Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Driving North

Since bad weather and sickness made us miss Torres del Paine, this was the next best thing for me. The colony of Rock-hopper penguins in the nature reserve at Puerto Deseado. We got our tickets and got the small boat along with 4 other tourists and our guide, a biologist. She was very informative and passionate about eh penguin colonies and the sea lions, cormorants and terns that live on Isla Pinguino. 

We were able to walk by the Magellan penguins and even sit next to the Rock-hoppers. We ate lunch with a massive colony of sea lions before us and reveled in the pure unadulterated nature.
Magellan Penguins


He is a singer

On the recommendation of our guide we drove to the tiny town of Camarones, 200 odd kms up the coast. 

There we encountered the South African boat Witblits, and our now friends Pieter and Geraldine, their Uruguayan dog Fabian, and their two cats Lily and Simon. We spent a wonderful week with them, eating, reminiscing and exchanging stories as well as movies. Sadly we had to bid them adieu and find somewhere to get propane as we were critically low. We left and drove to Trelew, 300 kms North but they couldn’t help us, nor in Puerto Madryn , San Antonio Oeste or Viedma. We were running on empty by this time and had resorted to using the kerosene camping stove and the microwave and turning the fridge off at night. At long last, after a 600 km race we arrived in Bahia Blanca, were they were able to help us. We could have kissed them, though instead we gave them beer, and they were happy with that. 

From there we drove to Tandil, as I had heard it was a place to buy gaucho knives of good quality. We ended up driving away a week later not having looked at a single knife, but having met a Argentinean family that surpassed everyone we had met in Argentina. Juan, Cata and their brood of adorable kids were so welcoming. We sent them an email not knowing what to expect, except that we had read on iOverlander that you shouldn’t expect to go to bed early with them. They welcomed us with open arms and gave us WiFi, showers and even a washing machine. We sat and talked with them for hours. they too had overlanded, buying a camping car in the States, driving through South America before settling in Tandil and selling the car. They were a week away from another trip, this time for a year in Europe, where they planned to buy a camping car and explore with their 5 kids. We ate and talked and talked and ate. They took us to the family estancia, like a ranch, where they grow crops of soybeans and organic corn. Juan took us out on horses, traditional gaucho style, no saddle and we rode around the property. My horse could tell I was nervous owing to my last encounter with a horse having been me falling off its back as it charged away. Granted it was slightly wild but in any case. This horse tried to buck me off slightly twice but we worked out a mutual agreement and worked our way up to a trot and then a canter. The next day we tried something more trustworthy in my opinion, that being a dirt bike. Jabez and I zoomed around all afternoon, and he taught em how to drive. Needless to say, I then whined when I wasn’t driving about how I wanted to drive. We left the family after their farewell party, complete with 100 people and good reggae beats. Oh, and a horde of children running amok.

Driving up into Entre Rios, a district of Northern Argentina, we paused for the night at the border before trying to outrun a massive storm on our way to Uruguay.
Zombie weather


We of course got stuck at the border when the power went out and they couldn’t process us. I hid cheese in my handbag so they wouldn’t take it from us and we entered Uruguay surrounded by rain and grey clouds. Passing through the town of Fray Bentos, we parked for the night at the UNESCO World Heritage site, the old corned beef factory and took the tour the next day around it. We learned about how Argentina supplied the beef to the plant and almost 40% of the beef to the Allies in WW2. Also how they processed 2000 cows a day. Mind blowing stuff when you think about it. 

I have to say, I've seen some amazing sunsets on this trip

Meandering down the coast, we passed through the towns of Mercedes and Caramelo, where I flew over the handlebars of my bike(long stupid story) and scraped both knees, both palms and my elbow open. 

Fun stuff. From there we headed to Colonia de Sacramento, a beautiful historical town complete with cobbled streets, huge leafy trees and cute restaurants in the old quarter. We were parked next to the football stadium and were party to a huge match between the capital, Montevideo and Colonia. We also met some lovely Turkish sailors/RVers, and had a barbecue with them. 

We hit the road to Montevideo, heading for the US Embassy in the hopes that I could have my fingerprints done there. I needed to have them taken to send a copy to the FBI for a criminal record report so I can apply for residency in Portugal when I’m 18. I’d been to 6 different police stations and no one could help me. The Embassy was also no help, directing me to Interpol. I walked 40 blocks and luckily was able to appeal to the kindheartedness of the lady there and managed to secure an appointment for the next morning. 

It went off without a hitch and we drove to Punta del Este, THE beach place in Uruguay, and had our picture taken with the other hand. You remember the Mano del Desierto, hand in the Atacama desert in Chile almost 6 months ago? This is the other side.

From there we wandered up the coast and into the interior, trying to get to Durazno, and where we took off back to the North of Argentina, and hopefully celebrating my birthday in 5 days along the way. And that is that.   

Driving North

Since bad weather and sickness made us miss Torres del Paine, this was the next best thing for me. The colony of Rock-hopper pen...