So where were we……?
After locating our desired campsite on the Argentinean side we spent the whole of the next day exploring Iguaçu falls from the Argie side. It was once again very spectacular and we were able to get right up above the falls on the bridge walkways. The caught a ferry across to the island in the middle of the cataracts where we spent the afternoon swimming in the Rio Iguaçu which was just awesome and a welcome cooler!! However there were little fish that if you settled for long enough would start nibbling you - very weird.
As dusk starts setting in over the "Devils throat" thousands of Swifts (A type of swallow) start returning to roost on the cliffs just below where you stand. It was unbelievable; they all circle about 70 metres over the falls and then just drop like stones at over 100km an hour and cling to the cliff face all night and in some cases under the actual waterfall. We headed out the next morning after purchasing a spare oil filter and engine oil as it was now time to do our first full oil change.
After a short drive our next stop was a Jesuit mission area where we visited ruins over 100 year old which were relatively interesting, unfortunately the tour was in Spanish - baptism by fire back into Spanish after Brazil. We camped on a riverfront overlooking Paraguay and witnessed a stunning sunset. The evening was spent playing some volleyball with some guys from Kumuka (an Overland tour group we had now bumped into a couple of times).
At this stage the decision had been made that we would hang a left into Uruguay. After a solid day drive we managed to pick up our first "MULTA" - in local police lingo, a "fine". On approaching a police block, which we have come across regularly, we could swear we saw the guy smile and rub his palms - anyway after requesting the usual paperwork he requested Seguro (Insurance) even our numerous "no entiende" did not deter him. James was escorted to the "Commandante" and shown in a "scrap" book the 'Seguro Obligataire' clause in Argentinean road law. USD 100 on the spot fine! After much procrastination and broken Spanish arguement, they said if we paid immediately they would reduce it to USD 50. What the hell - we paid and got out of Dodge.
The crossing into Uruguay went without hitch apart from solid rain from the time we set off with Lodzi showing signs of numerous leaks all over the place. Our first stop was just across the border at the hot springs of Termas de Dayman where we spent about 4 hours just soaking in the gorgeous hot swimming pools. Lucky the weather was so bad it made the pools even more inviting.
We then started a 4 day meander straight across the centre of Uruguay on dust roads, and were both extremely impressed. This was not like the South America we had already encountered as it was so westernised and clean and friendly. We had our first encounter with a Uru gaucho on horseback after camping on the road outside his estancia - very pleased when we asked for a photo!!
After flat plains then rolling hills we met the east coast which we followed south to Punte Del Este the very famous Uruguayan beach city. Million dollar houses included.
It was so amazing in Uruguay as you can see from the photos; there were all these pre-war cars in all the scrap yards and even being driven around! James was in awe and now has restoration on his brain!!
A couple days later we were in Colonia del Sacramento, a beautiful quaint historical port town opposite Buenos Aires where we caught the 3 hour ferry across to save the 8 hour drive round to the city.
We arrived in BA and having met a Swiss couple in a campsite we had advice on free parking just near the port and camping with no facilities (A sort of overlander freeloading tip.) As we pulled into the car park there were another 3 overlanders parked there including an ENORMOUS kitted out Unimog which all the "small" guys call Millimogs as they cost about a million Euros to buy and kit out. It was huge!!! But the gratitude we got hearing they don't really get off road as they take about a week to dig out if bogged down. Still very impressive.
We got on really with Johan, a Swiss guy in a Landcruiser who was so enthusiastic and helpful giving us much advice making us as keen as ever to get down to Ushuaia. He also mentioned the Killer Whales in Valdes Peninsula were feeding on Sea lions and fluffy penguins at high tide where they almost beach themselves attacking!!! We could not get our skates on quick enough and head south.
After getting lost exiting BA and taking 3 hours longer than planned we drove all day and camped on the east coast near Bahia Blanca, in Monte Hermoso where we were able to witness a stunning sunset on one side of the beach and then sunrise on the other side. However on the regular engine check the next morning a distinct lack of oil in the engine let us know something was amiss. After refilling the engine we continued for about 100k's and pulled into a garage to check the engine - Over a pit we located the fault with ease - oil pouring out the air filter overflow. Bugger - either the turbo or engine.
Another urgent call to Mr Baller in the UK and the advice was find a mechanic! Anyway we got lucky and after an hour with a truck mechanic the news was it was the cylinders or the pistons letting oil into the top of the engine - a lot of oil. His advice was find a Landrover mechanic. We could still drive but not very fast and top up the oil every 100 km's.
Bariloche on the Chilean border about 1000km's west of where we were was suggested!! So the long journey started across the top of Patagonia - a huge expanse of 360 degree flats with an 80kph head wind reducing an oil haemorrhaging poor Lodzi down to almost 70kph. This was going to be a long drive!!!
A day and a half of driving and we arrived in Bariloche - a beautiful adventure town on the edge of a huge lake at the base of the Andes (a tad chilly) We could not have asked for a better place to break down
After booking Lodzi into a diesel mechanic and numerous e-mails to Mr B trying to get up to speed with the lingo so James sort of knew what he was talking about with the mechanics, although no-one spoke English. However the damage was irreparable and we now have to wait 2 weeks to get a new engine block and pistons fitted.
Good old Landrovers - All you LR cynics - Grant/Julius and Russell - at least we weren't towed into Bariloche by a Landcruiser huh????
So wait we shall and to date we have completed a 15km mountain hike and a 60 km bike ride- after which a 2 day rest was required before we attempt another hike.
This week we plan to catch a coach across Argentina once again to the Valdez peninsula to see the Orcas and be back just as the car is completed to continue south. The bad news is we have just heard that the first snows have started falling in Ushuaia. Well we will try making it down there for Kerry's 30th on April the 10th. Not everyone gets to spend their birthday near the end of the world! Fingers crossed we get sort of back on schedule - although our route map is now looking rather distorted from the intended route. Take it as it comes, adventure day by day!!
Happy easter to everyone - oh and we forgot to mention Bariloche is also the Chocolate capital of Argentina - bring on those easter eggs!!! Good thing we are exercising!!