Back to Buenos Aires, January 14-16

It took 2½ moderate driving days to get from Peninsula Valdés to Buenos Aires, completing our loop. Some of it wasn't the most fascinating territory we've covered. (As one traveler we met put it: "You've got miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.") We did have some coastline, including a nice stop in the busy beach resort of Las Grutas (photo 1; the attractive town is saner than the beach), where we ended up spending most of one afternoon.

At a nondescript campground in the city of Viedma, we finally lit our own asado (barbecue), adding interest to the driving day and dreaded (see below) "burger night," normally an indoor affair. Many people -- especially but not exclusively Argentines -- consider barbecuing synonymous with camping. (One of our guidebooks describes a particular campground as "typically Argentine, in that barbecue facilities are more important than toilets.") Somehow the campground barbecue ritual isn't our style, although Tim was certainly enthusiastic, as evidenced by photo 2 and his expansive essay on the big event. Partly we just don't focus our day on dinner-time, and it does show -- there's been weariness developing with numerous repeats of the same simple camper meals. Unfortunately, our typical menu when traveling by sailboat is very similar; there's strong sentiment to expand our horizons for the upcoming two-month boat stint.

The final odometer reading reveals that we covered almost exactly 14,000 kilometers over the 72 days -- an average of about 194 kilometers (120 miles) per day. We're happy to have achieved our oft-mentioned goal of averaging under 200 kilometers per day.

Now, to wrap up some of the themes pervading this part of our year off.


You may recall that when we arrived in South America we discovered that people here speak Spanish. Only Spanish, and if we were going to communicate with anyone for anything (directions, food, prices, pleasantries) we'd better speak some Spanish ourselves. Alex quickly took it upon himself to become the primary Spanish-speaker in the family, and he did admirably. He studied a little every night, right through to the very end. For most of our time he could make do, and in the last weeks he was communicating capably.

Emily went through three stages:
  1. At first she was quite shy about Spanish-speaking, despite years of optional Spanish class at school (admittedly low-intensity -- mostly songs and numbers).
  2. Once her confidence increased, she spoke beautifully, with the best grammar and accent of the family. (Accent was a tricky matter, however -- even we were able to discern the thick unusual accents throughout much of the area we traveled.)
  3. Finally, in the latter part of the trip, in addition to speaking confidently herself, she confidently provided "constructive criticism" to the rest of us.
Like Emily, Tim gained confidence and was communicating readily in some domains -- he specialized in asking for more bread and olive oil in restaurants. Jennifer sat on her laurels from our French-speaking travels and let the others do the work.


As we traveled, in addition to purchasing quite a number of interesting crystals and fossils, Tim and Emily collected steadily on their own. (Please enjoy Tim's latest Geology Log; it's a quick read.) We kept their prized finds in the bathroom cabinet. It was a shock when we discovered the bag had gotten so heavy, even Alex couldn't move it. Needless to say, significant culling, wrapping, and boxing was necessary before packing for our flight home. (The job brought back memories of a similar but somewhat smaller-scale sorting in Morocco, featured in a long-ago travelog.) Tim and Emily made a seaside evening of it (photo 2), with some Argentine kids coming by and eagerly collecting the rejects. Before starting the job, they decided to first sort through our large collection of books. They left all of the books they'd read (and a number of our guidebooks as well) in a local cafe's book corner, earmarking the extra space created in our luggage for additional rocks.

The Camper

Throughout the 10+ weeks we continued to be pleased with the camper in terms of the three crucial factors: size, layout, and "systems." However, there was bound to be some wear and tear, at least in the systems department. We performed numerous minor repairs on our own, sticking to the philosophy that everything can be fixed (temporarily, at least) with some combination of duct tape and bungie cords. A constant burden was sweeping and cleaning the interior, which seemed to miraculously develop a thin layer of dirt
even when parked with all the windows shut. The situation after driving on gravel roads with the windows cracked for necessary ventilation was indescribable. We do hope the rental agency allotted several days for deep-cleaning and repairs (we kindly provided a "fix-it" list) before the next customers arrive.

Next: We'll spend a month regrouping at home, then fly to Thailand to begin the third part of our trip -- a sailing and overland expedition in Southeast Asia and beyond.

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