5 Apr 2019

Niagra to Iguazu via Gokta Falls in Peru

Almost 5 years ago we visited Niagara Falls not long after setting off from New York and a few days ago we visited Iguazu a couple of weeks before completing this incredible journey. And in the middle we visited Gocta Falls, 3rd highest, probably the remotest and least visited waterfall in the world, and by far our favourite. Iguazu is pretty amazing, but very touristy.

We saw a vast array of animals on our travels, the most recent and by far the most surprising was a rat the size of a sheep!?!?!

After holding back on the north western side of Argentina waiting for the storms in the west to clear, we caught the weather just right, have had no rain at all and it is still incredibly hot. We had been watching the weather at Iguazu for the whole trip and it continually forecast rain and thunderstorms, but all that cleared and it was blue skies and sunshine whilst we were there. The only downside was that there was so much spray coming up from the biggest falls it was hardly possible to see anything, but Iguazu is a collection of many waterfalls at different levels, with a number of different walkways at various levels so the views are spectacular.

We decided against going into Paraguay, other than being able to say we had visited another country there was nothing much that inspired us to go, there are only 2 crossings between Argentina and Paraguay and both sounded like they would be a hassle (queueing up with loads of Argentinians crossing to things that are not are either not available or a lot more expensive in Argentina) and we had already decided not to go into Brazil for the same reasons. Also many people (including Brazilians) that had been to both sides said that Iguazu on the Argentinian side was far better so was not worth going into Brazil.

Maybe we will go to Brazil one day, but by a different means of transport!

So, now we are in Uruguay and the intention was to do a quick circuit of the country to finish off with, but we are currently in a camp site with some thermal pools and we have just about ground to a holt.

We had a major blow out a few days ago on a gravel road, we must have hit a very sharp jagged rock as it went straight down and has destroyed the tyre, the cut across the tread is too big to patch properly and I cannot get the same make here, we still have one good spare but 2 of the rims are cracked with a tubes in it and apparently most of the east/west roads across Uruguay are in a pretty poor state and we don't want to risk any further wheel/tyre issues this late in the game.

The plan now is to park the truck, go home then will seriously look at shipping to Africa for the next adventure.

Driving across Argentina we came across this gorgeous camp site on the side of a Lake. Whilst we were there we met a guide from the nearby park that persuaded us to visit it.

Chris, are you sure this is the right way?

Then we come across our first Capybarra, the largest rat in the world (the size  of a sheep), that only lives in the wetlands of Argentina.

After that we see lots of them.

They spend that much time in water they have webbed feet.

Camped in a camp site at the wardens station in the middle of the park.

They are very tame and quite lazy and this one just did not want to move out of the way!

Little ones scuttling out of the way as we crawl past.

On the way up to Iguazu we stop off at a couple of Jesuit Missions, but this was the only decent picture I could get. What they accomplished was very interesting but most of the buildings were destroyed in the wars between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

This was the general layout of a Jesuit Mission founded in 1696 to house and protect the local Guarani population from slavers. The Guarani culture was interwoven with Spanish and the Jesuits earned the Guarani language so that he could spreak to the Guarani in their own language. At its peak each mission would house up to 4,000 Guarani  with quite a number of missions spread over Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil at that time housing over 100,000 Guarani. This continued until 1767 when the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish domains (following similar expulsions by French and Portuguese authorities) after which the missions fell into decline and were mostly completely destroyed in the wars of the early 19th century.

One of the birds we came across walking up to the falls.

Fist sight of Iguazu.

It was hardly possible to see anything at the biggest of the falls due to the spray.

But further down you could get a better view.

The falls seem to go on for miles.


These were wandering about, mainly trying to steal food, they have different names in different countries (we saw them in Costa Rica) but for the life of me I can't remember any of them. They also warned of monkeys, but we did not see any!

After Iguazu we went back south and stayed in another area of wetland park and stayed at this site for  a couple of days to do a wetland boat tour. The grass on this quite quite large site was kept short by a large family of capybarras that appeared from the wetlands as the sun went down and munched round the site over night. I woke up at around 5.30 one morning to a munching sound and looked out to see two of them right under the tent.

A couple of Kingfishers.

Another Capybarra

Can't remember the name but these birds were huge and carefully guarding their last chick of 4, the others had been taken by Caymen.

The culprit!

A Marsh Deer.

The camp site we are in now has a couple of very tame foxes on the alert for anything going.

It also has 2 exceptional thermal swimming pools one at 30 degrees and the other at 40 degrees

We had a bit of rain last night and was cloudy this morning, but the sun is back now and around 22 degrees, a little cooler than it has been, but at times it has been too hot, so now it is perfect and Chris is here enjoying the hot pool with a French family.

18 Mar 2019

North to Cachi

We have gone as far south as we are going this trip (Rio Tranquilo) and north as far as we are going (Cachi on the Route 40) and now we are heading east. Currently at Thermas Rio Hondo, just west of Santiago del Estero, we will now head east for around 650 miles and then north-ish up to Iguazu. Once I have sorted a dental issue for which I am currently in communication with my dentist at home for advice!!

We travelled North from Maipu through some pretty amazing scenery and mostly excellent weather. We got caught out one night when the forecast was for 40% chance of rain at 8am. Often that means no rain at all, but this time at 08.03 the first huge spots landed (you know the ones!) then the skies opened and it poured down for hours.The previous night it had been blue skies and calm and we did not bother to put on the fly sheet - mistake! the tent was perfectly dry inside, but taking it down would make everything wet. Eventually, we were paddling around in 2" of water (2.5 cm for those that don't understand our weird measuring system) so we had to bite the bullet, put all of the bedding in plastic bags and cover the mattress as best we could and take the tent down.

The next two nights we stayed in hostels and on the second day the sun shone so we erected the tent outside the hostel and within 2 hours it was all dry again and ready to go.

We continued north to Cafayate (another wine region with a number of wineries to visit) so decide to stay for 2 days. On the third day we intended to head north up R68, across the mountains to Cachi and back down the R40, but the first 30 miles was pretty much like all of the parks in Utah all rolled into one and we spent so much time doing littlewalks and taking photos we aborted the original 170 mile drive to Cachi and headed back to Cafayate. A few miles before the town we took a deviation to a winery and the restaurant looked so good that we booked the 5 course/6 wine lunch for the following day, so that meant another 2 nights in the camp site and a taxi back and forth to the winery the following day for another amazing lunch (though still does not beat Agostinos in Maipu).

Day 5 and having done the section of the R68 we wanted we now headed directly up the R40 (mostly gravel) to Cachi, a very rough road in places, but with amazing scenery all the way up. Cachi is another wine region but the town looks derelict until you get into its wonderful little centre, with a couple of top notch looking hotels and a good choice of restaurants (serving local wine which is also superb). They are obviously working to improve the town in general with cobbled streets replacing dirt roads and teams of painters painting buildings all over the place.

We stayed in Cachi for 2 nights before heading back down the R40 for another night in Cafayate (but this time with the go pro in action) and now,with the gravel roads behind us we are heading back east to Iguazu (one particularly dodgy tooth permitting!)

North of Maipu we visit the same dry lake as last year and manage the balancing of the car on the hand trick (which we tried last year and failed) took a whole year to realise that it is a lot easier if you turn your hand over!
As we leave Maipu its initially flat with the mountains in the distance

until you finally get amongst them

Then we find a cable car at Chilecito

This is station 2 which is a museum (station 1 is in the town next to the now derelict railway, but this is the most interesting one.

Built by the British in 1900 but fell into decline in the first world war, used by the Argentinians until 1933 and the hoppers still wait patiently in line.

The motor that powered it is still in positions

As is the furnace that separated the ore from the rock

And the cables and towers still exist, going over 30k and rising up 3,000m to a height of 4,600m

Frighteningly these converted hoppers took 2 men each, swinging 100's of metres in the air in places and taking around 3.5 hours to reach the top

Map of the cable car

Back on the road. Some people just take too much luggage, there were 2 people on this little bike and there was quite a strong cross wind! 

Who would have thought it was blue skies and 38c yesterday! This was one of our few wild camps and boy it got wild.

In almost 5 years since we began and at the camp site at Cafayate we meet our first British vehicle and its a Land rover! Mind you it has got a Mercedes engine. Marcus is from Australia (but originally from Texas) and Salima is from France, but they lived in London for 3 years, acquired this land rover and decided to drive home in it via the Americas, so they have more or less done the same route as us, last heard they had made it to Chilecito and were waiting for a new clutch to be couriered from Buenos Aires.

We head up R68 and come across the most amazing formations

Further south their are parks where you have to pay a fortune to be led round by a guide to see this sort of thing, but up here it is on the side of the road

Finally find a little shade for lunch

and carry on

After about 30 miles the landscape turns back to normal so we head back to Cafayate and take in a wine tour in the hills a few miles before we hit the town.

A fabulous place in a gorgeous setting

With such a good view from the restaurant we just had to book for lunch the following day.
Unfortunately no pictures from me as I forgot my camera (but I think Chris has posted some pictures of the meal on Face book)

Then up the R40 to Cachi

This time on a very rough gravel road

but equally spectacular scenery

Cachi, a lovely little place surrounded by mountains and as far north as we will go this time.

Then back down R40 to Cafayate