Going Home then Coming Home
Recently, I left Juergen and Berta in Chile to go ‘home’ to Australia. The prime purpose was to visit my parents, who are both in their 80’s. I also caught up with family and friends in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. It was just over a month and very busy.
First stop was Adelaide where my Dad lives in a retirement village and my Mum is in a nursing home in the same complex. Mum is suffering from dementia and went into care earlier this year when Dad could no longer care for her at home. For an 87 year old, Dad is still relatively active.
We enjoyed a long weekend in Renmark visiting my niece and nephew and their respective families – this meant Dad was visiting his grandchildren and his only great granddaughter. Driving there from Adelaide I found myself projecting towards a future, in which we are finished travelling overseas, and might be slow-travelling around Australia. Renmark is a pleasant town on the River Murray, and we had a lovely time eating, drinking and talking in a variety of locations.
Another 2 weeks in Adelaide were spent with Dad, visiting Mum, spending time with my niece and nephew who live there, and catching up with old friends. On my final weekend there I took Dad on a day trip to Mount Compass, where my brother and his family live on a farm, which was once our family home. We spent much of the day wandering through the paddocks with the dogs, past the free range chickens, and on up the hill to check out the sheep. Dad kept up well with all of us, and finished off by showing us how he could handle a big merino ram!
Next stop was the Gold Coast where I visited my best friend. We met at university and have maintained our relationship for over 40 years, living in the same place for only a small part of that time. While there, I also took the opportunity to spend some time in Brunswick Heads and in Mullumbimby – our home town when we are in Australia. I caught up with friends that have been an important part of our lives for many years. It was then that I realised something important – I do miss my life in Australia, but not as much as I was missing my life with Juergen and Berta on the road! If you ask me where ‘home’ is, it’s there.
The last few days were spent in Sydney with our friend Pete, who I had last seen 6 weeks before when he travelled with us for a week or so around Santiago de Chile . On the weekend we took in a folk festival in Kiama on the South Coast of NSW, and it was a very pleasant way to complete my stay in the country of my birth. On Monday I was truly on my way home!
Coming home to Juergen and Berta was a joy, and we were all eager to be on our way again. In the past few months we have sometimes felt like we kept getting turned around, or were even just stuck in one place . This was partly due to the elements, but also because my family had expressed the need to see me, and I was having difficulty working out how to fit this into our own journey. Ultimately, it worked out best for us to return to Santiago. Now I’m back, it is really time for new roads and new adventures.
Juergen and Berta have crossed the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores 7 times – 5 times into Chile and twice into Argentina. I have travelled with them twice into Chile but this would be my first time into Argentina. In the mountains the views are completely different if you drive the same road in the opposite direction. We have experienced this several times, amongst the most notable being when we drove the Paso San Francisco .
All week the Libertadores pass had been closed due to snowfall, but on Friday it was open and we were happily on the road again. Since Juergen had always managed the crossing in either direction in one day fairly easily, we were in no hurry to get going. We left Santiago around 11.15; and this time we really do think it is for the last time…
The highway to Los Andes is quite familiar to us, but on this day it looked a little different. Normally the landscape here is various shades of brown, but there had been a lot of rain recently and everywhere was vibrant green. Very pleasant on the eyes and quite a change from the usual landscape.
Los Andes was a convenient place to stop for lunch and the Jumbo parking lot was the spot we chose – not because of its aesthetically pleasing outlook, but rather so that we could pick up a few last minute items that we find easily in Chile, but often not at all in Argentina. Leaving Los Andes, we joined the Ruta Nacional 60, also known as Camino Internacional a Mendoza, which leads right up to the pass and down to Uspallata.
Since this was the first day the pass was open this week, we had expected some extra truck traffic, but it was much more than I could possibly have imagined! And most of it was stopped by the side of the road. We had to decide whether to pass or just pull up behind them. After a while we took every opportunity to pass.
Despite the holdups, and some resulting frustration, the scenery was just beautiful. The higher we went, the thicker the snow cover, until we were driving through a winter wonderland. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen; we were warm in Berta’s cab, so just the right environment for enjoying snow.
When we reached the switchbacks, there was a continuous line of trucks along the side of the road. Some of the truck drivers were being helpful in waving traffic forward or getting us to stop to allow downhill traffic to pass. Fortunately the road is often wide enough to form 3 lanes, although that always depended on how well the parked trucks had been able to pull off the road.
We finally arrived at the Argentinean border post at 5.30 and spent considerable time waiting in the bus queue – although we are processed with the cars, the drive-through is too low and we have to follow the buses in and out of the processing building. Originally it was quite comfortable sitting in the cab, even though there was snow on the ground, but as the sun went down it became quite cold. Eventually Juergen started the truck to keep us warm.
It was 8.00 before we had completed all the exit and entry formalities, and then we were on the road again, downhill to Uspallata. We have crossed enough borders to know that it’s a good idea to plan ahead for something to eat at our destination. When we arrived in Uspallata at around 9.00 we were very grateful for the lentil soup we had made the day before.
As we settled into our cosy house I was also feeling grateful that the road is my home.
PS: We were lucky – just 4 days later the pass was again closed due to more heavy snowfall.