Argentina 6: Meteorite Chaco, Tafi de Valle to Cafayate

Before leaving Brasil we decided to fill up as the diesel is cheaper than in Argentina. The border crossing took only about 40 minutes both sides and then we headed south-west along the RN12 with little traffic. Our route took us via Eldorado, Jardin America to San Ignacio where we decided to again stay at Club del Rio campsite with its super large pool and good conveniences. A thunderstorm woke us at 4am – we decided to start early and avoid breaking camp in the rain – and drove in heavy rains via Posadas along the Rio Paraná to Corrientes with a 2km long bridge crossing this river.

Not being a beautiful city, we decided to push on down the Ruta 16 into the Chaco, a very dry area of Argentina – beautiful sunflower fields lined the road. In Resistencia we tried to see whether Toyota had a replacement handbrake cable only to find their siesta time is from 12-15:30 – we were not going to wait and realised, that clocks tick differently in Argentina (most of the time everything shuts down from about 13:00-17:00 – a bit frustrating when on the road).

We aimed to reach the termas at Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña – these had been converted into an upmarket spa in the centre of town so we looked at the municipal camping –probably the worst we had seen until now, not fit to stay and the terrain completely muddy.

At Avia Teray we turned off southerly on the Ruta RN89, en-route checked out a couple of truckstops for overnighting, but the recent rains had turned them into bogs. By now we realized that it would be a long day driving until we spotted a turnoff to some scientific park just after Gancedo – a 12km gravel road, we surely would find a wild camping spot. To our surprise we reached an incredibly well-designed and clean meteorite scientific park run by the local Mogoit indigenes.

We had a beautiful quiet night among trees and took time to explore the Parque Cientifico Y Educativo with a number of meteorites displayed, a centre with underground museum and video show where scholars were visiting, learning all about space, planets, meteor showers etc.

In this area 18 meteorites have to date been unearthed, among them the Chaco, the second largest in the world ( the largest meteorite known is the Hoba meteor near Grootfontein in Namibia – we were proud to relate where we came from and for the curators it was the first time meeting people from Namibia!). This area, known as Campo de Cielo, is the largest meteor impact field know to-date. This remote stopover has been a total surprise to us and can be recommended to fellow travelers when in the Chaco area.

We continued on the RN89 via Quimilí up to Taboada, then northerly via Santiago del Estero to Terma de Rio Hondo, a stretch where poverty prevails, a harsh and dry land. Finally we ended at camp Inti Punku with 6 thermal pools.

The camping site was close to Embalse Rio Hondo, a large dam.

In this town every house seems to have hot water fed from the vast termas – even the toilets were flushed with hot water! It is a buzzling spa town with 200 hotels, but not pretty or well kept – it seems to have had its best times in the past.

We left via the RP11 and near Lamadrid continued on the RN157 –the area seems poor, lots of small houses, plenty of rubbish and plastic.

At Monteros we got on to the RP307 and proceeded along the lush Camino de Valle, a mountain road with its 1294 bends through the tropic forest of Reserva Natural Rio Los Sosa with Ferns,Laurels and Cedars and its prolific parrots.

The road took us from 230m to 1800m and at Parque Provincial de los Menhires we looked at the 129 geoglyphs in mist and 7deg C. They are more than 2000 years old.

By the time we reached the mountain retreat of Tafi de Valle it was miserable and we took refuge at the well appointed Las Castañas Cabañas. This little village offers many restaurants and artesanial shops.

Next morning we woke up to a misty morning and continued the mountain route to 2900m towards Amaicha de Valle, the landscape changed to semi-desert with large cacti.

Our visit to the Pachamama museum was snookered as they were closed on Sundays. Already the exterior looked very interesting and we hoped that we should have a later opportunity.

We proceeded to the Ruinas Indigenas de Quilmes – a large terrain where the Quilmes peoples resided in times past. It is also a popular spot visited by Argentinians themselves to witness their forefathers cultural remains.

From here we followed the Ruta del Vino Tucuman to the Ruta del Vino Salta and the wine estancias grew in size and beauty until we reached Cafayate, where our first stop was at an ice cream parlour (Heladeria) selling wine ice cream in the flavours Malbec and Torrontes wine – delicious! The night we stayed at Camping Luz y Fuerza at the southern entry to Cafayate, windy, dusty but ok as there was not much choice.


This post covers the period 18th – 23rd October 2017

Ecuador 1b: Avenue of the Volcanos – Cotopaxi and capital Quito

Cotopaxi -maybe the most beautiful of the lot. Evacuation signs remind the visitor that it is still an active volcano.

Entlang der Strasse der Vulkane ist der Cotopaxi relativ leicht zu erreichen. Die Umgebung und der Park um den Vulkan sind besonders und wir haben deshalb einen zweiten Tag dort verbracht, bevor wir nach Quito weiter fuhren. Eine Übernachtung bei Gerd im Hostal Zentrum ist interessant, wenn auch laut, wenn man im Dachzelt schläft und nicht in einem seiner Zimmer.

Our next overnight stop was the campsite at Cuello de Luna, Swiss owned and attended by Adrian with 3 large St.Bernhard dogs. Volcano Cotopaxi was not yet visible on our arrival and we hoped for clear weather.

While cleaning our vehicle next morning, we discovered that a mouse had joined us in our vehicle – and despite our best efforts, we could not catch it (a nuisance for the next three weeks until only poison proved to be a solution). The weather cleared and our afternoon drive took us to the parking below the refuge at the foot of Cotopaxi -one of the most beautiful volcanos. Cotopaxi errupted last in 2015 and grey ash still covers the glacier while smoke is still emitted.

On the next day the weather was even more perfect and visibility very clear while we again decided to visit the park and we took time to drive a circular scenic route in the park observing Cotopaxi from different angles and enjoying the flora. Again we were delighted that there were no entrance fees into this park.

Camping inside this nature area is also permitted at designated spots -well worth it if there is little or no wind, however we did not make use of the opportunity and remained at Cuella de Luna.

Our route then took us via Rumipamba and Sangolqui to the capital Quito, where we camped in the city at Hostal Zentrum run by the German Gerd -85yrs and full of interesting stories -offering the best breakfast imaginable. Gerd emigrated to Ecuador at the age of 72yrs and started the hostal then. Hostal Zentrum is conveniently close to the city – however, sleeping in our rooftop tent proved to be noisy due to the busy street.

Be aware of your vehicle’s height -ours just fitted in.

Excursions took us to the old city, grande plaza, saw the golden La Compania church and took the teleferico cableway up to the high viewpoint over Quito, quite spectacular.

Pity we did not have a view of the surrounding volcanos due to cloud cover, but we had clear views of the city and the old town section.

A visit to the president’s palace in Quito on the Plaza de Armas is possible and was interesting: it is where the cabinet operates from and where the official residence is. All official gifts from different countries are on display and form part of the nations heritage.

Our trip concluded with visits to the cathedral and Virgen del Panecillo.

Leaving Quito we headed for Otavalo with its interesting craft markets.

This post covers the period 23rd to 28th August 2016

Peru 4: Rainbow Mountains Arco Iris

A visit to the Arco Iris mountain is a new destination from Cusco and not yet listed in most travel guides -but well worth making the effort.

Leider kam die Zeit des Abschieds von Uwe und Almut. Wir hatten eine schöne Zeit zusammen bis Cusco -aber die Zeit drängte und sie mussten wieder zurück bis Montevideo und dann nach Kapstadt. Wir reisten weiter und die Regenbogen Berge waren das nächste Ziel.

On 9th July Uwe and Almut Harms started their return journey to Montevideo whereas we drove to the Rainbow Mountains with Bernd and Marion Frauendorfer from Hamburg,whom we had met in Cusco at Quinta Lala.

This sight is not very well documented but has become very popular. Turn off at Pitumarca to get there. There is no camping site and touring busses leave Cusco very early to arrive at the trails starting point at sunrise. If you travel with your own 4×4 transport it is possibly to wild camp up at 4280m and then leave next morning to hike the 6km up to 4800m to see this spectacular mountain Cerro Colorado.

The camping spot is below Ausangate with its glacier 6384m visible from camping spot at the coordinates S13.52.378 W071.14.515.

Be well prepared as the temperatures reach -5degrees or lower during the night.

The trek is strenuous due to the altitude and the low temperatures in the morning but a very scenic hike. Some decide to go on horseback, but beware of altitude sickness if you are not already well adapted, as the horseride covers the change in altitude too quickly for some recently arrived tourists.

We were elated to finally stand on top of this colourful formation.

Bolivia 3: Salar de Uyuni

Wenn es in Bolivien eine Sehenswürdigkeit gibt, welche wir uns nicht entgehen lassen wollten, so ist es der Salar de Uyuni – ein riesen Salzsee. Je nach Lichtverhältnissen gibt sich dieser See anders und ist u.A. auch Ziel der Dakar Rallye gewesen mit Übernachtung im Salzhotel.

Der Salar liegt kurz ausserhalb des Städtchen Uyuni, wo wir am Lokomotiven Friedhof übernachtet haben bei entsprechend tiefen Temperaturen, welche in diesem Gebiet herrschen.

Close to Uyuni is the train cementary with many steam locomotives from an bygone era. Here we camped, fortunately we found a small shelter where we managed to prepare supper – the temperature dropped and the wind picked up -the night dropped to -6 deg C.

Next day we drove to Isla Incahuasi on the Salar de Uyuni. This island is in the middle of the salar and is speckled with cacti reaching 6-7m. At the island a salt hotel has been erected which became part of the Dakar.

It was an experience to camp on a nearby island with an ice cold, clear night sky.

The next morning we enjoyed to view the various crystal formations on the salar and took time out to collect some clean salt and to enjoy the vast expanse of this unique sight.

We then took the road south to the region of the different lakes toward the Chilean border.


Preparation and Shipping

Als Teil der Vorbereitung haben wir für 3 Monate ein Spanisch Kursus bei José Hares von der Latin Connection belegt – wird es helfen uns in dieser Sprache ab Mai zurecht zu finden? 

The day to containerise the vehicle arrived on Wednesday 23rd of March, all going well we should receive them in Montevideo on the 10th of May. The ship “Cap Cortes” will take the containers to Santos in Brasil from where they get transhipped to Montevideo in Uruguay (www.marine is a site that allows easy tacking of a ship from port to port) . Until such time that the vehicles were driven into the Hi-cube container, we weren’t sure that the height would fit – worst case, we would have to take the all boxes on top down. Once in the container, could we still get out of the driver door? As it turned out, this was not possible and the exit through the back was the only way out – luckily we had designed the vehicle so that we can sleep inside in extreme weather conditions where we cannot open the roof tent. There was just enough height for us to crawl through.

For extra protection of the vehicles we added inflatable dunnage bags – for this the container had to be moved through the terminal at SACD in Cape Town to get to a compressed air supply connection- better would have been to bring a compressor along. Once in the container, all the battery connections had to be disconnected. Tanks have to be near empty ( less than quarter) for fire safety aboard ship. We felt great relief once the seal was in place and we aim to witness its removal at destination. Overall shipping duration Cape Town to Montevideo is just over six weeks.


Customs, Carnets, Clearing

Das WIE und mit WEM / How and with whom

Da wir niemanden kennen, der sein Wagen von Südafrika nach Südamerika verschifft hat, blieben bei uns viele Fragen offen: Export und re-import, Carnet gebrauchen oder nicht, welchen Spediteur und welchen Agenten in Uruguay?

It took us a few months to establish what the easiest route would be: forget all talk about export/import, ITAC, SARS etc. Get a Carnet from the AAofSA(Automobil Association of SA), pay your deposit and carnet fees (which depend on vehicle value) and find a suitable agent. In our quest we only came across two logistics companies that we felt comfortable with: CTC Worldwide Logistics and JH Logistics.

Shipping the vehicles to South America

Verschiffung / getting the vehicles to the starting point

In welches Land sollten wir die Wagen verschiffen? Nach einiger Recherche wurde uns klar, dass Montevideo in Uruguay die einzige gute Wahl sein würde.

Once we had decided to tour South America (SoAm) the question was how to get vehicle to where. We investigated several options including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela. The more we read and the more we investigated, the clearer it became that from South Africa the best option is Montevideo in Uruguay. Less corruption we were told and better organised.

The next question had been as to how: by ship, in a 40ft container of the Hicube type – this should accommodate both vehicles if we planned it carefully.

Welcome to our travel blog / willkommen auf unserem blog

Vorfreude ist die beste Freude. 12 Monate auf dem südamerikanischen Kontinent per Geländewagen zu reisen – unser Traum wird wahr.

To prepare a trip of approx a year on a continent with which we are not familiar has taken us a little longer than anticipated. For this reason our blog is late to make its appearance and we are only now learning how to set it up . Today is the day.

With our flight leaving on the 6th of May, it leaves us limited time to post some of the information we have gathered. We shall try to take you along on this journey over the coming 12 months.