Traveling Patagonia by Campervan
Our adventure in Patagonia was an epic and crazy experience. I posted last time about the amazing and interesting points of our trip and I promised a post about our unique method of transportation.
Ideally, I would have loved to spend at least a month exploring the entire country of Chile from north to south, but without that kind of time, we decided to spend 12 days in the southernmost region of Patagonia via campervan.
A mode of transportation and sleeping accommodations all in one--convenient, right?
What is a campervan, you ask? Most simply, a campervan is a van without seats. The back of the van becomes your hotel on wheels—you can roll out your sleeping bags and sleep anywhere you park. There are no restroom facilities, although this campervan did have a little cooking area! It’s the perfect way to travel in Patagonia because you can pull over and camp wild, or you can stay at one of the many campsites.
See? Doesn't this look cozy?
Traveling by campervan is an experience in itself. If you have ever been in an RV or mobile home, imagine that. And now imagine it a lot smaller...and without electricity, heat, or running water.
But, overall, this method of transportation is very convenient. We rented our van from a company called Wicked Campers. The rather---interesting---artwork on each camper makes them easily identifiable. We were delighted whenever we passed another Wicked camper during our travels or saw one parked at the same campsite---usually these instances would result in wild honking or striking up conversations with new friends from around the world. Every campervan is painted by a local artist in a grafitti-style and each has a unique and somewhat…colorful design (both literally and figuratively). One camper featured the Mario Bros…under the influence of mushrooms. Another camper displayed “Mr. E-T”—a combination of Mr. T and ET. Yet another portrayed Ron Jeremy---enough said. One psychedelic van was dubbed “Peyote Mountain” with bright swirls of color across a Chilean landscape. All were varying degrees of funny, absurd, and slightly off-color.
And then there was our van.........:
Yes, that is Kim Jong-un promoting tourism in North Korea while riding an atomic bomb. The back of the van touted
"Visit North Korea, better than the 'other' Korea" in Spanish.
Of course, at a company of ridiculous vans, we were the winners of the most ridiculous. When this little beauty pulled up and the Wicked employee handed us the keys, I was genuinely concerned that we would offend every person on the road. But Andrew insisted people would understand it was a parody, and really, what could we do? So we were off in our politically charged vehicle to drive all across Chile and Argentina.
And let me tell you—we were a spectacle! A moving photo-op. Luckily, no one seemed offended. People in tour buses took pictures of us from their windows. People would laugh as they passed our van on the street, so we would stall until they walked by. Some of the more polite individuals would laugh and ask us if they could take a picture with our van, others just blatantly took pictures of it while we were dining on ramen.
Fortunately, mostly everyone took it with a sense of humor. One night, we had gone out for drinks and dinner and it wasn’t long before we were joined by four travelers from Germany and two more from Israel. As the night progressed, and we moved on from mixed drinks to shots of Fernet, we shared the woes of our very ostentatious vehicle. Of course, our new friends found this to be absolutely hilarious and had to witness it for themselves. So after closing our tab sometime after midnight, we tottered to our campsite where we posed in front of our ode to li’l Kim and laughed ourselves hoarse. I have to say, we never would have had this many memories traveling via a neutral, albeit non-controversial, tour bus.
Making the most of an awkward situation. Having a good laugh with new friends over our crazy campervan.
Review: If you are looking to cover a lot of ground and you are on a budget, traveling by campervan is extremely affordable and convenient. Andrew didn't love being away from a proper shower for 12 days, so if camping is not your thing, you may be better off paying a little extra for a hotel. If you are tall, be sure to get a longer van model to accommodate for sleeping. We had the model 2 Seat Deluxe Camper and while it was big enough for us to sleep in comfortably (Andrew is a little under six feet tall), the seats didn't move far enough forward to accommodate the full length of the "mattress" (I use this term loosely). So we were sleeping on a bit of an incline since the mattress bunched up at the top. This company also provides a small camping stove (heated by a small sterno-type can), so we were able to make pasta and ramen noodles while on the road. Bring your own sleeping bag and pillows. I would definitely use Wicked Campers again--the service was great and the kilometers/day allotment was plenty to get us from Punta Arenas all the way up to El Chalten and back. Embrace the adventure and enjoy the ride!
Have you ever experienced anything embarrassing while traveling? I would love to hear your story in the comments below!