Reflections on Argentina

Argentina is gigantic. We had a bit of a problem getting into Argentina the first time as the border was closed because of the snow but once we got in I loved it. It was winter and when spring came Alisha and I picked lots of lovely flowers. 
It was very, very, very windy in Patagonia. We went for lots of gigantic hikes for miles and miles up big mountains. 
Now we are in a flat in Beunos Aires, the capital of Argentina and we like it here but its very busy.  I've discovered that Argentina has the best ice creams. I've also found out Argentina has some great wines, Mummy and Daddy tried lots of them when we went to the wine places. Sometimes they use the grapes to make juice too, which we drank.
Here is a picture of me playing hide and seek with the dogs in the flower meadow at Christmas 
"Don't cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you!" 
I will miss Argentina a lot, especially the mint-chocolate chip ice-cream. 
I liked going to Patagonia, it was really windy. Sometimes we could feel the truck rocking back and forth in the night. Iguazu Falls were really good we got soaking wet, it looked liked we had gone for a swim in the falls but actually it was just the spray. El Chalten has beautiful mountains and we hiked 3 days in a row. 22 km the first day, 22km the second day and 19km on the last. My legs really ached after that. 
I really liked Beunos Aires, we saw the Pink Palace where the Precident works. It is also the place where Evita sung from in the movie and we saw her grave. It was a lot smaller than I expected. 
I would like to comeback to Argentina someday, it has lots to do....and maybe I can have some more of that delicious ice-cream.      
We have been in and out of Argentina over the course of the last 8 months. It's a diverse country with so many highlights. High mountains, deserts with amazing red rock formations, forests thick with trailing lichens, impossibly blue lakes, thick jungle with hidden ruins and who could ever forget the stark beauty of the Patagonian plains. 
I like the people too, with a diverse bunch of immigrant backgrounds. They may not win any awards for productivity but they are interesting, internationally knowledgable and are very friendly. Family is very important and I loved seeing the multigenerational gatherings, 
every Sunday wherever we were in the country, coming together to chat, sip mate and of course grill huge, huge quantities of meat.
As you drive into every town there is a sign saying "Las Malvinas es Argentinas", this refers to the Falkland Islands, a tiny spot on the map in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The Argentineans claim ownership of these even though the islands are part of the UK. They even went to war unsuccessfully with England over them over 30 years ago. In a referendum on the island in 2010, 98% of the 2000 people voted to stay British. Streets, neighbourhoods, even whole towns, are named Las Malvinas. Politicians spout rhetoric regularly on the subject, especially at the moment when they are desperately trying to distract voters from the country's economic woes they have caused. You would think this would cause problems for British people travelling through they country but absolutely not. We never encountered a single issue with anyone, even down in Patagonia where many of the soldiers came from. The Argentineans have been some of the most friendly and welcoming people in South America.  
Even after so long here, I would be happy to explore for far longer. It has so diverse range of things to see and do here, I know we will come back one day. 
The amazingly beautiful but hard Patagonian steppe:
Steve I have thoroughly enjoyed Argentina. It's has been the country where we have spent the most time and we have travelled more than 14,000kms which means we have been lucky enough to pretty much see the length and breadth of the country. It's a beautiful country and the scenery is very diverse. We have had to make a few adjustments though. The afternoon siesta when everything closes from 12.30 to at least 4pm takes some getting used to. Also it's a shame to see the economic problems in Argentina. While most of the countries in South America seem to be developing, Argentina is not. She is like the grand old actress, still very beautiful but fading at the edges. This is a shame as the people are fantastic and the country has so much to offer. Food and drink are amazing and the country seems pretty self sufficient in these. But where it struggles is with imported goods so things like telecommunications are not that great in some parts of the country. Overall though I have absolutely loved the country, the varied scenery, the fantastic meat and the great Malbec wines. DSC09121.JPG

Last Tango in Buenos Aires

We spent our last day in Uruguay at the riverside town of Mercedes however we did not do much there as we were preparing the truck for shipping. The next day we crossed back into Argentina, the sixth time we had entered the country on this trip and needed to look for somewhere to park the truck while we went into Buenos Aires.
We found a campsite in Tigre. Unfortunately it was down the end of a muddy lane and as it had just rained driving down it undid the work we had done of having the truck washed. In retrospect it wasn't the best spot as it was still 40kms outside Buenos Aires and 60kms from the port. We later found out there was a good place to park the truck up near the centre of Buenos Aires.
We had rented an apartment in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires. San Telmo is a fairly bohemian area of town with lots of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and easy shopping for food. Within 100metres we had a great bakery, vegetable shop, butchers, supermarket and an amazing grilled meat take away place. We were going to enjoy a bit of urban living for a few days.
To kick things off Alisha and I went out for breakfast on our own the next morning at one of the lovely little coffee shops.
At the weekend San Telmo has a large street market and we spent the day wondering around the stalls. In the main square there are often some people doing tango and we were lucky enough to see a couple of tango dances.
        That evening we met up with some fellow overlanders. Sam and Erica were also coming to the end of their own trip and also had an apartment in a different part of town.  We had met them briefly in Torres del Paine and also knew each other through our respective blogs.  As they were also in San Telmo for the market they popped by the apartment for a glass of wine together with Jess, Sam's sister who was visiting them.  As one bottle turned into another we all became pretty hungry.  This is where having a grilled meat take away on your doorstep becomes very handy. We had a great evening with them talking about each other's respective trips and the similar people we had met up with along the way.
We spent the rest of our time in Buenos Aires just hanging around and doing a little bit of sightseeing.  Buenos Aires and the apartment seems to have something for everyone.  Alisha got to eat sushi, Lucy loved having a bath, Gilly loved having high speed internet and I could not get enough of the fantastic meat. We really liked the city and the general vibe and it was nice just hanging out with nothing really to do for a while.
We did go to see the Pink Palace which is the Presidential government seat and is famous for Evita's(or Madonna's) balcony appearances.
 We also went to Recoleta cemetery which is where all the famous and rich people in Buenos Aires are buried. The family vaults are very impressive and grand. It's also the final resting place of Evita which is the vault everyone goes to see.
On our last but one day I had to take the truck to the port. I had been to see the agent earlier in the week and everything seemed to be going smoothly. It was going to be the agents father who would take me to the port 100kms away. He had spent over 40 years working for customs so hopefully he would know his way around. First he drove me out to the campsite to pick up the truck and then it was off to the port. An hour later it was all sorted. Very straightforward and easy, let's just hope the truck gets on the ship alright.
That just left time for one last steak before catching the plane to Spain the next day. We have absolutely loved South America. It's hard to believe in less than 3 weeks we will be in South Africa(all been well). Before then we are off to Spain and England to catch up with family and friends.

Crossing the Continent

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 Paraná 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.