After leaving Punte del Este we skipped out Montevideo (will see this when we come back to fly back home from BuenosAires) and went to the old city of Colonia del Sacramento
. There is a large Swiss influence in this area, and there is even a town close by called Nueva Helvecia (New Switzerland) where they keep up Swiss traditions. Colonia was founded by Portuguese settlers from Brasil in 1680 and it was a centre for smuggling British goods across the Rio de la Plata into the Spanish colonies during the 17th century. It is a lovely little place with narrow, cobbled, plane tree-lined streets, and lovely old buildings. It has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. From there we went up the north-west of Uruguay, to thermal baths called Dayman, near a town called Salto. The vast network of pools that are the tourist attraction for that area ( different pools all over that part) were very disappointing, a bit rundown, but we found a nice campsite and chilled for 2 nights. At Salto Grande Dam we crossed the border, over the River Uruguay into Concordia, Argentina. We then headed for a National Park called Parque Nacional el Palmar. It was beautiful, as we were right on the Uruguay River, with Uruguay on the other side. At night the Vizcachas came out of their communal burrows (vizcachateras) and hopped around the campsite... They grunt noisily all night, carrying bits of wood into their burrows, chasing around, and eating the grass...Amazing little animals! They are the chinchilla family, and have 2 black bands across their face. During the day, big lizards walk around camp, looking for warmth from the sun. It must have been the "shedding" season as they were walking around with skin still attached to them, with beautiful bright colours
. And lots of lovely birds...We stayed there for 2 nights. So much of what we have seen of Argentina is so familiar - same kind of landscape/agriculture/architecture as SA. And the shops and service stations are all well-stocked with recognisable things! Things are much cheaper here than in Brasil and Uruguay...especially petrol! The Argentinians love to braai, so we are feeling quite at home! Every campsite has braai places, and the meat is also cheap. In the campsite in the palm park, day trippers came and set up their braais! After the park we set out to a campsite north of Rosario that we had seen on a camping site on the Internet. Rosario is a huge city (Che Guevara's birthplace) and we drove along the most amazing viaduct through the delta of the ParanŠ River - 75 kilometres of bridges/road. But this wasn't a good day for us.... On entering the viaduct there was a police block! We got pulled over and they decided that our number plate was hidden so we would have to pay a 800 pesos fine (about R850). After driving all through North and South America, this was really galling for us. No-one spoke English, so Andy went into their little roadside office, and got onto Babel translate on their computer..... Well after a good 3/4 hour, he came back and said that it looked like we just had to pay. So he went back to the office with his credit card (decided to say that we didn't have the cash on us, as it just felt like a bit of a scam!). At this stage they then said that because we were foreigners we didn't have to pay..
. All very suspicious! We were then getting much later than we wanted to be. Our GPS took us to the campsite that we had chosen, only to find it deserted, in the middle of nowhere, and more of a sports facility place! We then proceeded to drive to another 3 campsites that weren't campsites. By now we were a little desperate as it was getting dark and we were very tired. We eventually got to a little town called San Nicolas de los Arroyas, with a campsite listed on the GPS . We got there, and it definitely wasn't a campsite. It was another sports facility... But the man in charge was just fantastic. He said that we could stay there, introduced us to all his workers (2 lifeguards, a nurse, the night-watchman and various others) and bought us a beer.... They were all enthralled with us setting up our camper right there... So while they were looking on with admiration, I missed my footing out of the camper and landed on the ground, very inelegantly.... Got huge contusions on my thigh, and was generally very achy and sore....!!!!! Josť Louis (the sports ground manager) then took us to see the cathedral in town, and then home to his house, where his wife produced lovely cheese and salami, and more beer. So kind... But we were absolutely exhausted, and it is quite tiring having to try and understand Spanish, and talk... My Spanish seems to be getting worse instead of better, but Andy seems to be improving! ( maybe he is just following Richard Nurse's formula that they used in Italy... "When in doubt, just say si..!") Anyway, it was another lovely memory that we shall treasure. This is why we prefer the small towns...Off now to Buenos Aires, and will return to our campsite in Lujan on Monday..
Lots to catch up on, and not much time.....(Wifi connection has been very iffy for the last couple of days)We are now just outside (NW) of Buenos Aires. We are camping at a little Eco-friendly campsite near the town of Lujan. Lujan has an amazing neo-gothic cathedral, and it is a place of pilgrimage for devout Catholics throughout Argentina. The town was just full of busses bringing in worshippers... We went into town almost by mistake, as we were looking for a supermarket.....and suddenly came upon the cathedral quite by chance! Tomorrow we are going from here, into Lujan (about 9 kms) to catch a bus into Buenos Aires (about 60kms away). We plan to explore the city for 2 days, and it is easier to leave the vehicle at the campsite. So looking forward to this little trip into town!