Archive for July, 2011

Adios, Chile… for now

Posted on July 31, 2011 by 4 Comments

We finally got our chance. The stars aligned, the snow melted, and the aduana tells us we can leave the country in the morning – a 6 AM caravan.

We haven’t explored Chile too much – yet – but we can definitely say that we like it. We’ll zig-zag back over later.

San Pedro was a cool place and we met some good people. When we first drove in, we were greeted with peace signs and a few thumbs-up. We haven’t seen that kind of response in a while and it was a good indicator of what type of place it is.

The food here is stellar. Most of the restaurants have a huge outdoor fire pit and they definitely know how to grill. I think I ate melt-in-your-mouth grilled pork chops 4 nights in a row.

We met some other bus travelers here too. Two girls – an Aussie and a Brit – bought a ’88 Brazilian bus (I could swear it’s 5% smaller than it’s German cousin) in Santiago and are headed north. They broke down and have been here a few weeks just waiting around for someone to help. At a party the other night, they found out about us and came over to see if we had any experience working on VWs. Um, a little.

They plan on traveling for a while, and wanted to learn as much as possible. We spent the better part of the afternoon going over the finer points of valve adjustment and the like. Stories were told. Wisdom was dispensed.

They had killed the battery, the valves were too tight, the carb was too lean and the belt was loose. That was it. Now, they’re good to go and might be able to do some of their own troubleshooting next time. After getting their bus all tuned up and going for a test drive, they offered us a sixer of the local brew. There is no fairer trade in the world.

Now, we’ve officially checked out of Chile and handed in our vehicle paperwork, but are camped right behind the immigration office with all the truckers. This is the best place in town to watch the sunset and the stars here are amazing too- the outer arm of the Milky Way is a bright band across the sky. Tomorrow’s wake up call will probably be the sound of diesel engines firing up before sunrise.

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Posted on July 29, 2011 by 2 Comments

Bode: Dad, can I cut your hair?

Me: Why would you want to do that?

Bode: Have you seen it?

I have a long indistinguished history of questionable haircuts. I have no qualms with this one.


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La Quebrada

Posted on July 28, 2011 by 5 Comments

Outside the little town of Toconao is an oasis within Quebrada de Jefe. It’s a canyon cutting though Cerro Colachi that makes a worthwhile little stop in the middle of the desert.

It’s definitely popular with the locals, who all bring a picnic. Within the canyon are little plots of land that have been planted with figs and pears and other fruits you wouldn’t expect to grow out here.

I wouldn’t say we’re killing time, but we’ve certainly been taking it easy the past few days. More time to debate our next direction.  We originally thought we would head into Argentina from here, but the pass has been closed due to all the snow. The information around town varies – maybe it will open mañana, maybe not. Each day starts with a debate about whether or not to just drive down the Chilean coast instead (Chile was a surprisingly unpopular choice, according to our Facebook buddies).

The other consideration is that ALL of the passes south of here are closed. It’s a long way down. Once we commit to one country, there’s no going back until the snow melts. At least today, anyway. Regardless, we can’t lose. Golden worries.

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Nucleation Sites

Posted on July 27, 2011 by 3 Comments

I’m not sure how any Chemistry class could possibly avoid including the now-infamous Diet Coke and Mentos experiment.

Today’s class: Chemistry.

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Cold Flamingos

Posted on July 26, 2011 by 2 Comments

Nearby are more Salars – none of them as impressive as Uyuni in Bolivia – but salt flats nonetheless.  The Salar de Atacama has enough water in it to attract three different species of flamingos – James, Chilean and Andean. We took a day trip to go see some big pink birds.

The Atacama desert is really spectacular. Having recent snow on the mountaintops made it even cooler. These salt flats aren’t blinding white like in Bolivia, and they have a bizarre texture that you certainly wouldn’t want to drive across. Fortunately, this time there are graded roads to follow.

The birds are all within the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos. Angela had to convince me to take the trip out here, but it turned out to be really nice. Flamingos everywhere – close up and flying overhead. Bode read all the park information boards and told us all about the types of birds and how to identify them.

Fun fact for the day: the James is the rarest.


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Pineapple Power

Posted on July 24, 2011 by 2 Comments

This has been a great week. Not because of where we are or what we are doing, but because of the people we continue to meet and the e-mails we have received.

Just this week, we’ve gotten open invitations to stop by for a beer in both Alaska and Patagonia.

Today, I opened my email and was blown away. So much that I wanted to share a little bit. Even though we have never met or communicated before today, Spencer and I seem to have already connected on a number of levels. It was an generously expansive message that opened a window into his own life, but also a window into mine.

For anyone that may have ever thought that we were crazy from bringing our young son on this adventure – Spencer sums it up nicely:

  The biggest thing that grabbed me is that you are engaging in this adventure with your young son.    I speak from experience in saying that you are doing more for his life than you may fully appreciate  – just yet.

You are integrating the way that other people and other cultures live, think, and function into your son’s consciousness.   It will never leave him.   Speaking from my experience, he will translate these travels/experiences into a level of understanding of life, in general, into the rest of his life, – that will be invaluable.

That mindset, — that objective, and the continued benefit that it will bring to his adult life  (and subsequently be passed along to his children) is very rewarding to me as to the value of the travels I did with my son when he was younger.

Thanks, again – for documenting your travels, for people like me to benefit from.  I know I’ll enjoy reading it.

– Spencer in Colorado


And, a pineapple makes a good rocket engine.


Filed Under: Chile

Down by the river

Posted on July 22, 2011 by 4 Comments

Here’s the post that everyone was waiting for. Photos of me washing the car. Even a close up of the muffler. Hold your excitement.

We wrongly assumed there would be a car wash in San Pedro since there are so many tour operators and many of the trips through the Salar end here. Nope – it’s the desert – there’s no water.

We did it Peruvian style – down by the river. We found the local stream and pretty much emptied the thing out. It was much higher the previous day, and by the time we were done it was a dry river bed.

The salt situation was investigated. We got everything we could find. There was even salt on the roof. I even hand-washed the engine compartment.  Then, I lubed every thread of every bolt, hinge, lock, lever, etc. If I’m not the best owner this bus ever had, I’d like to know who had it before me.

The underside didn’t look too bad, but we also had a layer of borax from the drive a few days ago, so it was tough to tell. We’ll have to wait for a power-sprayer somewhere down the road.

I can tell you that where there was major salt under the car, it wasn’t merely stuck on. It had grown on. Crystallized. In some areas, I had to chisel it off with a hammer. Serious stuff.

And, I fixed the timing light. It’s a > $100 USD Craftsman tool and it failed at the connector. Poor strain relief. Another job for the soldering iron – one of my most useful tools. When I need it, I’m really glad I have it. And, I don’t know why, but I love running the soldering iron off solar power.

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