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A short drive in the Southern Hemisphere

South America Blog Archive

South Amercan trip entries and photos transferred from the Blog

Ash and Flo sizing up the Hand of the Desert in the Attacama Desert in Chile

We’ve just arrived in Santiago de Chile having endured the twelve hour flight from Auckland. We are just staying the night before flying up to Quito to prepare for our Galapagos excursion. Weather is fine and the view of the Andes as we were on approach was truly majestic. I’ve just been to the bank and withdrawn 100,000 pesos pocket money. We’re now hesitantly browsing through the English-Spanish phrasebook for clues. Hasta luego…

Ola! We’re now in Quito, Ecuador, weather is fine and we’re just about to have a wander around the town. The altitude here is around 3000m, so we won’t be exerting ourselves too much.

Tomorrow, we willfly to the Galapagos Islands for a week on board the M/Y Eden http://www.galapagosislands.com/html/eden.htm cruising the islands in search of strange new life forms.


We’ll be back on-line in about week, when we return to Quito for a night on dry land in the comfort of a nice hotel. We then will depart in the opposite direction by air and motor canoe down the Amazon to the Sani Lodge for the next week.


After which we’ll finally get a few days to really explore Quito and get into some serious Panama Hat shopping!

Quito, Ecuador Sunday 28 June 2009

One of Ecuador’s primary exports is chocolate. We came across some rather strong stuff yesterday, so we bought a bar of 100% pure chocolate.  We’ve now tried the chocolate, one square at a time seems to be the most that can be consumed without after effects, should last a while. Ash is now practising the correct jaunty angle to use with his new genuine Ecuadorian Panama hat. Should blend in well…

Quito, Ecuador Monday, July 6 2009
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We just found out that Florence has left Korea and is now on the way to Valparaiso, Chile, ETA 02AUG09, six days later than the previous estimate.

Quito, Ecuador Sunday 12 July 2009

So, after an eight day cruise around the Galapagos Islands, observing wildlife ashore and afloat/underwater and a five day jungle adventure, we’re now back in the big city. (Islands and jungle photographs are in the Galapogas archive).
We were overwhelmed by the fauna of the Galapagos, obviously the different species but also the number of birds, reptiles and marine life and their behaviour. The birds and reptiles generally seemed totally disinterested in us (a few feigning mild curiosity) allowing us to approach and study them at short range (approx 12”). The young sea lions on the other hand were impatient to swim with us whenever they could, turtles, penguins and sharks were a bit more sedate and tended to get on with the serious business of eating sea weed or terrorizing the tropical fish.
The jungle adventure started with the trip to Sani Lodge. A 45 minute flight, followed by a two hour bus ride, a four hour motorised canoe voyage and then a 30 minute smaller motor/paddle canoe. Well that was the first day done! It rained throughout the journey so we arrived soaked and looking forward to a hot shower and dry clothes. Unfortunately, the showers were unfeasibly cold for the equator and that was the last time we saw dry clothes until our return to Quito. On the return journey the bus threw a tread on a tyre so we all had to decamp to the roadside for a while as well.
Still, we had a good time doing two route marches through the jungle per day, cold showers at night, getting into wet clothes every morning at 0530, two choices on the menu for dinner (take it – or – leave it).  Sounds a bit like basic training (boot camp) to me…The only difference was, we were paying them…

………down in the jungle living in a tent,
better than a pre-fab, you don’t pay rent!

However, it was brilliant and almost worth the trench foot and parasites. 
We’ve now had enough local Ecuadorian food (bananas, cassava, manioc, yucca and various other root vegetables ;o) ) to last for some time so we are frequenting steakhouses, pizzerias and Mexican restaurants but we may even try Indian/Chinese in the near future too.

We’re now going to spend four days wandering around Quito trying to absorb a little culture…Art and architecture of the Latin American persuasion. And read some pulp fiction and watch some cheap movies too…

Santiago, Chile Wednesday 15 July 2009

Okay, that’s enough of Quito; now we’re off to Santiago!  A brief four/five day stay before catching the bus to Valparaiso and being reunited with Flo.

Well, it’s been a over a month since leaving Perth, a month of living in hotels and going to all kinds of wonderful places; so we’re a bit broke now and missing the freedom and frugality that having Flo gives us. Hopefully, we’ll pick her up at the end of July in Valparaiso, and then we’ll be on bread and water for a while.  

Santiago, Chile Thursday 16 July 2009

We flew out of Quito at 2145 to arrive in Santiago at 0500.  Caught a taxi to the hotel (blow the expense) and checked in at around 0600.  The Holiday Inn Express on Avenida Vitacura, so far have been excellent; allowed a very early check-in, very nice and spacious room, excellent staff, free breakfast and internet.  Took the metro and walked around the downtown area, joining the public holiday crowds promenading around the Plaza de Armas etc.  First impressions are that Santiago is a very “European style” city, quite different to Quito but the Andes are always present in the background.

Just a couple of photos of Santiago – the Cathedral.

Every other day the police guard changes outside the Parliament Building.  Not quite the same as at Buckingham Palace but still interesting to watch.  The band were pretty good.

The police ride around on these motorbikes which the dogs enjoy chasing through the traffic.

Just a little 3 scoop ice cream snack – yummy.

Santiago, Chile Monday 20 July 2009

We’re off to Valparaiso today on the noon bus!

Valpariso, Chile Tuesday 21 July 2009

We arrived safely in Valparaiso and are now staying with Enzo and Martina at the Villa Kunterbunt. We’ve got the Tower Room with extensive views over all of the city.

We now have to wait for the ship carrying Florence to dock, the webtrace still estimates 30th July for arrival.

Valparaiso, Chile Wednesday 29 July 2009

Well, one week later, we’re still here chilling out in this very interesting port city on the West coast of Chile. Valparaiso is built on and around 44 hills many of which are connected to the flat central and port area by vintage funicular railway systems or ascensors. Some of these machines are very dilapidated and either out of service or very close to it. Gill has nicknamed one particular experience the room of death.

The houses all appear to be built on top of each other out of wood and corrugated iron, painted in a profusion of bright colours and can only be reached by traversing a number of crazy winding passages and stairways.

Spending our days wandering around the town, taking In the historic sites and colourful graffiti, some of which is very artistic painted by the art students at the local university. Also, we spend hours staring out over the dock trying to spot the container ship that Flo is on…its now estimated to dock on Friday night, about five days later than the original eta.

We’re also poring over the maps and guides (most of which are still onboard Flo though) in order to have some idea or compass bearing to start out on when we finally leave (probably Monday or Tuesday).  
Its now Wednesday the 29th July, we’re getting most of the paperwork sorted out early to allow a sharp exit when the ship finally gets here. This is all thanks to Enzo and Martina of the Villa Kunterbunt, who are the local experts when it comes to import and export facilitation for the overlanders that come through here.
Beer is pretty cheap at 75p for a litre bottle of Baltica (5.8%) but tends to evaporate very quickly in the dry atmosphere once it is opened.
The local delicacy is Empanadas, they look suspiciously like Cornish pasties but have a variety of fillings including cheese, vegetables and meat of various kinds,
The Spanish language training is coming on, slowly; helped by shopping with our hands in our pockets so that we can’t point or mime for whatever we need. The shops all seem to be old fashioned corner shop style with all the goods behind the counter so we have to ask for everything. There are a couple of supermarkets in the town centre but we’re doing it the hard way in the local shops…for local people.

Valparaiso has 45 hills apparently and on some of the hills are these Ascensors which are very old and rickety.  They have big gaps in the floor and travel up in very jerky movements – we have christened them the Box of Death as we think that each time we use one it will be the last thing we do!

Valparaiso, Chile Thursday 30 July 2009

Just some of the local artwork – some of it is fantastic but has been spoiled by mindless scribbles.

All the roads in the hills are narrow and have hairpin bends.  Lots of the houses are brightly painted.

Valparaiso, Chile Saturday 1 August 2009

Gill indulged in a few cocktails in the afternoon and tried to make friends with the bar!!

At last Flo arrives in the port.  She is unloaded but has to stay in the port as Customs do not work at the weekend so we have to wait until Monday to get her out!!

Today we saw Florence for the first time in two months, as the ship has docked and the container offloaded.  We opened the container doors and were relieved to see her in good shape and apparently none the worse for having endured the long ocean voyage. Unfortunately, as customs are shut until Monday morning, all we could do was drive her out of the container and into the bonded warehouse. We’ll go back on Monday morning and rescue her, then we’ll refit the roof rack components and be on our way on Tuesday morning.

Valparaiso, Chile Sunday 2 August 2009

Well, the planning isn’t going so well!
All we know is that we’ll head North when we leave here…but we don’t know how far we’ll go before turning to the East.
Maybe Peru? Or, maybe Bolivia…Possibly Paraguay? We’re not even sure where we’ll ship from, so we’re even lacking a final destination port at present.

Valpariso, Chile Monday 3 August 2009

So, we picked up Flo from the port and drove back to the Villa Kunterbunt. We’re very happy to be reunited with our Land Rover and are itching to get going again.  Everything looks in good order so far but there doesn’t appear to be enough room for everything.

La Laguna Zappaller, Chile Tuesday 4 August 2009

After a late start, still trying to cram everything in to the back of the Land Rover, and doing some last minute washing, we should finally get on the road about 1400. Not much time to go far so we’ll just drive for a couple of hours to charge the batteries and until we find somewhere suitable to park for the night. And then tomorrow we might try to go a little further…Not sure what the internet/wifi is like where we are going so we’ll post again when we can.

La Serena, Chile Thursday 6 August 2009

We had been told that camping is not popular in Chile and that any campsites we did find would not be like those we were used to.
Well, the first night was fine in Zapaller, the second night was spent in the Chinchilla National Reserve (trying to spot small rodent creatures) and the third was in the seaside resort of La Serena.
The campsites have all been fine, although a little basic and dated. Out of three campsites, in two we were the only people staying, the other one had one old caravan and a vw camper. We shall see if this continues.

Pacific coast, Chile Friday 7 August 2009

After a few hours driving we came across a campsite on the way to the Pan-American highway, we had only been driving a couple of hours but thought that it was an opportunity to sort some stuff out before going on.  It was a very nice wooded campsite with power, toilets and hot showers but we were the only people there. The caretaker gave us instructions on where to turn the gas and water on and left us to it.
It was good to be back in our own bed in Flo after such a long separation.

COPEC Station Monday 10 August  2009

On the Pan-Am highway north, driving through the Attacama desert we had our third flat tyre.  Yet again caused by a cracked wheel.  This is a big problem as we don’t want to go too far off the beaten track with only one spare.  After some investigation we found the nearest hope of a Land Rover spare wheel was Santiago, some 1360 kms to the South.  We’ll have to see what we can come up with…

So we drift Northwards at a steady if slow pace still not sure of our destination or whether we will be returning home earlier than planned.  On the Friday night after a quick trip to Vicuna, we stayed in the COPEC station (a bit like the motorway services at home, well sort of…) at Copiapo.  Then on the Saturday we travelled all of 100 kms to Bahia Inglesia and camped on the beach. The bay is named after an English pirate.

On Sunday we managed about 200 kms to Pan de Azucar National Park and again camped on a deserted beach campsite, this time with a fabulous view of the island of Pan de Azucar (Sugar Loaf).
On Monday we just drove on the Pan-Am all day and stopped at another COPEC between Antofagasta and Calama.  

San Pedro de Attacama, Chile Tuesday 11 August 2009

On Tuesday afternoon we arrived in San Pedro, a charming if very touristy town in the middle of nowhere.  We’re splashing out on a flashy hotel/campsite for $10,000 a night, the Tahka Tahka. Ash reckons the showers are the best he’s had since the Holiday Inn in Santiago.  Whilst looking for the campsite we bumped into a Land Rover Series IIA and its driver David who runs tours into Peru and Bolivia.
Whilst talking Land Rovers with David we mentioned our wheel problem and he took us to the local wheel and tyre shop hidden away down the back tracks.

Okay, so we thought we would have to leave the wheel and come back the following day – not a bit of it! The wheel and tyre were separated, tube patched, wheel ground, welded and ground/polished, made up and pressurised, even with a hand to get the wheel on the bonnet, all within ¾ hour and for $15,000. A bargain for a professional job and rapid service, you won’t find that in the UK these days.
So, while we’re here we have to have a look around at the fourth largest salt pan in the world (apparently) and the valle de luna before we decide whether to head into Bolivia or turn back into Chile.

San Pedro de Attacama, Chile Friday 14 August 2009

Now in the Attacama desert, just preparing for a trip to Sala de Uyuni, altitude 3600m, apparently it gets rather cold at night (-17 we've heard) so we're looking for our thermals and wooly hats.  We’re thinking of insulating Flo with generous layers of Llama dung.

Saturday 15 August

We’re off to Bolivia on Sunday, perhaps be able to update in a week or so.
Thought we would share this sunset with you all.
We saw our first Llamas in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
This hand has been sculpted in the middle of the Atacama Desert – we have no idea why.
Boliva – fantastic landscape but dreadful ‘roads’.
The Flamingos feed on the brine shrimps that live in the salt water of the Salar de Atacama

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia Sunday 16 August 2009

Not so early on Sunday morning – because we went out for our Anniversary Dinner at Blanco on Saturday night, an excellent three course meal for Chile$6000 – we drove round to the frontier post to complete the Chilean exit requirements. Once the duty policeman could be found, the queue by this time had grown to considerable proportions, everything went very smoothly with only a cursory look at the Land Rover from 50’.
Although the Chilean border control is in San Pedro de Attacama, the Bolivian immigration is actually at the border about 60 kms further on and the Bolivian Customs is another 85 kms further into Bolivia at 5050m altitude. We found the Bolivian authorities very friendly and helpful, also very understanding of our language and breathing difficulties. We had to pay Bs21 each to gain entry to the country but Flo got in for free.

On the way to customs we passed some beautiful Altiplano landscapes including Laguna Verde; the water a brilliant aquamarine colour.
Once we had all of the paperwork done it was time to think about camping for the night, we considered just parking up at the customs post but the smell of sulphur and very thin air convinced us to drop down in altitude if we could. We finally camped by the shore of Laguna Colorada ( another beautiful lake, this time red) at approximately 4200 m.
As feared, the night proved to be rather chilly with outside temperatures dropping past -15 degrees C and inside temperature dropped to -9. It was cold…obviously we had to drain the domestic water system and use bottled water for everything. Ash turned the fridge on to keep the beer from freezing.

We woke up with icicles hanging from everywhere, made some tea and tried to start the engine to get some warmth and feeling back.
However, the engine wouldn’t start because the fuel had ‘frozen’. So we just spent a few hours jumping up and down and going for brisk walks wearing eighteen layers of clothing until the Sun came up and warmed the engine enough to start. Who would have thought that diesel would not have anti-freeze additives when sold in the Andes in winter.
The rest of the day was spent on the road (or trying to find the road) to Uyuni, stopped to chat with a Dragoman overland truck who were also heading to Uyuni and they recommended the Tonito Hotel and Minuteman Pizza Emporium.
We arrived absolutely shattered, still wearing our pyjamas under our clothes, refuelled (diesel with no additive) hunted for some anti-gel, found some after an involved search. It was also the last can they had, no really, we went back for more later on and had to hunt around town again!
Its got to be a hotel tonight.

Laguna Verde, Bolivia Thursday 20 August 2009

This lake in Bolivia is green from the algae that lives in this salt lake.  We spent the night here at the Laguna Colarada.  The night-time temperature was minus 14 degrees C.  Just a little on the chilly side – the temperature inside Flo was minus 9 degrees and had ice on all the inside walls……bbrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Salar de Uyuni and Minuteman Pizza

This salt pan was nice and solid – not like Botswana!

We checked into a luxury room at the Hotel Tonito for Bs400 turned the radiator up to full, had a great shower and went down to the Minuteman Pizzeria attached to the hotel for the best pizza in the whole wide world. Chris (from Northampton, USA) runs the place and makes the gourmet pizzas and they are really special! If you ever find yourself in Uyuni, and people do, then eat nowhere else.
We slept like contented babies that night.

The following day we went out onto the Salar de Uyuni (biggest salt flats in the world, apparently), had some fun, explored the islands and camped out on isla incahuasi. Luckily the night was milder than at Laguna Colorada, we’re about a thousand metres lower and we had an extra blanket bought from the market for Bs45. The plan then was to go on to Potosi but we found ourselves drawn back to Uyuni for more pizza. This time we stayed in a standard room for Bs280 but still had deluxe pizzas.

These pizza’s at the Minuteman Pizza place in Uyuni were divine – the best in the world!

Sucre, Bolivia Thursday 20 August 2009

We left Uyuni and drove through the mountains to Potosi, a distance of 205 kms, the journey took around six hours through a never ending road improvement project. We didn’t see too much work going on but there were lots of diversions, diggers and flag wavers. The route is very picturesque with mountains, frozen streams and llamas scattered around.
We had planned to stay in Potosi for the night and continue to Sucre the following day, however, on arrival in Potosi, we were assaulted by absolute chaos. Narrow winding streets with no names full of people and traffic going every which way, nowhere to park and quite honestly not really a nice looking place. We gave it a couple of hours and decided to camp out of town.
As we drove out of town on the Sucre road, we were somewhat taken aback by the smooth tarred surface of the road and drove all the way to Sucre, a mere 150 kms. To supplement the rather meagre output of the Land Rover’s headlights, Gill was operating the roof mounted remote control spot light as we drove.
Arrived in Sucre at around 2130 and found it to be much more to our liking. Clean streets, nice buildings and pleasant parks. We hunted around for a hotel with parking but the only one we found, Capitol Plaza Hotel on 25th May Plaza, was full, but they allowed us to park outside the front door until we could check in the following day. It was great to wake up in the morning and look over the main plaza in the capitol city of Bolivia.
We spent Friday and Saturday sightseeing around the city and relaxing in the hotel. The hotel comes highly recommended at Bs360 for a double room opening onto the courtyard/atrium.

Thought we would splash out a bit and stay in this nice hotel on the main Plaza in Sucre.  Even Flo was happy to be parked outside.

Just one of the Government Buildings in Sucre – the white city

The road to Argentina  23 August 2009

Sunday morning (late) we left our luxury hotel in Sucre and drove back to Potosi on the way to Villarzon on the border with Argentina. The road is tarred and mostly in good condition so we made good time. We also made good progress around Potosi after studying the road on Google Earth to plot a course with minimal bottlenecks. And then the tar ran out and we hit the gravel and rock roads.
We had a choice of two roads, one via Tarija but a bit longer than the most direct route but reportedly in better condition, so we took the good road and found our average speed reduce to about 35 kmph.
Bush camped by a dry riverbed and continued onto the border the following day. The road was spectacular, winding through the Andes (again), and narrow enough to be hair raising at times.
We arrived at border control at around 1700 (Bolivian time, we didn’t realise Argentina was one hour ahead until three days later) and decided to make the crossing. Bolivian authorities were really disinterested just wanting 20 Bolivianos for ??, and the Argentineans were slightly more enthusiastic once cornered but didn’t require any fee.
Quite encouraged by our good fortune we decided to drive on out of town and bush camp when we found somewhere suitable. Soon we found a nice deserted spot just off the main road, as it was dark we didn’t want to travel much further so we parked up for our first night in Argentina.

Just a few scenic pictures of Argentina – the black stuff on the road was very welcome after Bolivia.

This was the drive out of Bolivia – stunning views – especially over the edge!


The voracious insects made sure that we didn’t hang around here for long.
These guys were part of a military band that played a few numbers outside the Cathedral.  What do they remind you of?

Hmmmm….not quite what we were expecting.

There were lots of these kilns for making charcoal along the road in the north of Argentina.

Tilcar, Argentina 25 August 2009

So we woke at dawn and found our nice deserted spot was actually about two hundred yards from two farm houses, still it was pretty cold and no one was moving around yet, so we had breakfast and moved on sharpish.
We found ourselves in a small “touristico” village later that afternoon and stayed for two nights in the El Jardin campsite. It was here we found that Argentineans must eat toilet seats because there are never any provided in campsites. We’ll have to invent a portable/inflatable model and market it here.
Had a fantastic and huge “Llama platter” for 45 pesos at a small family restaurant but had to leave nearly half of it because we were so full.
The following day walked up the hill in the midday sun to view the Pucara ruins.

I don’t think that the Inca ruins are a patch on Mayan (or Aztec) ruins though!

PN Calilegua, Argentina 27 August 2009

Calilegua National Park is a cloud forest reserve in North-West Argentina.

It is home to anteaters, pumas, tapirs and all sorts of other wildlife only ever seen as drawings in reference books.  We now know why…The only wildlife we saw flew at us and bit deeply before flying away again.  We are covered in bites, every exposed or partially exposed or coved area of skin was bitten without mercy.
We had three different types of insect repellent and mozzie coils on the go, the bugs were even crawling on the coils…
We endured one night and legged it back out of the jungle.

Salta, Argentina Friday 28 August 2009

After our jungle experience we decided to go to the regional capital Salta, and relax in a bug free environment. As the guidebook had raved about the campsite with the biggest swimming pool ever seen, we thought we would try it out.
The campsite was a disgrace; i.e. worse than usual for this part of the world, the pool was empty of course, but the ablution block was half demolished, no hot water and no toilet seats. The cleaners probably went on strike in the 1970’s.
We decided on the “Petit Hotel” situated under the Teleferico near the centre of town instead, a lovely friendly place with its own pool and breakfast included in the room rate of 200 pesos.
We then enjoyed walking through the centre of town with the other thousands of promenaders and had a nice “chorizo” steak at one of the Plaza 9th Mayo restaurants

Cafayete, Argentina Saturday 29 August 2009

Spent the day driving from Salta to Cafayate through more magnificent scenery until we reached the bodegas of the vineyards of Cafayate.  On this day we met up with three other overland trucks, two German and one Swiss, so we all swapped stories of road conditions, bent coppers and preferred camp sites.  Stayed at the Luz y Feuerza campsite and chilled out so much we stayed three nights, doing maintenance and washing during the days.  Cafayate is a another nice touristico village with plenty of restaurants and “artisan” shops/stalls to but any number of tourist souvenirs.
Ash’s idea of an Argentine souvenir is a kilo of steak and a litre of beer!

Northern Argentina Monday 1 September 2009

After our short sojourn in Cafayette we had to cross the country from West to East in order to visit the Iguaçu Waterfalls. A reasonably long haul across featureless agricultural land without many distractions.  The first day though was a scenic drive to the thermal springs of Rio Hondo, then the land flattened out and we drove for two days only stopping at a fuel station overnight before arriving in La Resistencia. The campsite here is in the public park near the centre of town, needless to say we were the only tourists yet again. The plan was to then go on the final day up to Iguaçu through the Misiones region of Argentina – but we had a mad idea to divert into Paraguay to visit the Jesuit ruins and experience the country…

Paraguay Friday 4 September 2009

What a surprise, although we only saw a small area of Paraguay, what we saw was absolutely beautiful!

Lush rolling hills and fertile farming land, well organised agriculture, nice houses and a very tidy and well maintained country.
Officials were very friendly and helpful, not a hint of the troubles we had been warned about.

Visited the Jesuit ruins at Jesus and Trinidad and were taken aback at the scale and scope of the buildings and the area of the Jesuit “empire” within South America. And also quite astounded that we knew nothing of their influence during the 16/17/18 centuries. For us, these ruins are far more impressive than the Inca ruins…

A pleasant couple of days driving through rolling hills until we reached Itapu Dam and the Brazilian border. Unfortunately the dam was shut because of Brazil’s Independence Day holiday, so we crossed into Brazil a day early and decided we would visit the dam after the falls.

Paraguay Saturday 5 September 2009

We decided to go into Paraguay to see the ruins of the great Jesuit Empire.  It lasted about 200 years – 1550 ish to 1770 ish
Paraguay was a pleasant surprise.  No litter, only a few dogs, good major roads, very friendly locals and the countryside looked just like home

Iguazu, Brazil Sunday 6 September 2009

We entered Brazil slowly…Well, actually we drove straight through the border with no interest shown by any officials, so we doubled back, parked up and went in search of Immigration and Customs. Immigration was easy enough but Customs took about two hours, most of it trying to convince them that they must issue a temporary import document for the Land Rover. Still we got everything sorted and drove straight to the Falls hoping to find a campsite or luxury hotel.
Luckily, we found the campsite first, the Hostel Paudimar on the falls road. Camping for 15 Reals per person, expensive but with all the luxuries of an Australian campsite (including loo seats) and free wifi and breakfast! And a bar, pub food and swimming pool; we decided to stay for a few days whilst we explore the local area.

The Iguaçu Falls are spectacular and compare well with Niagara, Victoria and the Blue Nile Falls – see the photos.

The Itapu Dam is scheduled for tomorrow, it used to be the biggest in the world until the Chinese built the Three Gorges Dam recently.

Itaipu, Brazil Tuesday 8 September 2009

Well, the thunderstorm started at around 2100 last night, its now 1100 and its still chucking it down.
We might just stay in today; luckily we’re at a great campsite with a bar, so we don’t have to go far.
The dam might have to wait…

Ash having a frosty beverage from his new draught beer facility!

Iguazu, Argentina Wednesday 9 September 2009

So when we got up, it was still raining so we went up to the Itaipu Dam and took in the special tour, which really was rather good, taking in the inside workings as well as the exterior.  After that we crossed into Argentina (more fun and games at the border as we drove straight through and had to park and find some officials) and called into the duty free to use up our spare Reals.
Ash bought himself a birthday present – see the photo!
The next day was spent exploring the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls and taking in a “typical Latino Americano” dinner show in the evening.
We’re now heading South through Argentina on the way to Uruguay.

San Ignacio, Argentina Saturday 12 September 2009

We drove down from Iguazu in the rain and decided to stop in the San Ignacio Youth Hostel, but we also decided not to camp and so we have an ensuite room instead for $80 (approx. £13.50). A good job really as it has continued to rain for two days and two nights. We have been to some more Jesuit ruins but have to say that the Paraguayan ones are more spectacular and better preserved.
Tomorrow we are heading South to Concordia, on the Argentina – Uruguay border but depending on the weather may make a diversion to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini and the Iberia National Park. Not much point going there in the rain though.
Tonight is Barbeque night!

Colonia Pelegrino, Ibera Sunday 13 September 2009

We decided to go to the National Reserve to spot some capybara and caimans.
When we arrived at Carlos Pellegrini Campsite we had the shock of our lives! It was like a proper campsite, a good one even…grass pitches with parking areas, brick built bbqs and wooden tables and chairs all under cover. Power, light and water at every pitch, ablution blocks – clean with hot showers and toilet seats. We had to check the map to make sure we hadn’t left Argentina by mistake.
We went for a safari on the lake in a motor boat and had a great time quietly spotting the wildlife, mainly capybara and caimans.
Bought 2 kilograms of beef ribs, a couple of (litre) bottles of liquid refreshment and had a barbeque…at peace with the world.
Came across this Jaguar Cub in the park ;o)

After leaving Ibera we took two and a half days to drive down to Montevideo, bush camping on the way. Once on the river bank just before crossing at Concordia-Salto; and the other time at an ANCAP service station 200 kms north of Montevideo.
Just before the border we called into a German Country Store selling all manner of home made German goods, deep in the heart of Argentina! We made a careful selection of beer and bread but stopped short of buying flags, uniforms and Mate paraphernalia.

There were lots of these cute Capybara’s in the park and they weren’t overly bothered by the boat so we could get quite close.

Montevideo, Uruguay Saturday 19 September 2009

Having left Montevideo after a trip to the Naval Museum we headed East up the coast to the Brazilian border.
The museum was great, too much stuff for the building and filling every corner with exhibits piled in front of others. Bits recovered from the Graff Spee included.
The weather has been rather damp and chilly so we drove all the way to Santa Teresa Park and camped the night before visiting the fort the next day. The park appears to be a National Park with nice grounds, aviaries, campsites, playgrounds and beaches. But run by the military! We had to sign in and after consultation with two colonels were directed to the campsite by a corporal on a motorbike. Needless to say, we were the only ones there…again.
We visited both local forts which are excellently restored, each one being a “star castle” built during the 18th century, one by the Portuguese and the other by the Spanish.
Overnighting now in La Paloma (the pigeon).

A wander around San Miguel Fort in Uruguay, right on the Brazilian border.  It was so windy that we were nearly blown off the battlements.

Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay Sunday 20 September 2009

Colonia del Sacramento is a lovely old cobble-stoned city full of old cars and buildings. It is also only a one hour ferry ride away from the chaos of Buenos Aires.
Our plan was to stay two nights in Colonia and then take the ferry to Bs As but as always, the plan changed…
The first night we bush camped on the shore of the river and watched another beautiful sunset and moonrise, we had intended to stay at the municipal campsite raved about by a well known travel guide but it had shut down since the publish date. Being familiar with the “continental” custom of the evening promenade it was interesting to see a similar spectacle occur here, although this promenade everybody travelled in motor cars and drank (or cuddled) their mate!
Mate is the leaf based brew that appears as a comfort blanket to most of the population and is something that can not be left at home.
The second night was at a private campsite 20 kms out of town where we did a few small jobs including a quick oil change.

Driving South 22 September 2009

Well, the long drive part of the way South, at least. We drove from Colonia, forget the ferry (we decided to save the £150) to Puerto Madryn in Patagonia; it took 3 ½ days, 3 nights sleeping on garage forecourts. About 2000 kms in all, so not much really but it takes time at 80 kmph…

Puerto Madryn, Argentina 25 September 2009

Now that we have finally arrived in Patagonia, we thought we would take just a few days relaxing and seeing if we could spot a whale or two…
We started on the cliff top by the ACA campsite in PM, it was fantastic, the whales just cruised by beneath us. Then we went out to Puerto Pyramides on the peninsular and took a catamaran out into the bay, the whales would actually come up to the boat and seemed as intrigued by us as we were by them, a very moving experience indeed.
After this we drove around the peninsular to view the elephant seal and penguin colonies. Unfortunately/fortunately no killer whales this time.
Driving back from the peninsular we stopped to scan the bay and there seemed to be whales everywhere we looked…
These Southern Right Whales come to Puerto Madryn and the Valdes Peninsular to have their babies and help them prepare for the long journey to the Antarctic.  They come very close to the shore and spend a lot of time on the surface to conserve energy.  These photos were taken from a Catamaran – the whales come right next to the boat which is fantastic but we didn’t think that you would want to see the inside view of a whales blow-hole!

This shows the mothers tail and the baby’s nose. 

The area is also the home of Elephant Seals.  They weren’t very active – picking his own nose was as much as this chap could manage.

Gaiman, Argentina 30 September 2009
After leaving Puerto Madryn and the Whales behind we headed South for a hundred kilometres to see another kind of Wales.
Few people know that in the nineteenth century Patagonia was settled by a few hardy Welsh families. They sailed on the Mimosa and landed at Puerto Madryn, casting inland to look for a suitable home. Trelew and then Gaiman seemed to fit the bill quite well as there is still a thriving Welsh community to this day with many a Jones and Edwards family still speaking Welsh and attending the Eisteddfod held in the town.

We stopped for tea at the TY TE CAERDYDD, a beautiful Welsh Tea House set amid immaculate green lawns watered by a cool running stream. We ordered the standard tea and received a table full of sandwiches, buttered bread and scones, jams, cakes, tarts and pies, topped off by an enormous china teapot in a woolly cosy. It took all afternoon to plough our way through it before staggering out to wobble around the village.
After recovering we visited the Museo Historico Regional and spent a wonderful couple of hours seeing the exhibits and chatting to the owners/curators who were descendants of one of the original families. We presented them with the flag we had carried all the way from Wrexham and they promised to fly it on the anniversary of the Mimosa’s landing and St David’s Day.

We gave the flag to the museum to be flown on St David’s Day and the date the Mimosa landed.
Whilst in Gaiman we saw evidence of Lady Diana’s visit in 1995, the Ty Te Caerdydd is very proud that she went there for tea and photos and memorabilia abound, but maybe the most poignant was the simple visitor’s book in the museum that Diana had signed.
We stayed the night in the town camp site run by the volunteer fire service, who have a very impressive if somewhat veteran collection of engines and appliances. We had a fantastic ‘Afternoon Tea’ in one of the Welsh Tea Houses in Gaiman.  Lots of cake and delicious tea in a proper teapot and a hand knitted tea cosy – yum yum (big tum).

Bariloche, Argentina Thursday 1 October 2009

A long drive across the country from East to West along the route 25, lots of wide open space…

The ‘Lake District’ in Argentina is at the base of the Andes and, as you would expect, there are lots of lakes!! 

Chilean Andes Monday 5 October 2009

After three days in the Argentinean Lake district (Esquel – Bariloche - Villa Angostura - San Martin de los Andes) we re-crossed the Andes to Chile.
The lake district is very pleasant but comes across as a sort of Hollywood vision of how the Swiss Alps should look. Most of the log cabins look as if a six foot cuckoo might burst out of the front door on the hour.
As we were heading up into the Andes, the snow started and got heavier as we gained altitude but the road remained clear and we made it through with no problems.
Not far after crossing the border on the route 215, we visited a small motor museum with a very impressive selection of 1950’s Studebaker cars amongst its collection.
We made it as far as Puerto Varas on the south-west shore of Lago Llanquihue, we’ll post a photo of the volcanoes tomorrow.  

Chacabuco, Chile Tuesday 6 October 2009

After leaving Puerto Varas we took the short (30 mins) ferry ride over to the island of Chiloe.
We spent two days here and were surprised how much like some parts of the UK it was, it rained quite a lot too. From the south of the island, Quellon, we took another ferry back to the mainland port of Puerto Chacabuco, this ferry took 36 hours and stopped in eight other ports enroute. There were no cabins just airline style seating in one big television lounge with a limited snack bar for refreshments (no alcohol though). We spent more time in Flo than out of it, as we could sleep, cook, read quietly, use clean toilets and drink beer. We would venture out on occasion to take in the views and typical Patagonian weather.
The fare for the two of us and Flo was $179,000 (about £200) but we got free camping.

Luckily this volcano did not erupt while we were there!
This was the view on the ferry ride from Quellon to Chacabuco.  The sea was really calm (thankfully) and the ferry wound its way around the islands dropping people off in the most inhospitable places – some of which did not have any roads.

Coihaique, Chile Friday 9 October 2009

Well, we’re back on dry land again, camping in a woodland campsite by the name of Alborada just outside of town.
Tomorrow we’ll continue down the Carretera Austral  hoping to get to Caleta Tortel by Mondayish. Caleta Tortel has only recently been connected by road, before then the only access was by boat, apparently there are no roads in the village just raised wooden boardwalks.

Thought we would share another view with you ;o) ….

So we went there on a very bad road (5 hours to go 80 miles) and it was freezing cold and very windy.  We walked around – up and down the steps – for about 2 hours and then left again!

“One of South America’s finest examples of rock-paintings” – these handprints were made by the ‘Toldense’ and are from 9300BC.  Their significance is not known as there is no-one from that period still alive ;o)  The colours is some places were still really vivid, presumably protected from the elements by the rock overhang, and were made using charcoal, earth and calafate berries.

We went to see this huge glacier but it was a little bit rainy.  It is 19 miles long (although it was so cloudy that we couldn’t see that far), 3 miles wide and about 180 feet high – awesome.  It constantly creeks and when a bit of ice falls off it sounds like a thunder clap.

Cochrane, Chile Saturday 10 October 2009

So we left the tarred road behind after Coihaique and continued on very variable gravel roads around Lago Carr era (the deepest lake in South America, apparently) through Puerto Tranquilo, Cochrane and on to Caleta Tortel. We were just approaching Cochrane when a new thumping sound started, coming from the back axle area. A quick investigation showed that the upper shock absorber mount had sheared off and the oversize RAID shock absorber was bashing on the chassis rail. Ash removed the offending articles and chucked them in the back. We then went to lunch as it was Sunday afternoon and everything was shut.
After lunch we found a very busy mechanico who could repair the shock mount with a large bolt and a welding kit. So we left it with him and made camp in the garden of a small hostel where Ash did some other jobs on Flo, handbrake adjustment, refitting the headlight switch, another flat tyre (valve stem failed during tyre pressure check). The following day we got the bracket back on and continued to Tortel.

Tortel was full of character and rather different! The only road was the road in/out of town, all other thoroughfares were boardwalks made from the wood from the local forests. The houses were also made from the same source and made for quite a difference from the usual towns.
The road to Tortel was one of the worst we had experienced during the trip, back in Cochrane we needed another puncture repair and lower shock mounting adjustment/repair.  
We continued North and East around the Carrerra Lakeshore and crossed back into Argentina at Los Antiguos. And the tarred road started again, it was great, all quiet and smooth – it can’t last.

Ruta 40 South, Chile Wednesday 14 October 2009

We camped in the municipal campsite in Perito Moreno, a great place run with rarely seen enthusiasm and care, highly recommended. Also met some other “overlanders” for the first time in ages.
So, in the morning we left on the Ruta 40, heading South to Calafate via the Cave of the Hands and El Chalten. After 50 kms the tar ended and we were back on gravel, another twenty kms and we had another flat and discovered the first spare wheel was cracked along the weld. We were in the middle of nowhere so had the choice of going back 70 kms to Perito Moreno or continue to Baja Caracoles (100 kms) for repairs. We decided to go on, only to find both Gomerias (tyre repair specialists) had shut up shop and moved town. The nearest gomeria now was another 220 kms away through a desolate wasteland of arid scrub to the town of Gobernada Gregores. In for a penny-in for a pound, so we also made a 100kms round trip to see the Indian rock paintings at the Cuerva de los Manos.
We made it to G. Grgores the following day and had the puncture repaired and the wheel welded by the local fire brigade. Afterwards we continued on to the end of the gravel at Tres Lagos, camping at the free municipal campsite, again the only people there.  

El Calafate, Saturday 17 October 2009

Ash and Gill think they may have gone deaf and lost all feeling in their entire bodies because…they’re no longer on gravel but tarred roads.
We drove down to EL Chalten viewing the magnificent Mt Fitzroy and glacier Viedma as we travelled along the shore of Lake Viedma.
As it was blowing a hoolie in town, we decided to press on to El Calafate, 220 kms down the road and camp there instead.
We still in Calafate, having visited the Perito Merino Glacier yesterday during a snow and rainstorm.
So far today, we’ve had snow, sleet, rain, sun but mostly wind – icy wind blowing off of the Ice Cap. We’re not regretting the purchase of an electric fan heater in Quellon any more! Even though it has melted the plug on one extension lead already.
We are planning to stay in this very touristy town for another two nights of R+R before heading further South and back into Chile again.

Torres de Paine, Wednesday 21 October 2009

This was the mountain and lake view from the campsite in Torres Del Paine National Park – we are sure that you will agree that it was rather nice.  Of course not long after we took this photo the clouds moved in and it started to snow again.  Not much, just enough to hide the mountain and drive us back into Flo.

One lump or two.  We braved the gale force winds and snow to visit Glacier Gray.  The views of the glacier were a sporadic because of the low cloud and horizontal snow but these ice bergs were pretty cool!

It’s so windy in Patagonia that lots of the trees have interesting hairstyles.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, we’re back off to Chile and Torres del Paine National Park.
We’ll probably be offline for a few days again, until we reach Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas.

A spectacular park full of lakes and mountains, we spent three days/nights here, camping at Lago Azul and ‘Camping Pehoe’. The views from the campsites were breathtaking and we went for a few short walks in the snow and sunshine to see glaciers, waterfalls and icebergs (ice cubes as well).

Puerto Natales Saturday 24 October 2009

Today was a very short drive of approximately 100 kms to P Natales, the idea was to rest here for a day and do some work on Flo, interneting and visit a local café that boasts ENGLISH NEWSPAPERS. As it happened; the campsite we were staying was more like someone’s back garden, there was no wifi available and the café was shut…
We stayed the one day and drove on to Tierra del Fuego.

Tierra del Fuego Sunday 25 October 2009

Spent the day driving from Puerto Natales to Tolhuin with a short ferry ride across to TdF costing $13,900 for a 30 minute crossing surrounded by HGVs.  TdF started off looking quite wild and barren (a bit like the Hebrides), then as we crossed into the Argentinean side it flattened out completely before we passed through Tolhuin and started climbing up through the mountains and down into Ushuaia. On this day we drove until 2200 as we could not find a suitable camp site or bush camp site. We stayed overnight at a 24 hr garage, toilets and showers included free.

Ushuaia, Argentina Monday 26 October 2009

Well, we have made it, as far South as you can go in South America without resorting to boats or aeroplanes.  All of the souvenir shops and Irish bars are open but the camp sites are still shut until November.
So anyway, we’re still having a few days R&R and doing some overdue maintenance on Flo, tightening up some nuts and bolts, re-securing the undercarriage and carrying out the 50,000 kms service.
We have also just met Dave and Rose, the first British Overlanders we have met since leaving Portland over a year ago. As you can imagine we had lots to talk about whilst camping/squatting in the car park of the closed campsite.
We’ve taken a trip out on the Beagle Channel and are considering going a little further South, maybe across the Drake Passage.
The next two days we’ll leave Ushuaia and spend time in the Tierra del Fuego National Park.

We just have to decide whether to pop over to Antarctica!
Ushuaia, Argentina 04November 2009

Well we visited Tierra del Fuego National Park, $50 each for the privilege, a bit steep for what is a nice but unassuming park.  We’re now back in Ushuaia at the Club Andino campsite located at a ski slope above the town. A nice peaceful campsite with good views over the town and surrounding area, not enough snow for skiing though, even though it seems to snow every day.
We’re now just relaxing and thinking about and planning our trip to the Antarctic. We have just booked up on a last minute offer on the Antarctic Dream for an eleven day cruise to the Antarctic peninsular.
We’re now looking through our wardrobes for any suitable cold weather gear that we may have prior to going out on a spending spree for hats, gloves, boots, string vests and long johns.

Off to the Antarctic 07 November 2009

Well, tomorrow morning our ship should come in to port and we should set sail to the Great White Continent at around 1900. We’ll be back on-line in 10-11 days unless savaged by penguins. Antarctica; Well, what can we say apart from ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!  There were penguins everywhere, lots of snow and some huge icebergs.  We’ve selected just a few of the hundreds of photos that we took – we hope you enjoy them.

07-17November 2009 Antarctica in the Antarctic Dream

As I write this, we are sailing back through the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia, having spent a fantastic 9-day voyage to the Antarctic. Of course they always sell these voyages as 11 days (including the day of departure and arrival even though you leave at 1900 on the first day and arrive before breakfast on the last day).
We obtained a last minute place on the Antarctic Dream for US$3990 to visit the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsular. And although it is a huge amount of money we feel that it is worth it for a rather unique experience to round off our southern hemisphere circumnavigation. The ship and cabin (double bed with private bathroom, unlike the alternative ship’s bunk beds and shared bathroom) were comfortable, the meals were very good and crew and guides were capable. Free wine and soft drinks too but unfortunately beer was US$5 for a small bottle! A bit of a shocker as it only costs around US$0.50 in the local shops – that’s the local shops in Ushuaia not Antarctica
Of course, to get to the Antarctic, you have to cross the Drake Passage, two days and nights on a ‘lively body of water’ although on the return journey it was as calm as could be.
One of the first things we did on reaching the Antarctic mainland was drop off two explorers who were planning to kayak around the peninsular for four months, unfortunately, one of them sustained a back injury on the first day and we had to retrieve them on the return journey.

Anyway, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking and the wildlife completely captivating. We must have 500 photos of penguins in every pose imaginable! But rather than try to describe it, there are just a few photos posted on the Antarctic blog page to give you an idea.

The long drive North to Montevideo 17 November 2009

After a day to organise ourselves and Flo for the last 4000 kms of our epic journey we will set off from Ushuaia, crossing back through Chilean territory for the last time as we drive through Tierra del Fuego and Northwards.
On the way up, we also plan to stop for a couple of days in or near Puerto Madryn to see if the whales and orcas are still there.

Back in Puerto Madryn after an Alternator Problem 23 November 2009

So after leaving Ushuaia on the 18th we drove through Tierra del Fuego and just made the ferry before bush camping next to a gravel pit opposite Punta Delgado town on the RN3.
The following day we drove up to Monte Leon NP in search of pumas but only found more penguins. So we carried on to San Julian where we viewed at replica of Magellan’s ship Nao Victoria and an Argentine Air Force Jet on a pole that appeared to claim three RN ships sank in the “great war”.
Moving on swiftly, we came to Rada Tilly a nice little resort town just south of Commodoro Rivadavia. But by now we had recognised a rather loud graunching sound from the general direction of the engine.
Ash decided to take a look after we had found the campsite and discovered that the Alternator bearings were past their best and probably needed replacing prior to the next long haul up to Puerto Madryn. It was difficult to tell at first whether it was the alternator or water pump but as we had a spare water pump it was a safe guess that it would be the alternator.
Of course, it was a Saturday evening…
Whilst looking bemused at the prospect of replacing the alternator (or bearings) along came Santiago, alerted by his girlfriend Macarena who saw the Land Rover bonnet up, to help. Santiago, from just down the road in C. Rivadavia, knew exactly where the antagonistic alternator could be repaired locally and explained in detail, leaving his contact details just in case any language difficulties needed overcoming when at the workshop.
Following Santiago’s directions we found the very busy workshop, La Biela, and got the work done by Fabian within a very respectable three hours before proceeding onto P. Madryn that afternoon.  The work was expensive but that’s only to be expected when you are jumping the queue!
We arrived in P. Madryn only one day late and just in time for the rain, it chucked it down all day Tuesday, so we spent the time arranging hotels and shipping for December.  The Sun has come back, so we’re off to Punta Ninfas to go Orca hunting.

Santa Rosa, La Pampa 29 November 2009

So, we saw a small pod of Orca at Punta Nymfas whilst watching the Elephant Seals, luckily (for them) no beach assaults were attempted.
After that we headed back to Puerto Madryn briefly prior to heading North. We’re now in Santa Rosa, La Pampa and due to head for Rossario tomorrow and then we’re off to the Rio Uruguay search for the strange creature known as the Vizcacha…
If we see him we’ll post some pictures…or teeth marks…

Rosario, alternators and terrorists (part one) 30NOV-02DEC2009

So after spending a few hours playing football with the local kids in Santa Rosa the evening before, Ash had to take some painkillers before we left for Rosario in the morning. The idea was to get close to Rosario (the third largest city in Argentina) before ‘camping’ at a roadside garage. However, the alternator decided to start playing up again, so much for the excellent repair job in Commodoro Rivadavia, so we continued into town in order to limp to the campsite and sleep before sussing out parts/repairs in the morning.
So, on we limped, to the campsite by the river, which was shut! But we had another one listed just down the road, so Ash started walking, and then running to escape the voracious mozzies that seemed to swarm all over him. Only to find that one was also closed and that the mozzies seemed to have a particular liking to his flesh that wasn’t helped by the protective qualities of t-shirt, shorts and sandals. So, on making it back to the sick Land Rover with no where to stay, Ash was instantly accosted by a ‘garde de parking’ who wanted to charge a fortune to look after the car. After nearly 700 kms at 80km/h, a repetition of a supposedly repaired fault and being bitten by every mosquito in South America, I did not feel up to fencing with the local entrepreneurs over safe parking in the city centre.
It was in this state of mind that Mariano and Josephina happened to meet with! On having seen Florence they walked over to say hello, talk about overland expeditions and generally offer any help they could to strangers in town (Mariano and Josephina are planning a long trip to Mexico starting in June next year in the Mutan, a Willys Jeep plus trailer). Unforgivably, Ash was uncharacteristically abrupt being rather stressed and didn’t want to talk, misunderstanding Mariano’s intentions…Ash speaking only English, Mariano only Spanish.
Ash jumped in the car and ignoring any further interruptions studied the map for options.

Rosario, alternators and terrorists (part two) 30NOV-02DEC2009

Meanwhile, Gill and Josephina met with each other and managed to communicate much better.  So, after introductions and a short chat about Land Rovers, Jeeps, camping, Rosario and alternators, M&J very kindly invited us back to their place where we could stay until the alternator was sorted.
Well, it just happens that they live in a brilliant house (most of the rooms are dedicated to Jeeps and their various components, Ash’s favourite room had a whole chassis propped against one wall) with a big garden that has about fifteen cars parked up, half of which seem to be Jeeps as well.
M&J are very important members of the Rosario Jeep and Mapuche 4X4 clubs.
So we parked Florence, had a beer, flashed up the bbq and started talking about overlanding, our trip so far and their proposed trip in 2010.

Well, the evening flew by and the following morning we had the genny off and stripped, we ran around town in Blue Lightning (a very game small fiat) sourcing bearings, brushes, shims and bolts. The shops in Argentina are fantastic; it seems that you can still buy all of the component parts that have long disappeared from the shelves in the UK. It means that you can repair an alternator for pennies instead of forking out for a new one. As long as you don’t lose any bits in the rubbish sack!
So, we went to meet Jorge who modified the casing to accept the new bearing (slightly undersize; we found that the correct size was not available which was the cause of the second failure after the initial repair) and also met the Mutan’ currently being built up for Mariano to take up to Mexico in six months. After refitting the alternator, we had another barbeque for lunch, before Jorge welded the bonnet catch and Mariano removed the Australian deserts from the air filter.
The afternoon then mellowed into the evening with more Jeep/Land Rover talk and friends arriving before we had dinner at a local restaurant. By which time Mariano was speaking English and Ash was speaking a kind of Spanish.
It was a marvellous couple of days and great to meet two people a nice as Mariano and Josephine, two real friends we hope to see again.

The A Team, Mariano and his buddies who helped Ash fix Flo.

Mariano and Josephina kindly invited us to stay with them in Rosario.

Mariano though it funny that we had not bumped into anybody from the Land Rover Argentina Club during our travels, in fact we haven’t seen many Land Rovers at all during our South American journey.

Palmar National Park 02-04 December 2009

After saying goodbye, we left Rosario and drove up to Palmar National Park. We got there early and spent a nice relaxing day and a half reading and watching the wildlife.  And then as the sun set, the Vizcacha appeared!..

Vizcacha and another Vizcacha

These cute guys came out in the evening and kept us awake with their squabbling.

Camping in the forest by the beach 06 November 2009

We couldn’t make it all the way to Montevideo in one go! So we took a break at Blancarena in a forest campsite next door to the beach with a great Panaderia just down the road with fresh bread and pizza. The shop on the campsite also sold Pilsner in one litre bottles.  Relaxed again just sitting in the forest watching the woodpeckers.

Crossing into Uruguay 04-06 December 2009

After chilling out in Palmar we made the short drive to Colon and the border crossing into Uruguay.  However, the alternator pulley started slipping on the shaft causing the fan to rub also, so we had a short stop in San Jose for a bush repair – replacement pulley and suitable serpentine (fan) belt. The bridge to Colon was also flooded and the guard wouldn’t let us wade it, so we had to retrace our route before finally reaching the border crossing bridge – 45 minutes later we were in Uruguay having completed our last frontier with Flo.
We stopped in the first garage to consult the map and email our importation document to the shipping agent so that he could start work on the export paperwork as we were due to ship out one week later.
As we were sitting in Flo, a double cab pulled up next to us, three blokes got out and the first voices we heard in Uruguay were speaking English. David, Scottish, has been living in Fray Bentos for years and was showing Cy and Matt, from the BBC, around in preparation for the filming of their new programme. So we had a chat, David told us that we were the first British travellers in a British vehicle that he had seen in fourteen years in South America.
As we were dithering about our destination, David invited us home (108 kms down the road to Fray Bentos), so we happily accepted and found ourselves camping for two nights with ensuite facilities at the family home on the banks of the Uruguay river. It was a very enjoyable couple of days spent exploring Fray Bentos and learning the background from a local! (Especially about the paper pulp plant and the international bridge closure).

Feeling well rested and relaxed (again), after being treated as part of the family during our stay, we said our goodbyes to David, Laura, Ophelia, Fiona, Donna and Katrina and set out for Montevideo.

Montevideo, Uruguay 07 November 2009

After a very slow start, we finally got on the road at around 1200, for the last 100-ish kms to Montevideo. We’re due to ship Florence from here back to the UK on Friday 11NOV09, so we’ll spend the next few days organising ourselves and Flo and hopefully taking some time to have another look around the city too.

Montevideo Port 11 December 2009

Well, after getting to the port at around 10:00 we finally had Flo put to bed in the container and all of the paperwork finished by about 16:00. The hold up was caused by a particularly miserable customs official who decided she was too busy to clear the paperwork until Monday! However, she relented after some phone calls by our agents, still to save face, she made us wait a few hours anyway before making a very rudimentary “inspection” and grunting her approval.
Anyway, the ship (Rio del Plata) carrying Flo is due to leave Montevideo on Sunday and arrives in Tilbury on New Year’s Day. We also leave Montevideo on Sunday for a few days in Buenos Aires before flying back to Heathrow on Friday.  
It feels very strange being without our Land Rover Ambulance.

Flo was loaded into a container for the last time.  Even though we know she fits I still hold my breath as Ash drives her in.

Montevideo, Uruguay 12 December 2009

After Flo was loaded we had some free time to do some sightseeing.  Montevideo has some fabulous buildings.  This is the main square with the mausoleum and statue of General Artigas (Uruguay’s greatest national hero) and the Salvo Palace.

Montevideo still has Rag & Bone men – they use horse and carts to collect whatever rubbish they think can be useful.
Unfortunately, this archway is all that is left of the original city wall, part of the fortress that once protected Montevideo.

Ferry to Buenos Aires 13 December 2009

We took the Buquebus catamaran to Buenos Aires hoping for a great view of the River Plate during the journey. Little did we realise that the passenger areas are all inside and you cannot wander around outside. The experience was more like flying on an airliner than sailing on a ferry, in fact very similar to the old cross channel hovercrafts.  We’ve now got a few days to wander around before flying home on Friday.

Back to Blighty 18 December 2009

Well! We’re off to the airport now for the flight home to London Heathrow.
We’re leaving the hot weather and beautiful sunshine of Buenos Aires for the dark, freezing cold and snow of Northampton and then back to North Wales.
The trip has been absolutely fantastic but the year has flown by and we can’t believe its time to return already...

Back home! 19 December 2009

Well, we arrived at Heathrow on Saturday morning. Snow everywhere… Welcome back to reality.