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Sunday, February 26, 2012

BOLIVIAN ALTIPLANO TO MONTEVIDEO'S BEACHES

We are committed to the slippery, slimy mud road that we are on, despite it being “closed”. There are plenty of trucks, buses and 4x4 Toyotas. We discover if we move aside for oncoming vehicles we slide in the mud (after nearly taking the paint off an oncoming 4x4) so we stop and make them move around us. We finally make it to San Cristobel and Alota, where we fill up with fuel at a reasonable price. In Bolivia they can legally charge foreigners 3 times the local price. John has been negotiating a better price each time “Cash only & no receipt”

Then on to the Valle de Rocha’s, with its amazing rock formations. Here we see lots of 4x4’s, full of tourists. The road does not appear to be closed. I wonder where that impassable river is? When the rain gets heavy we stop for an extended lunch hour. As we are leaving a local 4x4 stops and we discover that the direction we had planned to take was the road to Chile, and we needed to take the goat track. This proves to much better. GR2 prefers goat tracks to mud & slush. It is a magical drive surrounded by mighty, snowy peaks through high country plains. We are continually over 4000m. We find the river crossing (Definitely 4x4!) followed by a river bed to drive up. GR2 copes beautifully, although we get some puzzled looks from the tourists in the 4x4’s.

We camp overnight in a gorgeous spot overlooking Laguna Los Flamingos, snow capped peaks and flamingos. What a spot to sit and soak in the surroundings. And no alcohol for us, not at this altitude. The next day we continue through more amazing high country and up another rocky riverbed. On and on, stopping to inspect some amazing rock trees before finally reaching Laguna Colorado set in a magnificent National Parque.  This costs us 150BOB each to enter, while locals only pay 30BOB! Still it is worth it the Laguna is fabulous, with red hued water and millions of flamingos.

We have GPS reference points for the Aduana (where we have to drop off our Temporary vehicle import license), fortunately, as it is at a mine site – who would think of looking there – maybe the border would be more logical, but there it is, on a little back track at 5020m altitude.

On through more snow & sleet. The weather is continually changing here. A stop at some hot pools for a nice soak, before overnighting near Laguna Verde. We wake to another glorious day with some more scenic driving, before we reach the border. Here they tell us that we will have to go to the Chilean customs before we cross into Argentina. Oh well, so down we head to San Pedro de Atacama an extra 60km. Last time customs was a breeze – all done in 10 minutes, but there are 3 buses here and a massive queue. One hour later we have the stamps in our passports and slips of paper stamped & ready for Argentina, a few hours drive away. Still it is a truly magical drive over the Paso de Jama. Sadly there are more queues. Two and a half hours later we have more stamps in our passports and another temp veh imp license.

We head down to 1738m before stopping for the night. This is the lowest we have been for weeks. In the next few days we head even lower as we pass through Jujuy and onto the Chaco – low, hot (read 45 deg here) country. At this point we mainly drive. It is too hot to stop, and not a heck of a lot to see. Finally we reach the border of Uruguay. Here we get a whole year temp veh imp License for GR2 so that she can be tucked away in Colonia while we head home. We have a few days tucked up our sleeves for cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and some R&R at some of Uruguay’s gorgeous white sand beaches. We have done a huge trip this time – 15,600km.

Then we say goodbye to GR2 to catch the ferry to Buenos Aires, and fly back home.

Plans for our next trip still to come (that means we haven’t finalised them yet)

Adios Amigos

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