the way. Of course there are always obstacles to contend with - technical, administrative and bureaucratic - as well as certain health issues that are gradually becoming more of a concern. However, these are our thoughts for the moment and will at least provide you with a general idea of what to expect for the next little while. We hope that you will continue to enjoy travelling vicariously with us!
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