Wandering the great Argentine Northwest, homemade wine and goodbye to the van

My buddy Chris showed up in San Pedro de Atacama and we spent five days hiking and camping and drinking and exploring. Fresh off of a repaired achilles tendon, he rocked our high altitude and canyon hikes. The altiplano is a stunning place as you have seen and San Pedro is tucked up against it. We did a long day drive up near the altiplano on our last night and were just astonished at the variety and diversity of colors and contours of this volcanic region. If there are any regrets, it is that I wanted more time up there. But the van…..haha!

After Chris left I drove east along the spine of the altiplano crossing back again into Argentina from Chile. It was a pretty incredible drive. I am sure you are all sick of the stunning desert scenery! You become spoiled. Oh there’s another stunning vista with Llamas (pronounced Yahmas here!).

I dropped back into Salta spending a few days in Jujuy again where I had dinner and celebrated a birthday with the nice family I met on Air BNB. Then I started the long and remote trip thru the desert to do some scouting for spots to see the eclipse coming here soon.

This area of Argentina, tucked up against the Andes, is as spectacular in colors as you will find anywhere. Long dusty dirt roads, hitchhikers, little to no cell service, and lots of homemade wine.

I reconnected with my Basque boyfriend Txaber (for the third time) and his Argentine friend David. David spoke no English but we connected as brothers immediately. Okay, it helped he made us Asado three out of four nights! Imagine camping in the high desert and we somehow found a butcher, plenty of homemade wine, and a parilla to grill meat. Yum. Utilize that van baby! Hiking and fires in the desert. Stunning. Nobody around. Awesome. I could spend at least a month just out there exploring. Next time!

The changing colors and endless rock formations had me constantly comparing it to the US. I have said it before. There are places with more spectacular scenery, but the US has it all. And we continue to try and destroy it with our habits. But we are not alone, the world’s infatuation with more, newer, faster technology has these areas under threat. For beneath these stunning seas of salt lay the largest lithium deposits in the world (a key component in microchips). And our appetite for tech will quietly destroy these pristine lands. Sound familiar? It is.

Saying goodbye to the boys, I did my best sales job to get them to meet me for the eclipse July 2. David is from that area. We will see. Here’s a nice pic where his grandfather lives.

Sneaking up close to the Andes and heading south, I took the long route thru just a spectacular river valley near the Chilean border (rockslides, shitty roads, and yes, snow)

I dropped down the back way to Mendoza to spend a few days with friends i met there at the beginning of my trip in December. I wish all the doggie pics came out.

I was in heaven. I helped them with the construction of their earth house, didn’t even realize the entire country was without power, and again sampled local wine while listening to Valentin play Johnny Cash on my guitar.

A very long and boring drive brought me back to Buenos Aires, where I started in December. To say goodbye to Chris and his family (they are moving to Chile) and to say goodbye to the van.

She was shipped back to WA, ending an epic journey. While I wait for the eclipse and slip back into backpacker mode. Shed my identity.

This isn’t a breakup. Just a break. Everyone knows I had problems with my Westy during our 9 plus year relationship. I can’t blame it all on her, but I DID make a commitment to her. Yes, I finally did end our relationship but she was just so untrustworthy. You would think I would have broken up with her sooner. But when times were good….

My Ford van did well for the thrashing she was put through. I estimate 8-10 thousand miles were put on her. I estimate 9 border crossings (and the scrutiny associated with it) but I really can’t remember. Thousands of miles of dirt roads and over 100 nights camping. I basically lived in a van for five months. In hindsight it was not easy. You always had to pay attention. Especially when the gas tank, the shocks, the bumper and the electrical system all failed at one time or another. Plus, the drama of being stranded on the altiplano on the Salar de Uyuni.

As I limped into Buenos Aires, the penultimate insult was the battery alarm (that had been sounding intermittently now for 3 months) started to sound off every 47 seconds. Nice. Long drive. The dust and dirt and well, shit that had accumulated was causing issues. Even a thorough cleaning inside and out had the drug dog freaking at the port. And we never had drugs in the van!

I never stopped realizing this was a very very different trip. Cities were hard and generally avoided. The van both brought me adventurous interactions and kept me from interacting fully with the locals. I was an island at times but it also was a good conversation starter and I picked up tons of hitchhikers when I was solo. It gave me privacy, but also reclusion when traveling alone. It got me lots of attention for sure. If I had a nickel for every Chilean, Bolivian, or Argentine woman that pointed at it and said “es mi sueno”. It is my dream.


It was funny and silly and somewhat weird to have someone objectifying my ride. But whatever. It got the job done. I am not sure the stress was worth it. Haha. Of course it was! I got to drive through three amazing countries and explore at my own pace, meet amazing people, and enjoy the incredible natural wonders down here. And for that, I am grateful.

And I want to do it all over again.

One thought on “Wandering the great Argentine Northwest, homemade wine and goodbye to the van

  1. Bob
    What an amazing trip . And the pictures of the land ,WOW. More beautiful than I ever imagined.
    You look dirty but happy 🙂
    What’s next?
    Take care & safe travels


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s