Getting ready for our second leg in South America


Once we reached Cape Town, the first priority was meeting family and friends locally and then, in the available 5 months, catching up with our blog.

Inbetween we did a trip to Namibia for 3 weeks to see the family there and to complete some unfinished tasks in Swakopmund before returning to Cape Town to attend to the house – a few things that had been neglected during our 11 months absence.

Once the flights were booked we knew that by end August we shall be back in Uruguay to continue until March 2018. Renew insurances for a year, getting finances sorted out, ensuring that our travel documents were in order and another 100 little tasks that had to be done.

Dieter agreed to hold a talk at the Cape Town Photoclub for photographers interested in planning a similar journey in the future. It was impossible to give even a glimpse in the allotted 45 minutes and so we decided not to cover Argentina and Chile as we had not completed our journey there yet. This meant really sorting out some images and places of interest and the talk had very positive feedback – most visitors enjoyed getting a glimpse  from our trip.

The most frequent question we had after we returned was: Which country is our favourite?

We could not give a straight answer, as the countries were so diverse in landscape, fauna, flora and its people. Each of the countries we had traversed had been special in some way. Maybe the least exciting country from a travellers point of view is probably Paraguay. Although our first impressions of Uruguay were similar, it changed on our return leg – we enjoyed it much more, also for the reason that it is orderly, well functioning and with little stress to travel. Uruguay is a good country to ship a vehicle to, get started with the journey and to leave the vehicle if anybody plans to do a second visit. Uruguay allows a vehicle to be in the country for 12 months without any problems or strings attached.

Bolivia is worth exploring as it offers unique places like the Salar de Uyuni, the Dali Desert, La Paz and Madidi Jungle. However, the population it is not as friendly, more bribes are being solicited by police and the military, but nothing we could not cope with or that made it really unattractive. For South African passport holders it also was the only country requiring Visa.

Peru is a must. The country is diverse and beautiful, the people friendly. Macchu Picchu is worth a visit despite the fact that it must be one of the world’s busiest tourist hot spots. However, visitor traffic is well managed and did not spoil our visit. The only drawback is that Peru is probably the dirtiest country on our journey with trash and plastic dumped everywhere. Being nature conscious this somewhat worked on our nerves and the country needs to do something about it if they do not want to drown in rubbish.

Ecuador is beautiful and its nature offers some special experiences – the country welcomes visitors with open arms and even has low entry requirements if foreigners wish to settle or start businesses. Clean and neat everywhere it offered a welcome change after Peru. Being able to visit Galapagos islands, which are part of Ecuador, made our time there indeed very special – Galapagos was a dream destination for us for a long time and we were not disappointed.

Colombia still conjures up images of drug wars and Pablo Escobar. We never planned to visit there – everybody we met, said, we have to. And how right they were! Probably the friendliest people we have met, most welcoming to strange visitors travelling their beautiful country. Fantastic landscapes, colourful villages, birds galore and Cartagenas vibe will stay with us forever.

We have seen only a part of Chile and Argentina and we shall wait until we have seen most of it before we comment – our expectations of Patagonia are high as it is supposed to be one of the worlds harshest but also most beautiful areas.

We are back for the second trip and our preparations have gone well.  This blog entry is written from sitting in the comfort of the home of Jürgen and Gisa Hecker in Punta Ballena in Uruguay,just south of Punta del Este. In a day or two from now camping will be the order of the day.

Our special thanks go to our friends Burkhard and Anke Schleicher in Atlantida near Montevideo, who made it possible that we could hit the road again within 3 days of arriving. Our vehicle has been serviced and all requested repairs arranged so that we can start this leg of our journey well prepared.

We shall now first of all travel into Brasil, where we hope to see extraordinary animals like jaguars and many birds in the Pantanal swamp area, famous for it fauna and flora.

Please excuse that there are no paragraphs in our text – WordPress still has a problem in that the text doe not appear the way we are writing it -so we decided to alternate the colours of the text.


Uruguay 7: Cabo Polonia to Atlantida then on to Cape Town


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.

A sojurn to 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 4×4 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.

On our journey towards Punta del Este we took a turn into the town Faro Jose Ignacio – a quaint village with art galleries and modern villas, we did not spot a camping site –maybe too upmarket for trekkers like us. In San Rafael, we decided to camp at El Placer – a cut above the rest with all amenities and well organised. Getting there we passed two extraordinary bridges – one was like a ring with the road separating, the other like a wave.


While we were in the La Barra area, we used the opportunity to visit the 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.


While visiting the Insectario we realised, that we should have looked more for interesting insects in South America – mind boggling shapes and colours abound.

Next camping in Punta Ballena was ok, our last night in the roof tent for the remainder of our journey. The following day we arrived at our school friends Jürgen and Gisa Hecker, who reside in 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).

We sampled the fresh seafood of the area by shopping for fish on the quay at Punta del Este.

While staying at Punta Ballena Uwe and Almut, with whom we had prepared and shipped the vehicles originally, also arrived, having completed their second leg in South America. This resulted in an impromptu Namibian reunion with Hagen and Mechthild Stahr, who have settled in Uruguay as farmers for several years as well as Wolfgang “Kücki” Kühhirt and wife Ines who were on holiday from Namibia, where they own the lodge at Rostock Ritz in a beautiful part of the Namib desert ( stop there if ever you get to Namibia –a stunning place).


The time passed quickly while we had fun in Punta Ballena. Soon we had to depart to Atlantida, where we would leave our vehicle with Burkhard and Anke Schleicher, the Namibian farmers that we had visited while en-route to Paraguay. They had relocated closer to the coast and now offer a safe haven for bikes of overlanders and would look after our vehicles. After two days of cleaning and preparation for our return in six months to proceed with our second leg into Pantanal in Brasil and Southern Patagonia, we had to say farewell and we flew back from Montevideo via São Paulo and Johannesburg to Cape Town, where we landed safely on 31st March 2017.

Watch this space in September 2017 – our journey will continue into the breath taking region of Southern Patagonia. While we shall have to dress up warmly for the harsh climate and glaciers, you will be able to continue the journey with us from the comfort of your armchairs.

This post covers 14th -31st March 2017

Uruguay 6: Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha & Fortaleza de Santa Teresa

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.

We entered Uruguay and briefly stopped at the 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.

It was a pleasant camping site with good ablutions and many birds around including the Ñandu, a smaller version of an ostrich. While we held our braai at the camping site, the dog belonging to the lodge shook and possibly killed a skunk next to us – it was not a pleasant sight nor smell – a strong odour similar to carlic lingered on into the early morning hours. Nevertheless the evening bath in the termas under clear skies was absolutely magic.


Following our successful exit and re-entry in Uruguay, we finally had the correct papers to leave the vehicle until March 2018. We drove on to the 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.

We continued on Ruta 3, then turned off at Lorenzo Geyre towards 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.

Camping was free and drinking water available at the Ruinas del Cuñapiru. (This is the site of the first hydroelectric system in South America.)

Here we met campers Darren Robert and Natalie Beltrán with son Teo (both had worked for Continental in Brasil) enjoying the drive through Uruguay and looking for new work opportunities.

Since the showers were cold at the camping site we stopped at a service station next day, had lunch in the Gaucho steakhouse and took a hot shower at the truckstop for 45 Peso. By evening we were back in our little pine forest outside Tacuarembó, again we had another very quiet night.

Not so the next : by late afternoon armed police searched for a villain in the area – we decided to move camp after they had requested us to phone 911 if he pitches up. It was the first time in 10 months that we felt it would be safer to stay elsewhere. So we camped at Valle Edén some 25km away, close enough to return to the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha in Tacuarembó the next day.

This national Gaucho festival was a sight to be seen, especially since the riders starting at age 5 are already participating. We sometimes wondered whether they had been glued to their saddles, so proficient at this young age.

We spent the day enjoying the Gaucho atmosphere and traditions and watched the youth perform. A small village had been erected to display the way of life and old traditions.

For the night we returned to Valle Edén. Next morning the heavens opened up. We briefly visited the Museum for Carlos Gardel – (1890 –1935) who was a French Argentine singer, songwriter, composer and actor, and the most prominent figure in the 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.


We decided to drive on via Pedro Varela, Lascarno and in the direction of Coronilla on a rural dirt road. On the way a large agricultural machine came towards us, it was as wide as the road and we had to pull off to the side – promptly sinking into mud and down to the axle. An oncoming truck had to pull us out as we could not get back up the embankment.

As Coronilla had no camping possibility we pressed on to Fortaleza de Santa Teresa (1762-1793), a beautifully restored fort that saw much action between the Portuguese and the Spanish.

Not far from the fort is a large natural camping area along the sea which can host probably 500 or more campers in the season. Since school holidays were over, it was empty and we found an ideal spot among trees close to Playa Grande – in walking distance (2km) over a dune or two to Punta Diablo where we already had been 10 months earlier. The water was warm here and offered safe swimming with no currents.

This post covers 2nd  to 13th March 2017

Uruguay 5: San Gregorio de Polanco – an artists canvas

San Gregorio de Polanco is known for its mural paintings – a drab town found a good way of looking bright.

San Gregorio de Polanco in Uruguay-19

Unser nächster Abstecher führt uns in ein Städtchen mit besonderem Charakter – viel Wandmalerei an alten Hauswänden. Es gibt diesem Dorf eine besondere Note und lädt ein, dort zu verweilen – zumal es eine gute Campingstelle direkt am Rio Negro gibt. 

Once a year artists come to town to decorate more of it – it remains to see what effect this will have over the years. Different art styles keep it interesting and you never know what awaits you next. We enjoyed the ocean/river pollution mural which we have chosen as the lead picture.

Covers 20-21May 2016

Uruguay 4: The Hinterland and the forgotten railway town

Travelling through Uruguay and crossing the Rio Negro.

Along the coast of Uruguay-119

Wir fahren durch Uruguay und treffen Burkhardt und Anke Schleicher aus Namibia, welche in diesem Land eine neue Existenz auf der Farm Fortaleza aufgebaut haben. Es ist ein gute Gelegenheit, viel über das Land zu erfahren und warum ihre Farm als “suizo”(dreckig) bezeichnet wird, nur weil sie naturbelassen ist, während in Uruguay alle Flora für die Rinderzüchtung gerodet wird, damit möglichst viel Weideland entsteht. Resultat: optisch ein recht langweilig wirkendendes Flachland.

From the coast we travelled to visit the farm Fortaleza, owned by emigrant farmers from Namibia. Here we learned more about cattle ranching in Uruguay, producing of the world’s best beef and the stark contrast to Namibia where a farm 20 times the size would be required to produce the same amount of beef due to the high rainfall in Uruguay. Temperatures were a low 4 deg C in the morning.

Anke and Burkhardt provided us tipps which route to travel onwards to the somewhat forgotten railroad town of Jose Battle y Ordonez with the Station Nico Perez (a living museum as there are still rail activities happening there), on via Sarandi de Yi and then crossing the Rio Negro by ferry to reach San Gregorio de Polanco. On the way we see some Gauchos, however these days more on bikes than on horses.

This entry covers the period 18-20May 2016

Uruguay 3: Exploring the Coast of Uruguay

Along the coast of Uruguay-116

Wir fahren entlang der Küstenorte in Richtung des bekannten Ferienzieles Punta del Este.

We drive through towns like La Paloma, Punta del Diablo,Aguas Dulces,past Fortaleza de Santa Teresa until we turn inland at La Coronilla.

Under way we camp at Paraiso Suizo, a popular stopover for overlanders with Heinz and Sylvia being the hosts. Here many overlanders leave their vehicles while returning home (US$50 per month). Unfortunately we have a lot of rain and storms on this route and the Atlantic is brown and turbulent and kitesurfers have a field day.

Uruguay 2: Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay

Unser erstes Ziel ist Colonia del Sacramento – ein kleines, altes Städtchen am Rio de la Plata gegenüber von Buenos Aires.

The town has a historical lighthouse, quaint restaurants and shops. Here you can dine inside vintage cars. Initially occupied by the Portugese, later Spanish.

Two camping sites can be considered close to the town: Rogales ( not recommended by us – noisy but close-by) or Brisas del Plata, which turned out to be quiet, along the river and pleasant.


This post covers 12th-15th May 2016

Uruguay 1: Ambling through Montevideo

Bevor es richtig los geht, haben wir 3 Tage um Montevideo kennenzulernen und einen ersten Eindruck zu gewinnen. Haben Rundfahrten mit dem Touristenbus gemacht und sind viel zu Fuss abgeklappert – eine generell saubere, sichere und schöne Stadt mit viel Handarbeit und Kunst in Galerien und Strassenmärkten, Strassenmusikern und hervorragenden Restaurants.

For US$21 per Person a ticket on the “Bus Touristico descubrí Montevideo” city tour bus is good value and a relaxed way to scout the city. We really made good use over the 24hr period during which the ticket is valid and visited 2 street markets at opposite ends of town, ate heaps of meat grilled on open fires in the Mercado del Puerto close to the harbour and watched tango dancers in the street.

At the restaurant Es Mercat with Chef Roberto Connio we sampled our first Corvina (Corbiña) fish -absolutely delicious ( find them at Colon1550 esq.Piedras )

Montevideo must hold the record for monuments of historically important generals, politicians and others – all on horses. On the “Plaza Independencia”the monument of General Jose Artigas and the underground mausoleum is worth seeing. The plaza is surrounded by interesting buildings  including the President’s offices.

We applied for the “Certificado de Ingreso”, the all important document to register our arrival in order to be able to get the vehicles cleared. For this we had to deal with officialdom which we found friendly and efficient and had our document within an hour. Then off to the clearing agents Repremar where Laura Seravia is a pleasure to deal with and the company leaves a professional impression. Fortunately all is within walking distance from our Smart Hotel in the Calle de Missiones near the port. We hoped to clear the vehicles the next day.

We managed to fill our Cadac gas cyclinders at Punto Gas at address  Maldonado 961,Montevideo