Cartagena, colombia - our first stop ushuaia, argentina - our last stop
The possibilities for adventure on a continent as vast as South America are infinite - when looking at potential driving routes, we were faced with a lot of choices.
The first decision, where to start, was easy - Cartagena is the port of choice for the vast majority of South American overlanders. It has an accessible port, suitable infrastructure, and is an easy connection point for travelers coming from North America. It is also one of the most beautiful waterfront cities in South America, which makes it a great place to begin our journey.
Once we had our starting point, the next question was - West Coast or East Coast? Heading straight east into Venezuela was ruled out very quickly, as incidents of kidnapping along the Colombian border and recently, into all of Venezuela, are common occurrences these days. Click here for an example.
That left us driving south and west through Medellin, Colombia and its coffee region (home to Juan Valdes), onwards into Ecuador. We hope to spend some time hiking and climbing in this part of the Andes, as well as soaking up the amazing scenery that makes Ecuador one of South America's most photographed travel destinations.
If picturesque mountains and verdant valleys define Ecuador and Colombia, history and culture will be the themes for our travels through Peru, our next country. We hope to see the oldest known settlement in the Americas (3,500 BC), delve into the mysteries of the 2,000 year old Nazca Lines, as well as learn about Incan culture (along with enjoying a Pisco Sour or two).
Starting around Nazca, Peru, the next 2,400 kilometres will be through the most arid desert in the world. As we venture into Chile, we will stop in the Atacama desert, which receives as little as 0.6 inches of rain per year.
Another long 1,600 km drive through the desert puts us into Chilean wine country, where we will take a break to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labour. From there we head down to the gateway to Patagonia, Puerto Montt, where we will take a 24 hour ferry ride amongst Patagonian fjords, disemberk, and drive 400 kms on the dirt track known as the Carretera Austral, through frontier towns, glaciers, virgin forest and stunning wilderness.
We will then cross into Argentina, spending the next 1,000 kms on the famed Ruta 40, which has been compared to its counterpart, the American Route 66 (except a good chunk of Ruta 40 is unpaved). Along the route, we will stop in the small community of El Chalten in order to attempt a 4 day ascent of Gorra Blanca, or "White Touque", a mountain located on the second largest glaciated ice cap in the world.
After finishing our climb, we will drive the final 1,000 kms directly to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina (and South America), after which we will drive up to the Chilean city of Punta Arenas to sell our vehicle and head home.
All told, our journey will have crossed 5 countries and over 11,000 kms in just 36 days, making our trans-continental road trip one for the ages!