Wylie - Founder & CEO
Carretera Austral (AKA, The Pan American Highway through Patagonia). This was an epic road trip that was inspired by the trip taken by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, which was popularized in the movie 180 South. My friend and I saw the movie during our first year out of college and he was so inspired he quit his job, bought a camper shell for his truck, and set off to replicate the trip. He actually extended the route, started in Alaska, and was immersed in this adventure for nearly 2 years. I was only risk-averse enough to join him for 8 weeks through the Patagonia section, which was by far the most intriguing to me. In hindsight, I should have done the whole thing with him.
I flew down and met him in Puerto Monte, Chile, and we traveled all the way down to Ushuaia—the southern-most location of South America—crossing through Argentina several times along the way. The trip had everything I could have asked for including hot springs, backpacking, fly fishing, ferry crossings, off-roading, memorable local encounters, route-finding through backroads, and more.
We had a fairly meaningful scare about 100 miles from any services when we hit a rogue drainage ditch going 30mph that had zero warning signs posted. Luckily we didn't damage the vehicle but the ditch was deep enough that we were sitting on the frame of the car. We eventually got out using our jack and a ton of rocks, but the ordeal took us a whole day in hot, buggy conditions.
My favorite memory from the trip was meeting Susie Tompkins when we were crossing the border into Argentina for the first time. She was down in Patagonia surveying land for her project with her late husband, Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face. We didn't recognize her, but we got to talking and told her about the trip. She turned to her friend and said, "this sounds like Yvon and Doug's trip!". We pieced things together and asked her how she knew about Doug Tompkins and Yvon Chouinard and she replied, "Well, I was married to one of them for over 20 years.". We were completely star-struck and told her how Doug and Yvon's original trip had been our inspiration. She took a picture of us in front of our car and said she'd show it to Doug and Yvon. I have no idea if that ever happened, but I'd like to imagine those two guys seeing the picture and grumpily razzing us for having a nicer car, nicer roads, nicer gear, nicer whatever than they did back when they did the drive 50 years earlier.
This was a Featherlite® Down Blanket kinda trip. Shammy Towel would have been clutch too.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Back to New Zealand for another van trip.