16372 kilometers since Montevideo
We completed the loop through the southern tip of South America! The last days involved a lot of driving and got us back into Uruguay. But first a bit on what we have done the days before!
After Pichilemu we drove towards Valparaiso. In general we are not a fan of visiting big cities with the car. Camping is never easy in cities, and the large amount of people also brings the higher risk of crime. But Valparaiso was a place we didn’t want to miss, so we decided to splurge and book a B&B! (A real bed after 3 months!…) We stayed at the lovely Costa Azul B&B, in the suburbs of Valparaiso. Here we could park Miles safely at a gated parking lot, so we did not need to worry. The hosts of this B&B, Lina and Luca from Slovenia, did everything to make our stay very pleasant. We filled the days in this city by visiting Altamira, one of its breweries, and went to the restaurant J. Cruz to try the typical chorillana (pile of fries with onions and beef…) and a terremoto cocktail. Valparaiso is famous for its colorful street art everywhere in town, and we enjoyed walking around the little alleys and stairs and exploring the various art pieces. We were happy though to continue the journey and to find a camping spot somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We have to be honest, we prefer sleeping in the tent over a bed these days! 😛
After Valparaiso we ended up close to the border with Argentina in the Andes. We found a small privately owned national reserve were camping was possible. So we parked the car in the beautiful valley, located at 2500m altitude, surrounded by Andean peaks of over 5000m. The next morning we made a hike into an adjacent valley. Even though the hike was not too difficult it was quite tough! You could definitely feel the reduced oxygen level. After the hike it was time to go towards Argentina. We passed over Paso Libertadores, famous for its road with many turns going over the Andes, reaching a total of 3200m. We decided we wanted to get a little higher and drover further up to the statue of Christo Redentor, at almost 4000m. What a view! And no issues with the car to drive at this altitude :).
Our plan was to find a wildcamp in the mountains close to the town of Uspallata. But when we reached this town it was chaos! We drove into a thunderstorm that came with lots of hail. The streets were covered in a couple of centimeters of hail, cars slided off the road or where standing below trees covered in blankets against the heavy hail. So we decided to drive all the way to Mendoza instead, even though it was already getting dark. We parked at Camping parque Suizo for a couple of days (hello again Gavin and Jen! ;)). In Mendoza we spent a couple of days. We enjoyed the beautiful hot weather we had not had in a long time! Mendoza itself is a very nice and green city, even though it is in the middle of the desert. But of course the most important reason we were in Mendoza is because of the wine. The region of Mendoza is famous for its Malbec wines. So we went out to taste a few! The wineries closest to the city are in the part called Maipu. It is very easy here to rent a bike and visit a few wineries. We actually started with the beer garden… We also visited a very nice olive shop where we tasted different olive oils, olive tapenades, wine marmalades and licors. We visited three different wineries. The first one was Trapiche, which is the most exported wine from Argentina. We also did tastings at vina el Cerno and Tempus Alba.
After Mendoza we visited Parque Nacional El Leoncito. We read about the nice and free campsite in this park and did not want to miss this! Here we did a nice hike to Cerro El Leoncito and the cascadas. The park is supposed to have some Puma’s roaming around but we were again not lucky to spot any. We also visited one of the observatories here. The skies are exceptionally clear in this area, which makes it perfect for some star gazing! During the night visit we got a lot of information about the stars, constellations, galaxies and planets (never knew it is so easy to point at stars by a laser pointer!). We also got to see up close with Jupiter and the Orion cloud through a telescope. Really cool! And everything in Spanish… :P. During the day we got a private tour of one of the scientists working at the observatory, who explained the work they do at the observatory and we got to see the big telescope (partly made in Rotterdam ;)). We shared the campsite with a very nice couple from Luxembourg and Germany and decided on a communal BBQ, you got to use the wide spread ‘parillas’ in Argentina once in a while.
Then it was time for us to hurry up a little. We wanted to reach Uruguay the 1st of April the latest and we still needed to drive lots of kilometers. So we had a couple of days driving, via San Juan, Cordoba and Rosario. We did not really have the time to visit any of these cities, so we leave that to next time! Now we are back in Uruguay and we have completed our loop. 16372 Kilometers in 3,5 months! We spent a couple of days cleaning the car and packing our stuff, but also enjoying the beautiful weather and swimming pool! Today we catch our flight back to the Netherlands, ready for more adventures in Europe, Australia and New Zealand! We will leave Miles in Uruguay and hopefully get the chance to pick him up for another grand tour on this amazing continent after European Summer :).