As we meandered our way north from Ushuaia, we arrived in the area roughly known as Patagonia. Our goal was Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, considered the best nature destination in South America. So, we actually flew to Puerto Natales, rented a nice heavy duty, four wheel drive pick up truck, and headed into Patagonia.
But first, we soon became lost in Torres. Darkness arrived, a rather total darkness in the wilderness, with dirt and gravel roads, single lane bridges, and a few sheep farms. No GPS, no cell service, no readable maps, did I say total darkness?
We were just about ready to stop on the side of the road, and sleep in the truck, when a car showed up. We asked for the nearest lodge or hotel. We found Hosteria Las Torres, at the time, one of the swankiest places there. But after 5 hours in the truck, the rather pricey respite from the cold offered warmth, big rooms, hot food, and comfortable beds.
After hiking around some of the trails of Torres, still freezing outside (see the glaciers in the photo?), we decided to head back to Puerto Natales. We were zipping along, next to alpaca herds, guanacos, deer, and rheas. The roads were gravel but decent and well maintained.
It was a little unnerving to cross single lane bridges, as shown above. But we zipped along quite well, until, out of the corner of my eye, I see a tire skipping past us at a 45 degree angle. It was our left rear tire!
Without much of a shoulder on the road, we stopped to change the tire. Simple, right? We found the spare under the truck bed, then dug into the glove compartment for the owner’s manual. Voila!! We found it, but it was in Spanish!!!
Fortunately, it had illustrations, and we started to change the tire. We jacked up the truck, and began the process. Mike went underneath to attach the jack to the truck frame, with his legs and feet sticking out into the middle of the road. So, in my infinite wisdom, I walked down a few dozen feet to wave cars around us. Mike gets up and starts laughing at me. Why? We have not seen another car in at least a half hour! I started laughing too!!
Just then, the only car in the past 30 minutes came down the road, stopped, and offered to help!
Back at the airport, we told the rental company we had to use the spare. Without the tire itself, we only had the core around the wheel, as pictured. They charged me $50 for the tire, and offered no apology!!
Torres is one of the great national parks in the world. Just make sure, when you go, that you have a good vehicle, lots of warm clothes, and a working GPS!!!