We have spent the last week doing a lot of driving as we have driven 2,400kms from Santiago ( near the Pacific) to North Eastern Uruguay, on the Atlantic Coast. As our remaining time was now short in South America and as we had already seen Central Argentina we decided to dash across to see our last South American country: Uruguay.
Before we could set off though we had to go through all the work done by the MAN garage in Santiago. They had done a thorough job and we had new oils, filters, belts and some other bits. After a quick test drive everything seemed ok and the following weeks drive showed all was well. The garage had been very helpful again.
Leaving the garage we headed to the Argentine border at 3000m in the Andes. The last time we had crossed this border we had to wait at the bottom because it was closed due to snow. This time there was hardly any snow to be seen as we drove up the pass but with the sun shining, the views were magnificent again.
This was going to be our last day with views of the Andes. We have travelled with the Andes as our constant companion for much of our time in South America and have loved the spectacular views of the mountains. We were going to be sad to see them go. It was also Gilly's birthday and unfortunately was not much of a birthday having spent the morning in the garage and then driving across the border. However after crossing the border we doubled back a few kms to see the biggest Andean mountain of them all, Anconagua standing nearly 7000m high and the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Not a bad view for Gilly's birthday.
We camped nearby and I had managed to smuggle a birthday cake into the truck. It was cold so we all snuggled inside for a birthday tea.
The next day we set off on a long drive across Central Argentina. John and Betti, our friends, had been in touch and suggested we have a last meet up near the Argentine/Uruguay border so we were off to meet them. We drove through the familiar Mendoza with a quick stop to buy food before heading across the flat plain of central Argentina. The mountains disappeared behind us and the scenery was flat and boring.
We passed the town of San Luis and started to look for somewhere to camp. Seeing a dammed lake on the map we thought there might be an opportunity there and there was. We parked up on the road next to the dam wall. We arrived just in time to see the sun set.
The next day was an even longer drive, even longer than we had planned. The scenery did not change much at the start as we drove through Rio Cuarto. Our plan was to camp in Rosario on the banks of the massive ParanÃ¡ Delta. This was a drive of 600kms and we were relieved to arrive in the city just before sun set. Rosario is famous for been the birthplace of the Argentine flag, Che Guvara and more recently Lionel Messi. Not that this really interested us as it is a city of over a million and we just needed somewhere to sleep. We arrived at the one campsite to find it was closed for local municipal elections and we could not stay. As there was no where else suitable to stay we continued East. The road now was on a causeway across the delta. It was a busy road and it quickly became dark. As we were on top of the delta large insects were splattering the windscreen as if we were in a rain storm.
It was not pleasant driving and at the first town we looked for somewhere else to camp. No luck so we pushed on again. Finally after 2 hours driving in the dark we saw a truck stop next to a restaurant. It was quiet and the lady said we could stay for the night. I was relieved as we do not like driving in the night. It had been a long day and we had probably covered our largest distance ever in a day, 800kms.
At least it made the drive the next day much shorter. We arrived in the riverside town of Colon shortly after lunch. Colon is a pretty town on the shore of the River Uruguay and has a long sandy beach. We were there though to meet up with John and Betti and found them in town. We headed to the campsite where we spent a lot of time catching up. We had brought a big piece of Lomo ( Argentine fillet steak) with us and plenty of wine and soon we had built a big fire and enjoyed a great meal with lots of wine.
We spent a relaxing day in Colon with John and Betti by the side of the river. It was great to see them again and we have enjoyed meeting up with them as we have traveled through Central and South America.
The next day we crossed into our last South American country, Uruguay. The border crossing was quick and easy and after stocking up in Paysandu we headed across the interior of the country heading for the North East near the Brazilian border. The scenery now was rolling farmland with lots of cows and horses as well as the occasional Gaucho (South American cowboy) riding their horse. These were not tourist Gauchos but the real deal. We camped up by a dried up river bed for the night before continuing the next day.
It was another long drive and the scenery was all the same. It was definitely farming community and sometimes the farming vehicles slowed things down a bit.
However we managed to arrive at Santa Teresa National Park on the Atlantic Coast just before it got dark and were able to find a nice place to camp amongst the pine trees.