Last week, I gave you an overview of my 12,000-plus mile odyssey on the Pan-American Highway. This week, I am going to show you what I took along the way. I will start from the north and work my way south. I don’t pretend to be an expert on buses and commercial vehicles, so please chime in with any trivia that you may hold in your collective noggins.
Ford E350: Fairbanks, Alaska, to the Arctic Circle along the Dalton Highway. This van was bone stock, except for the Hella driving lights, satellite phone, and tires.
Chevrolet Express 3500: Whitehorse, Yukon, to Fairbanks, Alaska, along the Alaska Highway. This was one of the most peaceful, scenic, and memorable legs. For most of the trip, it was just me, the driver, and his daughter. We talked about Burma a lot and we stopped often to take pictures of wildlife, e.g. foxes, beavers. We picked up a veteran from Fort Yukon who was on his semi-annual trip to civilization. He tried to convert me and offered me home-made, and -caught, salmon jerky. See the lede photo for what the van and scenery looked like.
MCI buses: Oakland, California, to Whitehorse, Yukon: These Greyhound buses were the most uncomfortable buses of the lot. In northern British Columbia and the Yukon, the buses also act as couriers. Hence the trailers. The outpost pictured served the most amazing beef barley soup.
Scania buses: Tapachula, Mexico, to Panama City, Panama: Scania, Busscar, and Marcopolo are the most popular brands of buses in Latin America.
Marcopolo double decker bus: Lima, Peru, to Tacna, Peru. This was the most comfortable bus in the world. The seats reclined 160(!) degrees.
Intermission. Here is a traffic jam in the Andes along the Chile-Bolivia border. I tried coca leaves for the first (and only) time here.
Hyundai van: Humberstone, Chile, to Iquique, Chile. After visiting the abandoned mining town of Humberstone in the middle of the Atacama Desert, I was shitting bricks because I didn’t know how I was going to find a ride back to town. Miraculously, a black Hyundai van appeared out of nowhere and picked me up. It was completely full and I practically had to sit on the driver’s lap. Here we are, descending to the port city of Iquique. Note the humungous yellow sand dune between the road and the city.
Busscar double decker bus: Calama, Chile, to Santiago, Chile. These Brazilian-made buses are very popular for long distance routes.
Marcopolo bus: Osorno, Chile, to Punta Arenas, Chile. The 28 hour 15 minute ride was a breeze in this Brazilian-made bus. Note the painted Chilean and Argentinean flags. There are no roads in the southern third of Chile so we had to cross into Argentina to reach Chilean Tierra del Fuego.
Unknown make and model bus: Punta Arenas, Chile, to Rio Grande in Argentinean Tierra del Fuego. Though the route was short distance-wise, we had to get on a ferry to cross the Strait of Magellan. On our first try, we waited an entire day at the landing because it was too windy to cross. We were finally able to make it across on the second day. Here is the bus on the ferry.
Mercedes Sprinter: Rio Grande, Argentina, to Ushuaia, Argentina. We stopped for a bakery break in the town of Tolhuin. Did you know that Canadian beavers were introduced to Tierra del Fuego more than a century ago to stimulate the fur trade? Now, they are wreaking havoc on the environment.
Images source: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jim Yu