After 8 months we have finally returned to South America. This time we flew directly to Montevideo, thus saving us $100 each on entry fees into Argentina (not required at land borders – go figure!), & the cost of the ferry. All we have to do is find the right local bus to the bus terminal & get on a bus to Colonia. The driver drops us off at the bottom of the driveway and we drag our bags up to where GR2 is parked with 6 other motorhomes. As it is 11pm and we can’t remember where the padlock keys are hidden, John saws off the padlock and we crawl into bed.
The next day we discover that 1 battery is “dead” so we need to call in the mobile battery man. After installing a new battery we follow him to town to check the other. It needs replacing as well. They do not like sitting unused for so long. By the time it’s all sorted and we have stocked up with food we head to the local beach to camp for the night.
Finally we are ready to start our long drive. The first part is really a bit of a rehash of previous trips. We have a few spots left in Uruguay that we have missed previously. The first is the very exclusive resort town of Punta del Este, set on a lovely peninsula. So we drive past all the expensive real estate and some lovely beaches. We also have to stop at “La Mano en la Arena” – the hand/fingers in the sand. We had seen the big one in Chile, so couldn’t miss this one – even though it was only the fingertips and covered in children. Again we camped right on the beach not far from Punta del Este, with another amazing sunset & then sunrise, both over the water. And finally our last spot to visit was Furerte San Miguel right on the border between Uruguay & Brazil. Great little fort, fully renovated, but very few road signs. No wonder we missed it last time.
We stopped at Chuy/Chui depending on which side of the road you where on to spend our last Uruguyian money on Haviana’s for the kids. We had already exited Uruguay before we got to the fort, and so had to simply “enter” Brazil. All very easy. Then head north to Rio Grande to find the ferry to cross to Sao Jose do Norte. We found the ferry terminal on the GPS right beside the container ship port. It looked long abandoned, but it was late so we camped right there. A local gives John instructions to the balsa crossing so the next morning we head there, rolling up in time for a ferry. How good is that! “Another cruise” for a mere 18reals ($12) taking 45 minutes.
After exploring the pretty colonial town of Sao Jose do Norte we head off on the long drive up the peninsula. At no stage did we actually see the beach, just a few sand dunes, a glimpse of blue and miles of flat soggy land with lots of crops, cattle & forestry. It was a long bumpy 250kms.
Finally we head inland into the hills to the twin towns of Canela & Gramado. Here amongst the tropical forest they are an alpine extravaganza. It looks like an over the top Swiss village. It is a mecca for more affluent Brazilians to shop, eat & play. The whole town is decked out for Christmas, even though it is still October. We head out of town to find the scenic chair lift, only to find it closed for renovations. So we proceed to Caracol National Park to see the waterfall. A breathtaking sight, but even more breathtaking is the 740 steps down & then back up from the bottom of the falls. We stop in town for a typical Brazilian lunch. A huge buffet style meal, where each plate is weighed, and then paid by the no of grams you take.
It is on the road again as we cross country back to the coast. The motorways are busy with lots of trucks. There are many tolls. We can overnight at any number of huge petrol stations, along with lots of trucks. Mostly this is not as bad as it sounds. Finally we reach the coast. What a pleasure to camp right beside the water again. The drive past the beaches is superb. The hills are lush & green right down to the emerald green water. We stop right on the beach for a swim….magic! We are looking forward to the drive up to Rio.
Yes I know…..Portuguese now, and it sounds and looks so different from Spanish