We left Fortaleza de Santa Teresa after two relaxing days and idled down the coast exploring the seaside villages. Finally we reached La Paloma where we camped at Wladimir Turiansky Camping, ablutions were not the best – nevertheless it was close to the sea and not overrun by visitors. Jetzt war es an der Zeit, gemütlich die Küstenorte Uruguay's abzufahren. Dabei stiessen wir auf interessante Örtchen - so wie Cabo Polonia. Seelisch bereiteten wir uns auf unsere Rückkehr nach Südafrika vor. Cabo Polonia, we thought, would be a welcome change from self driving. This village behind many dunes was not accessible by vehicle – this is where hippies and surfers found a refuge at the time. Today it has become slightly more accessible and a 4x4 truck shuttle service took us there where we enjoyed the day wandering around and photographing and relaxing. Maybe staying one night is a better idea – it seemed a laid back town with a vibe and many backpackers flock to it. Take your swimming costumes. Museo del Mar and right next door the Insectario that is part of it (entrance fee covers both). Both are collections of large proportion and extremely interesting and definitely worth a visit. Exhibits also include historical information about the coastal towns. Punta Ballena for part of the year and with whom we explored Punta del Este and its fish market and the surrounding sights worth visiting. This included the Casapueblo hotel Carlos Paéz Vilaró (previously his studio and house) which is popular at sunset where he reads his poem dedicated to the sun (posthum). Rostock Ritz in a beautiful part of the Namib desert ( stop there if ever you get to Namibia –a stunning place).
Since we now had about 4 weeks left before our return to Cape Town, we decided to take a second look at Uruguay. Our first impressions were dampened by rainy season when we arrived in May – maybe the country had more to offer that flat cattle ranches? Noch hatten wir genug Zeit, uns in Uruguay genauer umzuschauen. Ist dies Land wirklich so langweilig wie unser erster Eindruck war? Wir beschlossen, gemütlich entlang der Küste in Richtung Montevideos zu fahren. We crossed the Uruguay River via the Salto Grande dam wall which forms the border between Concordia in Argentina and Salto in Uruguay. At the joint border offices, customs officials of Uruguay advised us that our vehicle never officially left Uruguay when we originally drove into Brazil the previous year – we should have handed in our vehicle paper to customs. This now could not be rectified on the spot, so next day we again had to emigrate back into Argentina where we drank a coffee at a gas station, then returned to the border once more – this time round we got the paper for our vehicle with validity in Uruguay for full 12 months. Termas del Dayman where there were just too many visitors – so we continued to a beautiful and quiet stop at Termas San Nicanor further on. Termas Guaviyú, our next stop for the night. The area was huge – we camped a little distance away from the crowd of holiday makers and had a large area all to ourselves. Some mozzies in the evening, customary shower of rain early morning. Tacuarembó and after a pretty boring stretch, did some shopping in Tacuarembó and found an idyllic spot at a Laguna to the north, inside a small forest of pine trees. A local gentleman came to run his dog in the forest and informed us, that the well-know Uruguayan national Gaucho festival/feast, the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, would start on Thursday. As we decided to stay and pass time, we starting looking for the cave Gruta de las Helechos (ferns) but never found it, the drive through the hills nevertheless compensated for the effort. As we did not want to wait in Tacuarembó until the Gaucho Festival would start, we drove to an old, disused gold mine, the Minas de Corrales that was operational between 1867 to 1970 and is a protected sight now. Originally mercury was used to process the gold, later they switched to cyanide. Ruinas del Cuñapiru. (This is the site of the first hydroelectric system in South America.) Valle Edén some 25km away, close enough to return to the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha in Tacuarembó the next day. history of tango. Visiting the gaucho festival this day seemed impossible due to the incessant rain so we decided to continue via Ansina Melo to Trenta-y-Tres where we found free camping on their municipal site. A fairly noisy night with lousy ablutions. Our Spanish teacher, José, had taught us, that a beautiful woman in South America is "guapá" -we started understanding this expression. Fortaleza de Santa Teresa (1762-1793), a beautifully restored fort that saw much action between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Punta Diablo where we already had been 10 months earlier. The water was warm here and offered safe swimming with no currents.
Since we had already visited the town La Higuera in Bolivia where Che died, it had roused our interest to understand how he grew up. Auch die Sümpfe Nord Argentiniens wollten wir noch gern besuchen. So beschlossen wir, diesen langen Trek auf uns zu nehmen – noch konnten wir nicht ahnen, dass es etwas anders verlaufen würde. Camping Municipal Federal – a neat park for the locals, free camping for visitors, free Wifi and good ablutions. We were the only campers and Mariana Kinderknecht of the municipality visited to ensure we are ok – what an experience! Colonia Carlos Pellegrini in the Iberá swamps, we saw snakes, red deer, various birds, Capibaras, Cayman, fox and storks. Hacienda Camba Cua – a good decision. Family owned, Pedro ensured everything functioned and camp was clean and well kept. Capybaras, Caymans, Southern Screamers, Blackbirds, Herons and Bittern as well as a number of smaller birds among the reeds. Also Cumba Cua offered many opportunities for bird photography. Deer Escabeche – a glass of pickled meat, fairly expensive. But it did not quite tickle our tastebuds. Escabeche seems to be a local delicacy in this area, made from all types of meat: cayman, armadillo, beef, deer, duck, chicken, pheasant etc. Next we turned in at a large farm stall at La Alemana – apparently German emigrants settled successfully there. We found nothing that exited us other than the unique signboard for their take aways, prepared in a kiosk that had plenty of flies. Embalse Salto Grande and camped along the dam at Las Palmeras. The dam invited for a swim – warm and clear – but a paranoid lifesaver did not allow us deeper than our belly button. rd Feb to 1st March 2017