Finally we are all packed and ready to go. Our cases are not full of clothes or shoes, but with an oil filter, air cleaner, spotlights, downlights, reversing camera screen, door handle, shower pipe & nozzle (these 2 items are needed as a reult of my accidental tendancies) and a complete webasco diesel heater. The plan (I will call this PLAN A) is to fly Brisbane, Sydney and Buenos Aires, then to ferry to Colonia, and taxi to Granja Arenas to collect GR2. Then we plan to drive across Argentina to Bolivia & Peru, returning to Uruguay to store GR2 again. All in 10 weeks.
BUT as we know plans can change!
Our flight from Sydney to BA was delayed 2 hrs. Then on arrival we discovered Australians have to pay $100 each (not a Visa, but a reciporcal fee) There had been no fees at land borders, but fortunately we had our ferry tickets to prove we were in transit. One up for us. But because of the delay we had missed our ferry. Fortunately (again) I had booked the more expensive interchangeable tickets, so it just meant that we had to wait a few more hours. Finally we got to GR2 in the dark and found we had no power in the house batteries or vehicle batteries. So no lights, no heater(it was very chilly) or no cup of tea. We simply crawled into bed. The next day we plugged into power and sat there for 24 hours recharging, giving me time to unpack, clean and look at maps & guidebooks. John starting on the running repairs (on my mishaps)
At this point we changed to PLAN B. Why not go through Paraguay instead of Argentina. The Grand Chaco route sounded interesting. But we have no guide books for Paraguay (more about this later)
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!!! First to Colonia to fill up with food & fuel, then head along the coastal river route. The countryside is lush, green, flat to gently rolling. The towns are small with the obligatury town plaza with it's gorgeous old church, and to my delight plenty of horse and carts. We camp each night beside the river.
Along the way we stop at Fray Bentos, home of corned beef & the Oxo cube. The old factory is an impressive museum. Here too we book GR2 into a workshop to get our new diesel heater installed. Inspired by the frosts we have been getting. This job takes the entire day from 8am to 10pm. Fortunately I can use their Wifi.
Finally on the road again, and we cross into Argentina at Salto. Here for the first time we are asked for our vehicle insurance. I am holding my breath because our insurance actually starts the next day (we buy it in monthly blocks, and because we are away for 10weeks we only purchased 2 months, skimping days at either end). Fortunatey he doesn't notice.
There is much more traffic in Argentina. It is also dryer and much flatter with lots and lots of trucks. We are heading north to Mercedes, then plan to head west to Paraguay. Just outside of town we stp at a shrine to Guancito Gil (similar to the shrine to Difuna Correa, only tackier!) This guy was a Robin Hood type desparado who is now revered. Anyway onto the info centre. We want to check out boat trips into the Reserva Nat Esteros del Ibera to see the wildlife (Caimans & Capyrbaras). Here we meet Luis, who invites us to his Estancia/Ranch where he says we can see wildlife from his boat. What the heck! We follow Luis to his Ranch and stay for 2 nights. He and his lovely Lady Angela and son Fernando look after us way to well, with massive meals, and a great boat trip on their river to see the wildlife. They also have cattle, sheep and rice paddocks.
Here we decide on PLAN C. Luis convinces us that now would be the best time to go to Iguazi Falls rather than early next year, so we reverse our direction and head off to Posadas. After leaving town we start to wonder if we need a visa (rather belatedly), and so I text Brad and ask him to check on Dfat. The reply is "I think so". As we are staying at our ever favorite YPF petrol station we connect to Wifi to download the Lonely Planet chapters for Paraguay. This says we need a visa. There is a consulate at Posadas & Puerto Iguazi. As we have just left Posadas we decide to contine to Iguazi. Our first destination here is the Paraguay consulate only to discover that they donot do visas here (Goodness know what they do do!!!), but we can get one from Posadas or Foz do Iguaci (in Brazil).
At this point we change to PLAN D. We can drive back 300km to Posadas, or get a visa for Brazil. In no time at all we have filled in our application forms on line, printed them out (all from the comfort of GR2) taken them in to the Brazil embassy, and paid them approx $30 each. We can collect them tomorrow.
To fill in time we head off to one of The Seven Greatest Natural Wonders in The World. The very impressive Iguazi Falls. Sadly the first walk to Devils Throat was a wipe out. The end of the walkway had been washed away and we couldn't see the throat. Anyway the lower and upper walks lived up to expectation, and the boat ride was spectacular and very very wet.
The next morning we collected our visas early, and headed into Brazil. A relatively easy crossing with no vehicle check required. At Foz do Iguaci we headed straight to the Paraguy embassy, emerging a few hours day and $130 poorer with our visas. But now on to PLAN E! We have got our visas for Brazil, so perhaps we should use them, and save our single entry visa for Paraguay for the return trip. We check our books, the climate is right (not too wet, not too hot), and decide we will head to The Pantanal in Brazil.
More to come