. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath


Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition


Kensington Tours can help you plan your own expedition anywhere in the world.




#22 - Wrecked in Patagonia
26 December 2001

(Cancha Carreras, ARGENTINA) Have you ever been in that frozen moment of time, when you understand that disaster is on top of you, no avoiding it. Time really does slow down. Or maybe time doesn't slow down at all. Maybe it's slow because looking back on things later, that is the moment when it went wrong. You can recall that precise second when it was very clear that you were in trouble. Rewinding from that instant you second guess what could have been done differently. Going forward, the disaster plays out second by second, feeling, light, pain. And you run it again and again in your mind with macabre fascination, like picking a scab, to understand this thing that has upset the world as you know it and scattered all the plans so carefully laid. The day after Christmas, just after crossing the border from Chile back into Argentina, on a gravel road in an empty stretch of Patagonia, the Land Rover rolled.


We had left Ushuaia on Christmas Day heading north to the Moreno Glacier. Overnighting at a gas station parking lot in Puerto Arenas, Chile, we were up early the next morning to hit the road again. In Puerto Natales, the main port for cruises up the Chilean coast, we stopped to sample some fine seafood. I had baked eel which was outstanding. It was really shaping up to be a nice day. After a couple hours of driving we hit the border outpost. "Let's stop here, it looks so rustic!" said Jody. So we piled out, browsed, went to the bathroom, then went next door to do the border paperwork. All the little non-important things that normally get forgotten after a week or two. It was a windy day. 

Five kilometres after the border on a sharp right turn with a soft gravel shoulder, in seconds, the accident played out. "Don't turn so hard!" "Huh?" The Land Rover slid briefly in the lose gravel shoulder and then, the front wheels bit and it tumbled. Rolling over onto the left side, the driver's side, CRASH, and then CRASH again as we came to rest on the roof. 

I still remember the feel, now, days later. Going over onto the side I felt a huge blow as I hurtled into the side wall. And everything was black. I mean, it didn't turn black, it just stayed black the whole time except for the little pain firecrackers that seemed to flash in the distance. It was funny, I had expected to see the road twist in the windshield, or see my life flash in front of my eyes, but nope. When we went over onto the roof I slammed off another surface. The second time was like a solid football tackle, but still it was black. Until we stopped, and the debris tumbled softly around, wind whipped through the shattered windshield, and I saw the upside down ground.

Lying there, left arm gripped in the folded metal of the box, I couldn't move, couldn't get free. 'Gotta do a triage, figure the damage.' "Jody!" I yelled. "Yeah! I'm out!" she called back. Years of gymnastics training at work. As she said later, the truck went over and as soon as it stopped she clicked off the seatbelt and flipped out through the window. At once she was around to the other side to help Gulin. "Gulin, are you ok. Gulin! Gulin!" Gulin started wailing, "Jeeeff, Jeeefff". 
  Jody - "Gulin!"
  Gulin - "Jeefff"
  Jeff - "I'm fine"
  Jody - "Gulin!!"
  Gulin - "Jeeeeeeeffff"
It was almost comical for a moment. After the accident I was thinking big picture thoughts. The women are fine. Wiggle the toes - ok. Fingers - ok. But the left arm was bent underneath me, I couldn't get it free. Wierd thoughts were running through my head. 'Maybe I'll have to cut it off, that's alright, I'm alive. It's only the left arm.' 

Finally Gulin got out with Jody's help. I figured I was good and stuck, but wiggling my elbow back and forth I managed to find a gap in the metal fold and with some tugging popped free. I crawled outside and looked around. The wind was whipping past, our toilet paper streamed away into the distance across a flat empty plain. Inside the truck the water from the internal tank dripped off the chaotic scramble of luggage. 

"What should we going to do?" Jody asked. I looked around dully. At that moment it seemed as though everything was over. The truck upside down, our gear scattered along the road, the cargo containers cracked open and spilling out our clothes into a pile of water inside. I reached down beside the truck and picked up my little digital camera, batteries gone, covered in dust and blood. Suddenly there was this gigantic problem, almost inconceivably impossible, in the middle of nowhere. A huge need to just walk away and leave everything behind hit me - we had almost a ton of equipment and no truck. I put the camera into my pocket, picked up a couple of books that had been thrown into the road and put them in a bag. Gulin was bleeding on her hand and face, and looking at the truck hysterically. "What should we do?" Jody repeated. "We have got to get to that border post several kilometers back." I said slowly. Jody looked around, "You both are bleeding, I'll go." She snapped some pictures of the wreck with her camera, threw on an extra shirt scavenged from the debris, and set off into the wind. I hugged Gulin. "We're all ok. It's going to be fine." And we started gathering our belongings into cargo bags.

We owe so much to the many people that helped us out in the next couple of hours. Four Israeli travellers in a pickup saw Jody walking and picked her up. They came to the accident scene, helped us gather a few things, and took us to the Argentine border post. The soldiers at the border post virtually adopted us. Gently cleaning Guin's wounds, another of the guys dashed back to the truck to pick up Jody and most of our packed luggage. They fed us, gave us their best chairs, and threw some more logs on the fire to warm us up. I went back with two soldiers to the truck and we tried to flip it over, no luck. A passing farmer saw our problem and got his two sons. We tied ropes around the truck and it eased it upright, changed the two blown tires, hauled the roof rack back on, and towed the thing to the border post - one truck in front and one behind to brake. Later on, the accident report was typed up on a battered typewriter. A hundred sights, sounds, feelings, summarized in a few innocent sentences - "On Dec. 26, 2001, three kilometers from Cancha Carreras, there was an accident involving a green Land Rover..."

Thinking back on the accident now, I have such good memories of the day and night we stayed at the little ramshackle border post in the middle of nowhere. The soldiers there are posted for a month or two at a time and it is so remote that things are run like a boys camp. Dinner was a huge pan of roasted lamb with some biscuit-like bread. They gave us champagne. After midnight the squad room was cleaned out so that we could sleep on the floor near the fire. They radioed for a tow truck from Rio Gallegos, 300km away, and even took us out to the lonely intersection of roads where we waited for the country bus in the comfort of the pickup truck cab. The accident knocked us down, but those Argentine soldiers picked us back up, dusted us off and set us on our way. Great guys. 

Back in Buenos Aires, we're a long way away from it all. The truck was towed to Rio Gallegos and then we had it flat-bedded 3000km to the capitol. After a couple of days of research and phone calls, we got on the 36 hour bus all the way back up the road we had driven a few days before. Though the economy is really in the trashcan and riots still flare up occasionally, I'm glad we had the chance to come back to this beautiful city. The attitude of the people here can be summed up in the words of the insurance manager on the first day that we met him. He apologized as the three of us wedged our chairs beside his desk and said "My office is small, but my heart is big."  The truck is a writeoff. We don't know what exactly our next move will be. But the expedition will go on. To the soldiers at Cancha Carreras, the tow truck operator who made a 600km round trip with his wife to get our Land Rover to civilization, Vespirini Transport who insisted on taking us sightseeing after agreeing to haul the truck to Buenos Aires, Hernan at the Grupo Bavaria Land Rover shop, and the folks at AIG - you have made our hearts big too! 

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com