Laguna de Salada
Its been some time but it gets more difficult to get some good Wifi along the way.. We are on our way now together with Miles since Monday the 19th of December. Only 11 days ago, but we are already totally used to each other 😊. We just passed Christmas and I will later explain how special our Christmas was. But first back to a the beginning!
We spend a couple of relaxing days in Montevideo after Buenos Aires. One of the highlights was having lunch in the Mercado del Puerto on a Saturday. It seemed like the whole of Montevideo had the same idea. All parrillas in the mercado where full which provided for a very lively atmosphere. Especially when the samba band came to entertain us with Christmas songs South American style! Sundays are real Sundays over here, which means everything is closed and the streets are very quiet. So we took it easy as well.
The reason why we ended up in Montevideo was simple, to pick up the car. And Monday the 19th it was finally time to pick him up after 6 weeks! We decided to try to do the whole customs clearance ourselves, and save the money you would otherwise pay a forwarder. For anyone interested we will write up a separate post on the process to follow to receive your car. The short version is that it took us 7 hours to go to 7 different offices, get a lot of forms, stamps and pay some more money, but finally drove away in our own car! We had the luck we were not the only ones picking up a car. We were with 4 other couples, which made it easier to go through the process. Because it went way quicker than expected we decided to pack our bags and drive away from Montevideo immediately to our first camp spot.
We drove up to Paraiso Suiza, a place 80km east from Montevideo and a well-known spot for overlanders to prepare the car for the trip, or pack it up before shipping it back again. Only, we made the mistake not doing any shopping assuming the restaurant was open… It was closed, and nothing nearby for a quick dinner. The first people we met on the campsite where Paulien and Wim from the Netherlands, and they immediately invited us over for dinner in their cozy pick up camper. How wonderful! We can already experience we are part of a very special group of people now J. It was a very cozy evening where they explained their special way of living. They’re already on the road for 6 years, while doing photography of sustainable development and micro-finance projects around the world.
We spend a couple of days at the campsite reorganizing the car, fixing the windscreen wipers that didn’t work when we got the car off the boat (the Land Rover workshop manual comes in handy already..) and enjoying the perfect hot weather and nearby beach. Then it was time to move on and we drove back to the west to visit the little town Colonia de Sacremento. From here we drove up all the way to Fray Bentos, the place where we wanted to cross the border. The campsite where we stayed in Fray Bentos was pretty basic. The toilets and showers really have seen their best time. This is also something we would experience in Argentina later on… But the people are really friendly. The owners, but also other guests are really helpful and interested, which is great! And especially great for practicing our Spanish 😊. Before we crossed the border to Argentina we paid a visit to the Fray Bentos museum. This is a huge old factory that used to process meat. First it produced Oxo cubes: meat extract cubes that fed the troops in the first world war. Then it changed to Fray Bentos that produced canned meat. The old factory now even is declared a world heritage site by UNESCO because it’s a good example of the industrial revolution. At least the old building is very impressive. We were unfortunately not in time for a tour, but were personally guided through the engine room and administration.
So far Uruguay surprised us positively. It is a beautiful country that feels pretty well organized and has very friendly people. We plan to return here later on the trip, and are looking forward to it!
Crossing the border was peanuts. Passports where checked, and we got a Temporary Import Paper (TIP) for the car and were good the go. It did not take more than 20 minutes 😊 Way better than expected! From there we had a long drive through mostly empty lands. We did a small detour through the wetlands where we spotted lots of wildlife. Amongst others we spotted many burrowing owls; owls that have their nest in the ground, often close to the road and also many birds of prey. We ended up in Duggan, where we found a couple that offered their garden as camping spot. It was however the 24th of December: Nochebuena, the most important evening to celebrate Christmas. But we were welcomed very warm and friendly by Julia and German, even though they were celebrating Christmas with their family. Julia and German travelled around South America themselves for over a year, and when they returned they decided to open up their garden for fellow travellers. They live there together with their two super friendly dogs 😊. That evening we were even invited to join them in their Christmas celebrations, how special! So together with German and Julia, and Julia’s parents and sister we had dinner, and toasted on Christmas at midnight. So far everyone is really friendly and accommodating here in South America, but this is really special! J Here in Argentina Christmas is celebrated like New Year’s Eve: They wait until midnight to toast with champagne and light up some fireworks!
We planned to leave the 25th again, but unfortunately it was raining really bad: not the best weather to pack away the tent… But German and Julia were again really helpful and after a relaxing morning at their home and a nice lunch we packed up and drove further.
We stopped for the night at a campsite near Chascomus. A bit overpriced but it had warm showers 😊. The following morning we continued to the coast, to Villa Gesell. This is where the Costas of Buenos Aires are, which is reflected in the price of the campsite. So after one night at a nice but very busy campsite (a kids camp was going on with hundreds of kids..) we decided to continue further west, past Plata del Mar (the very busy city along the coast where all of Buenos Aires celebrates summer at the beach) to a little town called Mar del Sur. We found a small campsite, which was not ridiculously overpriced, with again very friendly owners. From there we drove further to Sierra de la Ventana. An area midst of the pampas with mountains! The peaks reach up to 1100m. It is very nice to have a bit of a view after days in the flat and wide pampas! We did a small hike here as well. We wanted to do the famous hike to La Ventana (the window). But unfortunately they now only do this hike with a guide which leaves at 09:00 and we were there at 10… But they had a nice alternative for us, the hike up Cierro Bahia Blanca.
From there we continued our way South, to Lago de Salada. In the middle of the hot dry pampas (that day it reached 40 degrees… we are sooo happy to have air-conditioning in the car!) we found a lake surrounded by a large recreation area and a small campsite. Although it was hard to cool down in the warm salty lake ;-). We are now on Ruta 3, the main highway to the South. Now we start to meet other overlanders on route as well. At one gas station we were suddenly surrounded by 10 Brasilians. They were very interested in our journey because they are driving the same way. They were a group of 4 cars, including 2 Defenders! Those encounters make travelling this way really fun J. From now we will continue moving on more South because we would like to reach Valdez Pensinsula at New Years…
Saludos, hasta luego!