BREAKING NEWS! JULY 2020

July 10, 2020

The Turtle Expedition’s South American adventure has been postponed. Yes, to our great disappointment, we have realized that our long-planned expedition to South America is currently impractical. Why? Well, from some of the personal contacts we have in Chile and Argentina, the news is not good.

A Warning from Southern Chile

A gentleman who actually owns a sheep ranch in the south of Chile wrote:

The last of things you should do is carry on with your planned trip for this year. For the moment things are pretty rough here, and only God knows how things will be for the time you plan to travel. It’s not only the Corona virus, but as a consequence in all Latin American countries, there will be hunger and many riots which will make it very unsafe to move around. If I were you, I’d let some time go by so things settle down and come back to normal.

Disappointing but sound advice. Our bucket list for South America was long and complicated. Perhaps it started back in 1989 as we were driving north from the most southern tip in South America toward Buenos Aires. The immense landscapes of Patagonia and the Pampas were astounding. So open and so huge, you could see the curvature of the earth as you looked toward a distant horizon. These vast plains of the Pampas extend westward across central Argentina from the Atlantic coast to the Andean foothills. The name comes from a Quechua word meaning “flat surface.”

Traffic Jam in Patagonia, Jan. 1989

Traffic can be heavy in Patagonia. Who has the right-of-way?

Traffic can be heavy in Patagonia. Who has the right-of-way?

It was only about 4 o’clock on a warm January afternoon. The sun still high overhead, reminding us that the seasons were reversed.  We came across a huge herd of hundreds of sheep in the middle of the road. Carefully and slowly pushing our way through the chorus of baa, baa, baaing, on the far side we saw the shepherd, sitting by his wagon with his horse, two big dogs and a large leg of lamb roasting on a steel post in front of a fire. We waived, drove another quarter of a mile, and I looked at Monika and said, “Hey, we gotta camp there.” Turning around, we pulled off on the side of the road and met the Basque shepherd who welcomed our company. Interestingly, he had no interest in sharing our Chilean wine, but we did have rice and a salad which he gladly accepted and offered us to sit by his fire and slice off chunks of roasted lamb for dinner.

Sheep shearing, an annual Event

As we talked with him in the soft evening light, he told us about the once a year event when all the sheep from local ranches were brought to shearing sheds, as many as 35,000 at one time. There are great parties, music, beautiful horses, a gathering of shepherds and no doubt an endless supply of wonderful food including roasted lamb. The idea of attending such an amazing event was planted in our minds, and perhaps became one of our most important goals as we planned our second South American adventure.

Chile and Argentina are the two largest producers of wool in the world.

Chile and Argentina are some of the largest producers of wool in the world.

Fast-forward 30 years and many interruptions, including driving around the world twice. Just a thought of parking our truck in the middle of thousands of sheep and taking a drone picture was enough to spur our wandering imagination on. Our bucket list was growing.

30 Years Later – our Bucket List

A full-grown penguin can be over 4 feet tall.

A full-grown penguin can be over 4 feet tall.

Being that far south, Monika would have to see the Emperor penguins on the continent of Antarctica, an impossible place to drive in our truck. Too far to swim, but several tours depart from Ushuaia. Still adding to our list, before we said goodbye to Argentina, we would have to take a few Tango lessons.

© Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

© Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Oruro, Bolivia

In Oruro, the Carnival tells the story of how the Spaniards conquered the Aymara and Quechua populations of the Andes.

In Oruro, the Carnival tells the story of how the Spaniards conquered the Aymara and Quechua populations of the Andes. ©Rudiger Nuñez

Leaving the tip of Tierra del Fuego, it would be a long drive north to Bolivia to witness the exciting Carnival in February that occurs high in the Bolivian altiplano city of Oruro. Famous for the devil dancers with their huge masks, it would be a must-see. We had been to the Carnival in Rio in 1989 so Oruro was waiting for us. No doubt there would be adventures and new friends along the way.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Since we would be in Bolivia, of course we had to drive across the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt desert in the world. These salt flats cover 12,000 square kilometers and contain about 10 billion tons of salt, remnants of an ancient lake that dried up.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world.

Pantanal

A little further north, we wanted to visit the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. Encompassing some 210,000 square kilometers (4,633 sq. miles), or about 42 million acres, the Pantanal covers an area slightly larger than nine U.S. states and sprawls across three countries—Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. It is one of the world’s largest and most diverse freshwater wetland ecosystems.

Encompassing between 54,000 and 75,000 sq mi, the Pantanal contains various sub-regional ecosystems, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics.

Encompassing between 54,000 and 75,000 sq. mi, the Pantanal contains various sub-regional ecosystems, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics.

The famous Argentine Beef

In the meantime, all that driving will certainly build up an appetite. To be sure, we will not miss any chance to enjoy the famous Argentine beef, widely known for being incomparably tender and richly flavored. Argentinian cattle feed on the plentiful grass of the Pampas, not on corn in stock yards. No need to mentioned that Argentine wines, along with their competitors in Chile, have some of the best vintages in the world to accompany a good T- bone, medium rare please!

A Trans South American Route?

As long as we were driving all over the place on this diverse continent called South America, to top off our bucket list, why not try a “Trans South American Route”, just for fun, ocean to ocean, maybe from the most western point you can see on the map, Talara on the far Pacific Coast of Peru, to Joåo Pessoa in Brazil, poking into the Atlantic. Just getting over the Andes and through the Amazon basin could be an exciting trip. If someone else has found this route there will be a trail to follow.

So, there you have enough reasons, any one of which could justify an extended overland adventure, not to mention all the unknown happenings along the way.

The Turtle V is Expedition Ready

The Turtle V is “expedition ready”, safely waiting under its Covercraft blanket, patiently tapping fingers on the driveway and waiting for its next adventure.

The Turtle V is “expedition ready”, safely waiting under its Covercraft blanket, patiently tapping fingers on the driveway and waiting for its next adventure.

The Turtle V is currently completely “Expedition Ready”. Clothing for 4-seasons, medical supplies, basic travel food supplies—they are packed. All critical systems have been checked, inspected, restored or replaced following our two-year 40,000-mile Trans-Eurasian/Silk Road expedition, https://turtleexpedition.com/cabo-da-roca-portugal-sept-10-2013/ . Tires, brakes, suspension, clutch, U-joints, hubs, steering system, all filters, transmissions, differentials, air condition—the list is much longer.

Equally important, the day to day living components in the Tortuga Camper like the refrigerator, stove, water filters, windows, fans, heaters and electrical system have been modified as needed. We even replaced all the foam in the well-used camper cushions and bed. And here it sits at our home base, safely waiting under its Covercraft blanket, patiently tapping fingers on the driveway.

Staying flexible

Vicuñas are related to the llamas and alpacas but have never been domesticated. We hope to see some again.

Vicuñas are related to the llamas and alpacas but have never been domesticated. We hope to see some again.

With the undeniable dangers of traveling to South America during this pandemic, we realized that it’s kind of silly to spend several thousand dollars shipping our truck from Houston, Texas to Uruguay if we can’t do everything we had dreamed of. In addition, our original itinerary called for us to return and move back into our home in mid-2021. Why? You may recall, if you’ve been following our blogs, there is the young girl we are sponsoring in Tajikistan. She will be graduating from her high school’s 11th grade in June, 2021, and we have invited her to come to California so that she can attend 12th grade in an American school. I won’t even begin to tell you the complications of getting her the visa she needs and determining which of three different schools near our home she could attend. On top of that I’ll bet you can imagine what it is going to be for Monika and me to have an 18-year-old girl living with us full-time for a year, a life-changing experience no doubt for all three of us.

The Children of the Pamirs Education fund

If that does not keep us busy, thanks to our DonorBox, The Children of the Pamirs Education fund we are also helping other young kids to get the education they otherwise could not afford. If you would like to help, click on the link above or drop us a note.

Being responsible – Staying safe -Dreaming now – Traveling later

Stay tuned. The excitement that’s coming up in our lives may seem much more challenging than just driving around South America for a year. That adventure is still on our calendar, but it might have to wait until this pandemic is under control, possibly not until 2022/2023. Can you wait?

Photos other than The Turtle V were open sourced from the Internet.            We gave photo credit wherever we could.

2 Responses to “BREAKING NEWS! JULY 2020”

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t get to go. It looks like a fantastic trip. Others I’ve who made the journey have nothing but praise for the people and the land. The world is in a mess right now, but we all pray it settles down. I hope you can go soon. God Bless.

  2. Ya vendrán nuevos tiempos más sanos y podrán hacer el recorrido por sudamérica.

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