Summa Summarum - Our first 12 months in South America (English)

Summa Summarum - Our first 12 months in South America (English)

January
From 18.01.2017 - Uruguay - Argentina
Our journey began on 18 January 2017, like most Swiss-travelers, at the Zurich Airport. We flew to Uruguay, Montevideo. After a few days in the hotel, on the 24.01, together with our shipping partners Andrea and Roland (https://bonjourn.al/journal/62308-neugiereise-2017) we were able to free their VW bus and we our VW T3 bus Lola from the container! What a great feeling to be a threesome again. (Lola was already shipped in Basel in mid-December). We drove to our first camp site "Paraizo Suizo" to get ready to travel, organize and stow everything. Later we went by ferry to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thus, also the first border crossing (as there were no officials present at our border crossing, our shipping agent was only now able to log out Lola officially out of the Uruguayan border control after almost a year ;-).
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February
02.2017 - Argentina - (Chile)
In Bahia Blanca for the first time we were overwhelmed by the hospitality in South America; Andrea & Sebastian invited us to their home, cooked for us and let us spend the night in their home. On 10.02 we drove already over the 1000km mark on the Ruta 3. We visited the Peninsula Valdes, enjoyed the wildlife and celebrated there the Valentine's Day (In addition we drove there the first very, very bumpy kilometers with Lola) Further south we drove along the coast the Ruta Provincial 1 to Cabo Raso. There we made friends with Lorena & Albert from Spain (www.fugados.es) and enjoyed wonderful days on the coast. In Caleta Olivia we could observe sea lions only 2m away. What an experience! Another 750km south, we met by luck, again Lorena & Albert. Together we explored the National Park Monte Leon and its animal inhabitants. On the way, they decided to come with us to the "end of the world". So, we went together with the ferry on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. We also drove a part in Chile (so two border crossings) on the way to Ushuaia.
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March
03.2017 - Chile - Argentina
So, we drove togehter down to Ushuaia. There, in Lapataia also ends the Ruta 3 after 3079km. Thus, we passed the 3000km mark, but we took the last kilometers on foot. A great feeling to stand at the end of this street, which has accompanied us since Buenos Aires again and again. The view in direction to the Antarctic simply had something incredibly mystical. We enjoyed the lonely and beautiful landscape on numerous hikes in the National Park Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia impressed us with this unique location and left its mark to this day. After the cloudy days, even the sun came out on the last day. Almost as if she wanted to say a final word; "Come back, we always welcome you."
Conclusion: In 36 days we covered about 5000km from Montevideo to Ushuaia! Of which about 650km gravel road
Small History: Ushuaia is the southernmost city in Argentina and is located on the Beagle Channel. The word "Ushuaia" comes from the language of the natives Yámana and means something like "Bay looking East". Ushuaia competes with Chile's Puerto Williams on the island of Navarino for the title of being the southernmost city in the world.
On 06.03, while waiting for the ferry, the name Lola came to mind for our van ;-) In Punta Arenas (now we were in Chile) we parted ways. For us the trip continued to Puerto Natales and then into the insanely beautiful National Park Torres del Paine. We spent there 3 beautiful and sunny days with very little wind (which is very rare). In Argentina, the famous Ruta 40 led us to the Glaciar Perito Moreno. On the way Lola already reached the 300'000km mark! Many many kilometers, at just under 30 years, but still in the best age! The glacier attracted us the whole day and impressed us deeply. Ten days later, on the 30th of March our trip ended abruptly in a fiasco (La Odisea) on the Ruta 40 shortly before Commodoro Costa.
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April
04.2017 - Argentina
"La Odisea" looked like this: On 30.03 on the Ruta 40 came a road construction of about 14km. We decided to drive despite rain. (At that time we didn`t know yet that it was the third day in a row with continuous rain.) After a short time, it was bad (muddy and deep water fords) Then it happened. At one point, the water was difficult to estimate, so Fabian took off his shoes and socks and waded barefoot through the ice-cold water: Should go. So, we drove off, through the "ford" and then our drove ended apruptly :-( Nothing worked more, fear and the question "Why did we drive through here?" came up.) Jeah, we know that water does the engine not that good. The first truck we stopped and he then pulled us willingly to a site headquarters. (It was just horrible of being pulled through the deep mud without being able to intervene.) From there, a service vehicle pulled us on, kindly to the next town Gobernador Costa. The garage tried everything, but they could not fix it. First diagnosis: "Entrada de agua por admision rotura valvulas", simple meaning: water in the engine. So we contacted Claudia and Klaus in El Bolson (www.abgefahren.info). A family from Germany who emigrated there and with whose help we got the car insurance.
Short after, the transport was organized. We felt dejected and drained, in addition to the constant rain falling down on us. Don Vincente came with his tow truck and loaded up our Lola. Shortly after the city came another construction site, almost worse than further down. At least here it would have stopped us one way or another. Even our towing driver said that was a huge odyssey. (Therefore the name :-) On 1.April then the all-deciding answer: engine must be removed and get fixed. Engine failure! Duration of the whole: about two weeks. For this time we could stay with Klaus and Claudia and help them on the farm. Together with Alex, also a traveler from Germany, and other campers we cut down bushes and trees to enlarge the fields for the sheeps. The engine was repaired in Bariloche. With the help of Udo and Birgit from Germany, who also camped on the farm at the moment, we picked up the engine in Bariloche on the 12.04. Then, we were finally able to pick up the bus on Monday 17.04. What a feeling to be able to drive Lola again! Indescribable! We were able to experience the Argentine autumn, there on the farm, from its beautiful side, with wonderful weather, sun and pleasant temperatures. It was a beautiful, interesting and instructive time that stuck in our memory.
On 21.04 we finally drove off, a few days to the south, to see if everything works. Therefore, we drove to the National Park P.N. Los Alerces. The route led along lakes, as well as through beautiful forests, always up and down. A good test track for our Lola. After five successful "Test Drive Days" around the area, we drove back to El Bolson to make the first oil change. After that we were finally READY for our further adventures. The following days we spent in the beautiful region "7 Lagos" around Bariloche, among others in the National Park P.N. Nahuel Huapi. So ended a nerve-racking and very instructive month.
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Mai
05.2017 - (Argentina) - Chile
Seamlessly to the previous national park followed the P.N. Lanin. There we met Claudia and Martin (www.viaje.ch) from Switzerland. With them we spent a wonderful time, the conversation reached deep into the night ;-) Later, we felt tiny when we drove to the impressive and beautiful volcano Lanin. Shortly after, we changed our travel course and the Paso Pino Hachado finally led us to Chile. On 08.05 we celebrated Lola`s 30.Birthday. Thank you dear Lola for letting us drive around so far with you. We drove on the Ruta del Mar along the coast and finally the famous Ruta 5, the Panamericana, up to Santiago. On 20/21.05 we were invited to a VW club meeting. There we also met Cristina and José (www.cactusontheroad.com) from Spain. At Don Alberto in Santiago, we ordered new springs and the engine was finally set right (since El Bolson). Now Lola had power again! On the coast, in Vina del Mar, we were again invited by a family to lunch in Quilpué, they had two daughters and a small son. (Of course, with "obligatory" stay in theyr home:-) Next, it was now along the coast to the north.
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Juni
06.2017 - Chile - (Argentina)
We made a detour to the nature reserve R.N. Las Chinchillas and enjoyed the cute chinchillas and the countless, sometimes huge cacti. Back in Santiago, we drove back to the mechanic on 08.06. Meanwhile, the ordered springs from North America arrived (The "rumble" which we have falsely dismissed since Ushuaia (for almost 7200km!) as the sliding around of the gas bottles, turned out to be something completely different (and more seriously), it was one broken spring! ...). Thus, Lola was raised back to normal height, the turbo and the diesel pump also had to be revised. The air supply to the air filter was also restored (unfortunately, no one had previously discovered that the connection piece was missing ...). Meanwhile, we had enough time to make Santiago unsafe. (FunFact: We are now, as we write this, back in the region around Santiago, half a year later) The weather delayed our departure again, because the pass was closed due to snowfall. Therefore, we drove on 27.06 "finally" again. On it went to Argentina!
The next day we drove over the 3200m.a.s.l. Pass Cristo Redentor. Everything ran fine until about 2200m.a.s.l. A hissing, black smoke and Lola lost speed and power. We could hardly believe that something should be broken again! As no oil and water dripped, we drove on. Lola managed the 30 or so turns in the second gear anyway. We sprinkled Lola with snow for celebrating:-) After a grueling ride for our nerves and for Lola, we finally arrived in Mendoza after 200km. Fabian immediately checked the engine. Luckily it was only a hose lose at the turbo. Then everything was ok again, no noise and the most important, again strength!
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July
07.2017 - Argentina
In Argentina, a lonely, yet great landscape awaited us. While looking for a place to sleep we even managed to get stuck in the sand. In this desert-like heat in a canyon, we found finally a wonderful place. In Catamarca we "redeemed" our invitation to the Juan family. After those beautiful days we continued to the Tafi del Valle and drove there our first 3000m pass with a wonderful valley view. In Cafayate we met Chris and Silvia from Switzerland. We continued north on the R9, our destination was to get to Humahuaca. The ride took us to the RP68. It was a picturesque, impressive area with many red rocks, gorges and red desert sand. (Quebrada de las Conchas) In Yala we drove up to the Lagunas an extremely steep gravel road. First worries about Lola's health (in fact overheating or a hoax?). When we finally arrived in Humahuaca, we had our coldest night so far. -12.6C on 3000m.a.sl. The next day we wanted to go to the "14 colores", unfortunately without success. The gravel road was too rough and too steep. When driving down already one of the new shock absorbers got broken. On 18.07 in Purmamarca, we celebrated our half-year anniversary, also we visited here the "7 colores". Because we had enough of the cold, we decided to drive to Paraguay instead of Bolivia. It went straight line through dry, flat landscape. On 24.07 in Pres. de la Plaza, we have been half a year with Lola in South America! (16070km, of which 1054km gravel road)
One has on travel often too little time to process everything and let it sink in. We had to slow-down again and again and make aware of what we have already experienced, seen and stood through together. In the province of Misiones we enjoyed the green scenery again. On a camping on the river Parana we spent wonderful days and visited the Yacyreta Dam in Ituzaingo.
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August
08.2017 Argentina, (Brasil), Paraguay
In San Ignacio Mini we visited a former Jesuit mission, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was very impressive to see these ruins, especially what is left after three years of war. Next we drove via Obera to El Soberbio. There we drove to the Mocona waterfalls. Those are/should be 3km long, so the widest in the world. On the way to the Iguazu Falls, we hiked to the Salto Encantado, visited in Montecarlo an orchid museum (unfortunately almost no flowers bloomed) and a matefactory. We also started to drink mate (is drunk in Argentina, Chlie and Brazil as much as our coffee and has aswell caffeine in it). On 09/10.08 we visited the Iquazu Falls of the Argentine side and on 15.08 finally the Brazilian side. We can not put the impressions into words ... Indescribable how much water there rushes into the depths every day ... And this immense size, length and height, it is difficult to understand this with the human mind... As a human being, you feel very inconspicuous and tiny and we were awestruck by the tremendous forces of nature... In Argentina we made a wonderful full moon tour to the Garganta del Diabolo. In Brazil we booked a helicopter tour; Iguazu from above. Just indescribable. No words needed... Just incredibly great! We left the falls with a heart full of beautiful memories and a camera full of impressions. The next day we visited the nearby "Parque Das Aves." WOW, very beautiful! To see so many different birds up close, drinking coconut water in the nature, lunch under the palm trees. In addition to birds, it also had snakes, butterflies, turtles, crocodiles and hummingbirds. Then finally we visited the Itaipu dam, the second largest hydropower plant in the world, located just on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. It was just stunning engineering! After the impressive tour we drove to Paraguay, directly to the city of Ciudad del Este. We fought our way through the chaos-city to the campsite. In the evening we met Max from Argentina (www.despertarviajando.com) he even came to town with us the next day and helped us get there ;-) Together we spent great days with delicious food. On 22.08-10.09 we made at the campsite Hasta la Pasta in Paraguay a break from the trip. Great sanitary facilities, a pool for refreshment, playful dogs, delicious dinners from Marion and René with homemade pasta, wonderful sunsets and a blooming early spring made these almost 3 weeks an unforgettable time. Many thanks to Marion (DE) and René (CH) for this unforgettable stay.
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September
09.2017 Paraguay, Brasil, (Bolivia)
In Asuncion we finally replaced all our tires. A loving and refreshing encounter there was Helmut from Germany, who seemed to us, he knew the whole world and probably already has seen. We continued south to Encarnacion, where Coni's hair changed from long to short. What she wanted to do for a long time. We also had new stickers printed there. In Trinidad we finally visited another Jesuit mission. North of Ciudad del Este we went back to Brazil.
It got really humid-hot on the way to the South-Pantanal. In Bonito, we were "disturbed" by a flock of monkeys while eating breakfast at Camping do Gordo. At the Rio Formoso we watched toucans and macaws and snorkelled with fish.
Finally, on 23.09 we were in the South-Pantanal, walked on the footsteps of the wild boars, capibaras, caimans and the countless birds (unfortunately we did not seen a jaguar). Nevertheless, great nature and wildlife and over 60 wooden bridges! (Luckily in very good condition.) In Corumba, on the border to Bolivia, we met Petra and Pascal from Switzerland (FB: Piratehund on the Road), and Diego the owner of the Road Rider Hostal. It were a few great days of relaxation before we finally went to Bolivia on 28.09. In Cotoca, we discovered sweet, sloths in the trees at the Plaza.
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October
10.2017 - Boliva
In Santa Cruz we met Gabi and Marco from Switzerland (www.travelers.ch). Together, we set off to visit Bolivia. In Buena Vista we discovered a Swiss cheese factory and stock up ourselves there with delicious cheese and raclette! On 05.10 we finally drove up from Villa Tunari (300m.a.s.l). After a short drive we found out that we have now a hole in the exhaust, we then drove leisurely ever further up, without any additional problems. Lola mastered this 3000 meters in 100km without problems in second gear with an average speed of 30km/h. That's what you call an incline! At 3300m.a.s.l. we finally stayed overnight at the Lake Corani. First physical signs were noticeable; slight dizziness and headache as well as weakness. Nevertheless, we were incredibly grateful to finally arrive up here and that caused Lola no problems. We went on to Cochabamba, Lola got a small "Fine-Tuning" for the height and we enjoyed a delicious Swiss / Bolivian raclette. On 09.10 after a couple of altitude adjustment days for our bodies, we tackled our second pass up to over 4500m. Lola purred like a kitten (which sounded cold, because the said hole ;-). Finally, on the Altiplano, we continued via Oruro, Poopo to the Salar de Uyuni. On the way the meteorite crater Jayu Quta and the countless lamas impressed us.
From 14.-17.10 we enjoyed wonderful and indescribable days on the incredible salt lake Salar de Uyuni and could hardly get enough of the sunsets. It was an unforgettable experience for us all. In Uyuni, we spent the next few days reviewing the past time together. Ate together lunch and dinner, strolled through the great local market, enjoyed smoothies and let the wonderful 3 weeks end with Gabi and Marco.
Finally, on the 20th of October, we said goodbye to the two, they started the lagoon route. A wonderful natural route took us after visiting the "train cemetery" via Potosi to Sucre, the White City. There we visited friends from Switzerland who live there and could thus enjoy the beautiful city through an insider's view ;-) Aswell as history and introduction in the museum. Meet new travel friends at the campsite: Vincent, Nathalie and Léa from Elsas, near Basel (www.horizonsinconnus.com). After these great five days we went back the same way to Potosi and then a very exhausting Altiplano route that gone over various mountain ranges, and 4000m levels. Always at heights of 4000 - 4300m. Crazy :-) Due to these extreme gradients we needed for the distance of 260km until shortly before Chapalla almost 8h. (plus/minus breaks). In the end, we were welcomed by an almost dry lagoon with some flamingos.
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November
11.2017 Boliva, Peru, (Chile)
We spent 10 days in El Alto and La Paz. Special was the longest cable car in the world, called "Teleferica". We strolled through the narrow streets, either steeply up or steeply down. In addition, we visited the largest and highest market, the Feria 16 de Julio in El Alto, unbelievable ... So many stalls, people... Crazy... In La Paz we had an annual check at the mechanic and various work for Lola was taken care of. Then we made a detour to the National Park P.N. Sajama, with the wonderful volcano Sajama 6542m (the highest mountain in Bolivia). Impressive drive through the park always with a view of the impressive volcano. On Coni's birthday we went to Copacabana. With the raft over the Lake Titicaca (it was a bit a queasy feeling ...). Besides, who can claim to have talked to his mother on Lake Titicaca on his birthday? ;-) Copacabana we could explore well on foot and had a great view of the town on the small hill. On the Sunday after, we went by boat to the Isla del Sol, the sun island.
Conclusion Bolivia: This country has fascinated us with all its facets, through its varied and beautiful landscapes and contrasts. We traveled much longer than expected to see as much as possible of nature and its inhabitants. Yes, the altitude does not make it easy, the driving is exhausting, the air thin and driving in La Paz is the hell for a 30-year-old VW bus. But all in all, Bolivia impressed us positively, the more that we got one of the most loving travel friends!... We will definitely come back! (Total we drove 3700km of it 300km unpaved road)
On 20.11 was the border crossing to Peru. We stayed at a peninsula on Lake Titicaca in front of Puno and spent two lonely days there. We drove on towards Arequipa and reached our highest voyage of our journey; Crucero Alto 4528m. In Arequipa there was a reunion with Gabi and Marco, together we spent three great days. But the sea called us and - after almost 2 months at about 3000m.a.s.l. - we liked to be back to "normal" height. We enjoyed the beaches, the sound of the sea and the coast rides very much. After just 10 days in Peru, we reached Chilean ground again on 29.11 and marveled outside of Arica, the strange sculptures "Presencia Tutelares" in the desert sand.
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December
12.2017 - Chile
We visited the former saltpetre mining town "Humberstone". It was very impressive to see this very well-preserved city and stroll through it, we felt almost like the Wild West. We left the R5 and reached Iquique, the beautiful city between huge sand dunes and the sea and then drove along the R1. Followed by more beach and coastal days. On 07.12 we took a slow drive to Calama and then to San Pedro de Atacama. In the Valle de la Luna we really felt like on the moon. It was followed by an impressive Salar de Atacama with breathtaking lagoons and great animal observations. (And very salty ;-) At the campsite in San Pedro de Atacama we met Caro and Hifi, from Switzerland (www.gufligers.ch). Early in the morning we did a guided tour to the Geysers del Tatio, wonderful natural spectacle. Back in Calama, we made a detour to the beautiful and quiet Laguna Inca Coya in Chiu Chiu. Afterwards we visited the largest man-made hole in the earth. The copper mine Chuquicamata. Such huge trucks drive past you, that you feel like an ant ... In Antofagasta we met again Ute and Jens from Germany, which we know since the camping in Paraguay. In the National Park P.N. Pan de Azucar we enjoyed the peace and solitude on the coast. Near Copiapo we discovered a small leak at the gearbox, which took longer to fix than expected. In the National Park P.N. Llanos del Challa we spent Christmas alone on the quiet coast and celebrated Fabian`s birthday. At La Serena, in the green Valle de Elqui, famous for the pisco production, we enjoyed wonderful last days in 2017 and a very cozy New Year's Eve. Thus, we left our wonderful travel year 2017 behind us and looked forward to more great experiences in 2018.
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January
01.2018 - Chile
After the relaxing days and the beginning of the new year in Valle de Elqui, we drove back to the coast again. However, we soon turned away from the Ruta 5 and drove through wonderful, idyllic valleys with vineyards, reservoirs, great places to stay and unfortunately also a lot of garbage... Then we knew a lot, from the last visit 6 months ago, Santiago de Chile and surroundings, so there were 500km Highway/Panamericana R5, petrol stations and rest stops for us. On 15.01 in Los Angeles we finally drove back to nature; To the P.N. Laguna del Laja. At the volcano Antuco, overlooking Lake Laja, we once again enjoyed the peace and nature. And we celebrated our year traveling. Coni tried this month to make bread, which was pretty good. Fabian built and installed our new water tank, which is now ready for use. Showering with water warmed by the sun. Great :-)
Resume the last travel year, that was the main occupation this month. So; to look again at our wonderful, eventful year and to summarize our journey.
In one year (24.01.17 - 24.01.18) we drove around 29400km, of which almost 1700 unpaved roads. In addition, we passed a total of 12 border crossings.
We really enjoyed being here in nature. It was wonderful to drive through this lake landscape and the green suroundings. The volcanoes always accompanied us everywhere. A highlight was also the new friendship with a lovely Brazilian family, Liam and Letícia with Kalel.
We drove many, many kilometers along the Highway R5, the Panamericana, could largely avoid the holiday guests in the tourist stronghold Pucon, enjoyed the peace in the National Park P.N. Villarica, spent a few days at the lakes Lago Calafquen and Lago Pullinque, looked up to the impressive volcano Villarica and saw from afar the wonderful volcano Lanin and visited the river town Valdivia.

We hope you enjoyed accompanying us through the eventful year. For a short feedback we would be very happy :-)
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