17 Jan 2019

Its Raining Again!

We are back on the road again, currently at Posada Caveries on a very wet day in Maipu (Mendoza) so time to do a quick blog update.

We landed in Buenos Aires on the 8th crossed to Colonia to pick up the truck on the 9th and after resolving a major issue on the truck drove straight across to Maipu, where we have been for the last few days (in mostly gorgeous weather).

We flew Norwegian this time to avoid BA's 'dirty tricks'.  monitoring prices for a couple of months they suddenly increased them by 60% across the board, so we booked with Norwegian whose prices were close to the original BA price. I had an email from BA 2 weeks later announcing a huge sale, but in fact they had just put prices back to what they were before! The flight was excellent and landed 45 minutes early, which ultimately was a waste of time as the immigration queue was 45 minutes longer than usual.

Everything went like clockwork until I started the cruiser and the ignition lights did not go off! Luckily I spotted a loose cable to the battery (which must have been broken off from its connector when they re-connected the battery to  move it out of the barn) and suspected it might be the feed from the alternator. We stopped in a nearby camp site overnight then went in search of a mechanic the following morning. The mechanic we used last year was closed (probably on holiday) so we headed into Colonia in a huge downpour. My alternator lead suspicions were confirmed as the wipers got slower and slower, the lights went out and eventually even the speedo didn't work. After 3 stops we found an auto electrician who would be back in an hour, so I switched off the engine and everything was completely dead. Fortunately the electrician was back in 10 minutes and all was fixed in 20, but then had to wait an hour for his monster battery charger to charge the batteries, but after that off we went, all sorted.

Our original plan was to drive to Mendoza via Alta Gracia (Che Guevara's birth place) which is a lovely little town with a gorgeous camp site and then through the mountains near Cordoba, but the forecast for that area was rain and thunderstorms, so went straight across to Mendoza (900 miles in 3 days).

So now we are in our 4th day in Maipu, but plan to head south tomorrow (when the current storm will have passed and will be back to wall to wall sunshine). we have stayed longer then originally planned as I pulled a muscle in my back 2 days before the flight and have been struggling to drive (and even more to walk after I have driven), but the rest has done me good and hopefully my back is ready to hit the road.

However, we could not visit Maipu without a visit to Agostino our favourite Winery for lunch, this time with a couple of Dutch ladies staying at Posada Cavieres and later joined by an Irish couple also staying at the Posada. (since we went last year Hans has recommended Angostino to lots of his guests, all of whom have given rave reviews). We went for the 5 course again (5 courses with 5 different wines) and again the chef came out to explain each course.

So far we have been travelling on old ground so I haven't taken any photos yet, but Chris took a photo of each of the 5 courses on her phone so here they are:

First course, based around tomatoes on pancakes made of kale and green vegetables, with a glass (or two) of Rose (in fact prior to this was a tiny glass of cold green soup as a pre course)

Second Course based around Corn and Polenta, with a couple of sweetbreads and a glass of white.

Third Course Shredded Beef cooked in Malbac for 6 hours on a type of pita bread with thin strips of peach and courgette that had been soaked in Malbec for different lengths of time to give different colours and a glass of young Malbec.

Main Course - Filet Mignon with potatoes and onions cooked in a mix of herbs, which we had with a number of glasses of  red reserver.

and Dessert, which is basically a fruit pizza (which came after a small glass of something like sorbet as a pre dessert). I can't remember what we were drinking at this point!

Followed by a coffee in the garden, with Fanny, Laura, Paul and Elizabeth.






28 Apr 2018

Raining in Buenos Aires

The end of another phase and it is raining in Buenos Aires, with black skies and thunder rolling around, but at least it held off for most of the drive over from Mendoza.
  
After cleaning the cruiser and getting mostly packed on Friday we finally left at Saturday lunch time.  we only planned a short drive that day as the forecast was good in San Luis, but awful for the rest of the drive across.

We got away dry on Sunday morning but within an hour we could see what lay ahead, looking very similar to the storm we headed into in the Gobi Desert, black skies and forked lightening. Soon the rain was absolutely torrential, which made it very tricky overtaking the many slow moving trucks on the road, so the going was pretty slow, but we still managed over 300 miles that day. It was getting dark as we approached the flooded streets of Venado Tuerto and still raining, so we found a small Hotel with secure parking, with a micro brewery pub just round the corner, we're both happy.
  
Monday started grey but gradually cleared to blue skies and sunshine in the afternoon. We decided to risk the weather and camped behind a small roadside cafe, but by 1 am Chris was talking of packing up and moving on, not due to rain, but mosquitoes, which were the worst we have come across since Siberia!!! No matter what we did we could not get them out of the tent. The battle was long and the following morning the tent looked like a war zone and we had to sweep the dead bodies off the mattress before we could pack up!

Tuesday started warm and sunny and we moved on across the border into Uruguay, after a last fuel fill-up and a few last bits of food from Carrefour. They have always had a sign up on the border saying no meat, eggs or fruit, but unlike Chile they never check the vehicle - except this time!!! and into the bin went the pork, potatoes, bananas, eggs and ham that we had just bought!!! Even Chile lets you keep ham!

Having started the journey thinking we would have to look for hostels most nights to avoid getting the tent wet before we stored the vehicle, the weather was so good we decided to risk the last 2 nights in our usual camp site on the banks of the River Plate at Agrecidia, about 70 miles north of storage. Out of season it is free to use, it has power ant toilets, only the showers are locked. The forecast for the next couple of days was for intermittent thunder storms, followed by scattered thunderstorms, I have no idea what the difference is, but really it is weatherman speak for 'haven’t got a clue". In actual fact the weather was gorgeous, with blue skies and sunshine and a beer in the sun.

Then we opened the tent we had to kill off a last few remaining mosquitoes, but after that we were mosquito free, but the following day it was the turn of the ants, tiny ones! They did not get onto the mattress, but the floor all-round the edge of the mattress looked like the M1 motorway! After a while I realised that they were climbing up the guy ropes that anchored the back end of the tent, so they came up, then they found the ladder! Eventfully, using boiling water and a repellent spray we managed to cut off all their routes and kill off the large groups, but there were still stragglers running all over the vehicle.

Thursday was our last night before storing the truck and crossing to BA so we decided not to risk the still threatened thunder storms on the last night so booked into a hostel in Colonia and found another microbrewery pub just down the road. As we were already packed up this also gave us time for a leisurely lunch before dropping off the vehicle and getting a lift down to the port. It was still hot and sunny when we left Colonia, but an hour later Buenos Aires was very stormy looking, but still no rain.

So now it is Saturday, our last day before our flight at 13.20 tomorrow, we have had heavy rain and thunder since the early hours, and whilst there must still things to do and see in BA we really just can’t be bothered! We will pop across the road to share a cannelloni for lunch, don our waterproofs for an early beer down the road (at another excellent microbrewery pub) and finish off with a steak and a bottle of malbec at our favourite restaurant - who needs site seeing!

We camp next to some even older vehicles on the way to Uruguay
The Lighthouse in Colonia, built into the ruins of a Convent
(note the clear blue skies when the forecast was for a thunder storm)

and a walk along the jetty before lunch

A flash back to the start of our journey for all those penguin lovers. 
The Internet was not capable of uploading this at the time.



This penguin was trying to fend off its hungry chicks whilst waiting for its partner to return from fishing The parents take it in turns to fish, so you never know whether it is mother or father that look aafter them. They feed the chicks by eating the fish and then regurgitating it.

22 Apr 2018

A New Lease of Life


My apologies if the last blog was not up to its normal standards, but I was somewhat concerned about events occurring with the cruiser. As well as the steering problem we had re-broken a bracket on the rear suspension (one that had already been welded in Peru) and also needed fuel filters and front brake pads changing, so Hans took me to the garage that was currently repairing the radiator on his Land Rover.

The mechanics cleaned the oil from the steering box, identified where the leek was coming from and said they were believed they could fix it and that although Toyota did not have the appropriate seals they were confident that a specialist company could match all of the seals and O rings with those from other manufacturers. I confess I was very dubious but agreed to let them go ahead. They said they would need to keep it for 2 or 3 days so Hans let us stay in the spare room in his house (actually a converted barn) for the same price as camping (all 6 rooms in the hotel were occupied anyway so worked out very well for us.

Two days later Hans took me down to see how they were doing with both vehicles and my steering box was spread out on a bench (and was a lot bigger and heavier than I realised).
Next afternoon they called to say the steering box was finished, they had made a new bracket to replace the broken one and changed the front pads, but would not have the filters changed until the following morning.

On the morning of day 4 I picked up the truck and took it on an 85 mile trip into the mountains with quite a few bends and although there was no apparent leak the level had dropped and needed topping up! The hope was that there was air trapped in the system and that all of the bends had managed to purge the system, so the day after we did another 100 miles and this time there was no leak at all!

So, having resigned ourselves to doing the minimum in order to get back to Uruguay, suddenly we get a new lease of life and decide to go on a mini adventure. 

We had been told of an excellent gravel mountain road north west of Mendoza (with 360 bends in one section), so the following day we headed for this road and continued in a 6 day loop north of San Juan with lots more gravel roads and hairpin bends and ended up reversing the excellent mountain road on the way back as it was so good.

So we are now back with Hans, having done over 1,000 miles (and a lot of bends) since I last topped up the steering fluid and it hasn't lost a drop (and thank God I don’t have to carry the steering box back to the UK to get it fixed!), and almost ready to start back towards Uruguay and home. We have stayed on the western side of Argentina as long as possible as the weather here has been 25 to 30 for the past few weeks, but the weather on the eastern side, i.e. Uruguay and Buenos Aires, has been awful.  But leaving the best till last we went back to Finca Agostino for lunch yesterday (we went there last year) but this time we had the 5 course meal with 5 different wines (we had the 3 course last year) and it was even better.

Posada Cavieres, a 6 bedroom Hotel designed built and run by Hans, originally from Belgium.
He has a Landrover (but he can't get everything right)

The Lounge

We camped by the barn.

with lots of parrots in the garden

This and the last photo care of Andy Murray (no Jenna, not the tennis player), a doctor from Scotland now living in Australia with his wife (from Northern Ireland) also a doctor.

A quick trip round to check out the steering

lots of bends

and a Reservoir


Satisfied the steering is no longer leaking we set off on a mini adventure

With instructions on how to react if you are attacked by a Puma (fat chance of seeing one let alone being attacked by one. There have been reports of them attacking passing cyclists tho!

and up a gravel road with 360 bends in it and of course some fabulous views

and then head north, on a dead straight road for about 60miles (100k)

and past a lake near a place called Rodeo, there is apparently a kite surfing school on this lake because it is so windy here

We go past a park that apparently has a lot of fossils and is also supposed to be very similar to the parks in Utah, but the only way to visit is in convoy and would have been dark as we finished, we could have stayed in the car park but was very exposed and extremely cold and windy, so we have put this on the list for next year. (the dinosaur skeleton is fibre glass)

then we wild camp next to a lake.


This was on the green of a tiny village, commemorating Mate, which just about everyone in Argentina drinks.

More mountain roads, this time very smooth tarmac

We drive up a small canyon behind the camp site we stayed at in Barreal for a view of the Andes in the distance


and stop at a dried up river bed that they use for land surfing, but here is absolutely no wind at the moment

and then back down the road with 360 bends, in this direction possibly the scariest road I have driven on!
another wild camp just outside Mendoza


Before we head home we have to re-visit Finca Agostino 
and have a glass of champagne on the roof terrace before lunch

I won't put pictures of all 5 courses (and appetiser) or the 5 different wines that came with them, but this was the second course, pickled local fish (similar to pickled herring from Denmark) on a bed of thinly cut melon and lettuce  (and other salad bits) covered in a type of local pop corn and served with chilled rose.
The main course was steak, done to perfection of course, and served with an oak aged Malbec


.

Hans took this as we left, I cleaned the cruiser the day before and given the varios batterings it has had it looks as good as the day we left! Of course he had to get his Landrover in at the end


10 Apr 2018

The weather turns so we escape north to warmer climes.

The last blog was published on 13th March, but only actually went up to the 3rd, it took 10 days to get sufficient Internet to post it, so has been a month since the last blog and to be honest we have done very little in that month.

Fortunately the deflating tyre was nothing more than a very large nail, so once removed and repaired we were back on the road (I was concerned we had another cracked wheel) and on to our Chilean friends Caro and Victor.

Caro and Victor have bought an amazing piece of land that they plan to build a house and create a camp site specific for Overlands and Cyclists and we stayed with them and their gorgeous Pyranean Mountain dog Guapo (handsome) for a few days. It was great to see them and we had a few BBQ's (usually sheltering from the rain) and had days of mixed sun and cloud, but the nights were cold and usually wet.

We were now getting concerned about a leak from the steering box. We had the steering pump successfully repaired in Uruguay, but around 1,000 miles later the steering fluid level started to drop again. This time leaking from the steering box and yet again the necessary parts are not available in South America. Over the next 6,000 miles the leak got worse. Victor spoke to a local mechanic and he was pretty sure that he could make the appropriate seal, but when we went to see him it was a different type of steering and said it was not possible to make. He said he thought we could make it back to Uruguay but try and use straighter roads to limit the steering input.

We then stayed in a really nice hostel for 5 days, but the forecast for all around was cold and wet for the next 10 days, so with that and the steering problem we abandoned the second half of the Carratera Austral and headed back across into Argentina and followed the Route 40 all the way up to Mendoza, still very scenic, but by the side of the mountains rather than through them, with mostly typical straight Argentinian roads.

The weather started to improve as we moved north, but still very chilly in the evening, so we stayed more in hostels than camp sites for the next couple of weeks. and now we are in Mendoza, where it has been mid 20's to early 30's for the last few days and we are now camped at a wonderful little posada in the wine district. Hans, the Belgian owner of the Hotel is a would be overlander, he has a Land Rover and has made 2 spaces for overlanders, who are free to use all of the facilities such as the pool and gardens - we could be here a while!

Staying with Caro and Victor. They are currently living in their camper (removed from the truck). They are about to have a cabin built for the winter, prior to opening there camp site next year.

The views are amazing if a little grey when we were there, eventually they will build a house in this location with an amazing view
Caro and Victor
and Guapo, only 11months old but huge!




views of the mountains



Victor prepares half a lamb for Caro's birthday

and BBQ's it is


Route 40 on the way to Bariloche and back into blue skies and sunshine


Past more lakes

and local wild life

On the waterfront just past Bariloche, cold and incredibly windy.

It looks dark but is in the middle of the day, huge black clouds with blue sky in places and the sun poking through

Puerto Manzano on the Lakes route north of Bariloche, the road is beautiful, but the clouds rolled in again so no more photos.

More views of the Route 40


Wild camp near St Raphael. The following day we drove to St Raphael, arranged to stay at a camp site, did some shopping and visited a winery. We got back to the site at 17.45 and the gate was locked! So we went back to our tree and had another free night (I suspect if we had paid them at the camp site they would waited for us to come back).

Black neck swans are found in this area.

The winery at St Raphael.

Our first stop in Maipu was another winery owned by a French couple and they let us sleep behind the winery.