Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Exploring South America 2017: Traveling with Team Gus

Yup, Gus carries everything AND the kitchen sink.
For almost two months from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Santiago, Chili, I’m traveling with 20 fascinating people from around the world as well as a well traveled Dragoman Truck named Gus.  After our last overland trips in 2014, I knew that the folks you travel with can make or break the experience.  Trucks or crew can be grumpy, weather can be lousy, drives can be long and boring, but if you are sharing the adventure with interesting people, then that is what you will remember.

Team Gus has 4 “kids” (they smile when us oldies say this and then occasionally give back with a “yes mum” when we get out of line), three of whom are seasoned travelers. There are three couples with a variety of skills and travel experiences.  In the middle are three guys and five ladies and then the “oldies” – which would be me and our oldest gentleman at 69 who puts us all to shame with his ability to pitch in and do whatever is happening.

My home for the next two months is a tent named Rhea (which is a Patagonian ostrich that people encourage to hang around the fazenda because they eat snakes and rodents) and my tentie is another LW –Lorna from the UK who has worked and traveled around the world for the last thirteen years.  Rhea, like all our tents, is showing her age.  When we got her, her front zip needed fixing, and the straps that attach her to the A frame are wearing.  Tent pegs are rusty and we could do with a few more, but Rhea has the most important waterproofness absolutely perfect – especially with Lorna directing the setup.

The thing that I noticed right away was that everybody pitches in to do what is needed – no shirking and saying it is someone else’s job. Whether it is setting up or taking down, there seems to always be someone to get the job done.  If someone is having a down day, or is homesick, there is someone to listen.  Even the folks with no overlanding experience are learning about tents and bush wees. There’s a great set of knowledge and experience on board.  And, if any of my Odyssey fellow travelers are reading this, there is narry a Twat to be had.

It’s been a great month so far and I’m going to be sad when we break up in Santiago.

The story of the beautiful sunset

Team Gus is summed up perfectly with our departure from Foz du Iguacu (Brazil) and arrival in a rather glampy bush camp inside Argentina.

For our time in Foz, I upgraded to a hostel room.  I woke up about 4:30 on our leaving day to the crash of lightening and the sound of wind and pouring rain.  My first thought was to get up, pack and then go out to help the team take down tents and get ready to leave.  Coming out the door, the first thing I saw was this huge man in boxers and a pair of havaianas lugging laundry under the roof – “don’t know who this belongs to, but I caught it as it was blowing away” – as he headed out to do whatever was needed.  As I came under the roof, there was a brigade taking down tents, folding them and getting them bagged.  Soon there were folks dragging gear and two huge guys in boxers and sandals dragging tents under the roof to be dismantled.  With five minutes to go before leaving time (and not yet sunrise) we were packed and quite pumped.  One of the guys announced “OK, everybody who is wet, go get into the hot showers” and another discovered that our sister truck, Amber, had hot water so we all went over to get coffee or tea and notice that they were all dry and under cover and miserable about the weather (while we were quite pumped).  Our crew arrived late and quite surprised that we were ready to go.

This whole process started with the two youngest girls, who were awakened by the first crack of lightening, decided that they were NOT going to get any of their gear wet, packed, dropped it under the roof, headed out to pull tent pegs and drag their tent under the roof to dismantle it there.  All before the first drop of rain. Leadership on Team Gus is coming from all directions.

Border crossing is always an iffy proposition and Brazil to Argentina was very iffy – wrong paper work from head office meant that we passed through quite simply while Gus had to wait.  And wait.  And wait. For the two or so hours, it was relive the great teamwork of packing up, border yoga, visiting with everyone passing through and discovering the little snack shop just over the border.

Trip notes said that we were heading to a bush camp somewhere between the border and Buenos Aires.  The funny thing was that nobody was bemoaning setting up soggy tents in the middle of nowhere, but just remembering the funny events of the morning. To our delight, “bush camp” was actually at a closed waterpark/hotel/camping complex with friendly staff and a liquor shop.  Imagine a “bush camp” with toilets and hot showers that were freshly cleaned for us when we arrived!  Some even upgraded to beds, but I’ve decided to stick with Rhea til Santiago. We were all pretty pumped to set up soaking wet tents (we used mops and brooms to remove water from the floors) and have them dry before bed time.

Rhea drying out in the sunshine at our "bush glamp".
 Her rain coat spent a couple of hours over a barbecue drying, too.

And then, just as supper was getting ready, there was this stellar sunset over the abandoned  pool.  Best.  Day.  Ever.

Group photo with the sea lions near Puerto Madryn

Puerto Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Duckman and his chicks.
First view of Torres del Paine

Mirador (view point) Torres del Paine.
More about this stunning hike later.

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