Overlanders of the class of 2014, use love motels. If we could offer you only one tip for your trip, love motels would be it.
The long term benefits of a warm bed and clean shower have been proved by couples whereas the rest of our advice has no basis more reliable than our own Panamerican experience…
We will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your 4Runner. But never mind, you will not understand the power and beauty of a V8 until one ignition coil fails.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of your car and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much road lay before you and how tanned you really looked….
Your Spanish is not as bad as you imagine.
Don’t worry about where you are going to spend the night; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to create a cool breeze in your tent with an empty box of cereal. The real troubles on your trip are apt to be things that no single blog mentions; the kind that leave you with no bags or shoes at 10am on some idle Sunday.
Do one thing everyday outside your comfort zone.
Don’t be reckless with street vendors, don’t put up with people who jump on your car “to help you cross a border”.
Don’t waste your time on trying to overtake a Mexican bus; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the Panamerican Highway is long, and in the end, you’ll get to Argentina anyway.
Remember the sunset over the Pacific, forget the time you threw up in your car. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your Visa, throw away your American Express.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know the difference between a taco and a burrito. Most food you will eat will be in small comedors and feature lots of rice. The best food you will eat will have an unpronounceable name and be grilled over an open fire.
Make plenty of blog posts.
Be kind to your shock absorbers, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll have a hot shower, probably you won’t, maybe you’ll find wifi, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll sleep in a parking lot next to the highway tonight…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your GPS, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own..
Make love… even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own rooftop tent.
Read a travel guide, even if you don’t plan to use it.
Do NOT ignore speed bumps, they will tear your suspension apart otherwise.
Get to know strange animals, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.
Be nice to the man holding the stamp; he is the most powerful man in the universe and the person most likely to tamper with your frustration levels.
Understand that border crossings come and go, but a precious few you will never forget. Work hard to collect copies of every document you have because the further you get, the more documents need to be copied and stapled together.
Drive in Panama City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Drive in Death Valley once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths:, bugs will fly up your nose, toilet seats will disappear, you too will lower your standards. And when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were home you had a clean bathroom, bugs were half the size and drivers yielded to traffic at roundabouts.
Yield to everyone at roundabouts.
Don’t expect petrol stations to have petrol. Maybe you have a large fuel tank, maybe you have an extra jerry can; but you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with immigration officers’ lunch breaks, because instead of half an hour to cross the border, it will take you five.
Stand your ground with police officers looking for a bribe, but be patient with those who are genuinely trying to help you.
Don’t stress if you get pulled over by the police five times a day, it will make you feel safer in the end, you can have a small chat and continue to Keep Calm and Drive South.
But trust us on the love motels…
Merry Christmas and an adventurous 2014!
Marijke & Patrick
After a long night in the airport hotel, a (very) small breakfast was served in the restaurant next door. It wasn’t much more than coffee, tea, a piece of old toast and some greasy croissants. We watched a bit of tv to kill some time before noon. We took a taxi from the hotel back to the airport (it took us a quick 7 minutes as opposed to yesterday’s half hour joy ride).
Although ‘Ministro Pistarini’ airport is a lot bigger than Montevideo’s space ship, the dining options are equally limited. We had a dry sandwich and salad for lunch and then proceeded to the check-in. Our ticket was fully paid for with air miles (all those flights to Munich finally paid off), but we did make a change in our reservation a few weeks ago. As it turned out, we had a valid booking but no tickets for some reason. We had to wait for an hour and Patrick had to go to a small room behind the check-in desks to negotiate our way onto the plane. Everything was okay in the end – even our 50kg luggage went through. We cleared security and customs and collected our last stamps – and then bought some M&M’s with our remaining Argentine pesos.
We boarded the Boeing 747 airplane around 5:00pm – only to find out that because of the booking-ticket confusion we did not have seats next to each other. Through some airline miracle, Patrick had a empty seat next to him and Marijke could switch seats easily.
I would love to say that the 13 hours went by quickly, but it still is a very long flight. We arrived in Frankfurt at 11:00am and an hour later we were on the way to Brussels! Patrick’s father was kind enough to pick us up and drove us to our house. It was a great feeling to be back home.
And with that, our grand adventure came to an end! Thank you dear blog reader for your great comments… we had a lot of fun with the blog and we will release our ‘greatest hits’ post in the near future.
If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium
If it’s Wednesday this must be Rome
If it’s Thursday this must be Montreal
I fear I never wanna go home
As all good stories, also this story must come to an end… Today was the day we packed up all our stuff and headed for our first plane connection from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. We spent the morning in the sunshine of Montevideo’s ‘Ciudad Vieja’. It was a beautiful Sunday morning with people walking and jogging on the boardwalk. Around noon we looked for the bus that would take us back to Carrasco and our bags. After 10 minutes we figured out the bus system and then waited at the correct bus stop. The bus picked us up and an hour later we picked up our bags and headed to the airport/space ship.
We arrived at the brand new Montevideo airport much too early – but the air conditioning was a nice bonus. We spent our last Uruguayan pesos on McDonald’s (we didn’t have enough pesos left for the fancy airport restaurant). Our bags (slightly overweight but that was okay) were checked in and rolled down the belt into the belly of the airport beast.
All my bags are packed I’m ready to goI’m standin’ here outside your doorI hate to wake you up to say goodbyeBut the dawn is breakin’ it’s early mornThe taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowin’ his hornAlready I’m so lonesome I could die
With the car sold, we finally took some time to explore Montevideo, the largest city and capital of Uruguay. One third of the population of Uruguay lives in Montevideo – and 14 out of 16 football teams in the Primera Division are from Montevideo. We took the bus from Carrasco to the Plaza de la Independencia and walked around the colourful town.
We had lunch at the ‘Mercado del Puerto’ – a covered market dedicated to the art of grilling meat.The fire was blazing in the middle – and the best Uruguayan cuts of meat were barbecued to perfection. We had some tapas and a brochette and sat at the bar looking at the action.
In the afternoon we walked around the ‘Ciudad Vieja’ and enjoyed the summer sun. It won’t be long before we are on an airplane heading home, so we are enjoying any sunshine we can get still. The colonial architecture in this city is impressive – although the city is very quiet on a Saturday afternoon.
In the evening we went back to the ‘Mercado del Puerto’ for some more meat. Unfortunately, the waitress quit her job between taking our order and passing it on to the kitchen (no joke) so we had to wait quite some time and the restaurant tried to reorganise itself. Luckily we were not that hungry yet so we didn’t have to eat each other. 🙂 In the end the food that we received tasted really good and we went home with a full stomach.
There’s a log on the fire
And it burns like me for you
Tomorrow comes with one desire
To take me away
Today was the day that we said good-bye to our faithful travel buddy Rodrigo. He took us 25,743km from Vancouver to Montevideo in 131 days. We drove him across 16 countries – through the desert plains of Nevada and Peru to the mountains of Ecuador and Chile! We’ve driven through rivers in Belize and over rocky mountains in Guatemala. Although we had some hiccups (heat shield fell off on the first day, exhaust needed to be welded back in place, one ignition coil needed to be replaced after our great heights, spare wheel went flat, …), we have been truly impressed by the performance of our Toyota 4Runner. He took quite some abuse on the roads of Belize and El Salvador but he kept going. Today the V8 was running as smoothly as the day we bought the car – and I will miss the ‘roar’ when you start the car engine.
We drove the car to the airport at 10:00am and after a quick inspection, the new owners paid the full amount. We went with them to a notary about 15km away and officialised the sale there. In less than an hour everything was done. The new owner drove us back to the center of Carrasco… and we were left without a car! Although a bit sad to see our travel partner driving off into the distance, we were happy to have the sale behind us. Now we can focus on getting a plane ticket to go back home some time next week!
In order to celebrate our successful sale we had a big lunch in ‘Don Pepperino’ and enjoyed the rest of our day strolling around the city center. At night we celebrated again with a double load of sushi orders. 🙂
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank,
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank.
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns.
Their prowess is potent and secretly stearn.
As they speed through the finish, the flags go down.
Atlantida is only a half hour from Montevideo, so we did not have to rush today! We made sure Rodrigo was in perfect working condition and ready to be sold before leaving on our last drive of the journey.
We drove to a small B&B in Carrasco – a fancy area outside Montevideo. We parked Rodrigo behind the secured gate and after checking in and a nice chat with the friendly owner, we headed to the main street of Carrasco for a late lunch. We had a nice ‘chivito’, the national dish of Uruguay. It consists of a slice of filet mignon, bacon, eggs, ham, olives, mayonaise, tomatoes and mozzarella, served in a bun.
We stopped by the casino (although we did not go inside) to admire the colonial architecture of the grand building.
In the evening we had take-out sushi (we are by the seaside after all) to recover a bit from all the meat of the last days. Especially the one with cheese and strawberry was surprisingly delicious!
So you see, we’re not camping anymore and wherever we can, we try the local flavours. We can tell you: Uruguay is very delicious! More food pictures coming to this space soon!
It’s the rye or the kaiser, it’s the thrill of one bite
Let me please be your catering advisor.
If you want substitutions I won’t put up a fight.
You can have your roast beef on the rye or the kaiser.
Marijke said I should honour to the original so here is the link to the original…
Cross Uruguay from one end to the other doesn’t take one very long. It only took us a couple of hours from the border crossing to the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantida! We drove through cloudy weather to the most southern destination on our journey so far. The summer season does not start here until December so most hotels were unfortunately closed. After cruising around town for a little bit we finally found this pretty hotel ‘Birkina’ which had a secured parking spot to offer as well. The hotel used to be owned by Belgians, how about that?
We sorted out some paperwork for the car, went through our stuff to see what we are going to take back home and went for a dinner downtown. In what looked to be the biggest restaurant even made we ordered ourselves a local hamburger and a spaghetti bolognese. It was also the only place that was open. When we looked at the tv screen we noticed that it was already an hour later than our own watches indicated. So we corrected the time to 8:00pm. That made us feel a little less awkward eating so early in the evening. The locals usually only start dinner at 10:00pm, if not later.
After our delicious meal we went back to the hotel and watched some new episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ and then called it a day. The long drive had really worn us out so we didn’t have much trouble falling asleep.
Put your glad rags on and join me hon’,
We’ll have some fun when the clock strikes one.
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We’re gonna rock, rock, rock, ’till broad daylight
Well, when you’ve driven across 15 countries, it’s only a small step to add one more! As we may be able to sell the car in Montevideo, we hit the road towards Uruguay. You can take the ferry across the Rio de la Plata (which takes about 3 hours) – or you can drive around and cross over land. We decided to drive over land and cross the border that way. We only needed to be in Montevideo on Friday, so we had some time.
It was definitely more cloudy today than it has been the last days. The drive up north was very quiet. As we were running out of Argentine pesos, we had to make a quick stop at Carrefour to take out some more cash and stock up on supplies. After a couple of hours and a small meat feast (we forgot that you can’t take this over the border and we didn’t want to waste it) we reached the ‘Puente Internacional’ at Fray Bentos, an impressive bridge between Argentina and Uruguay.
After crossing the bridge and paying for the toll, we pulled out for the most efficient and thorough border crossing in the Americas! In less than 29 minutes we were stamped out of Argentina, stamped into Uruguay, car import permit cancelled for Argentina, car import permit received for Uruguay, car inspected by customs official and car searched by a big labrador for any contraband. It was the most thorough search to date, although they did not bother to check the tent.
We drove to the first town to find a campground and once we arrived we rewarded Rodrigo with his final sticker.
I could tell you a lot
But you got to be true to your code
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
Monday morning so back to work! Today we took Rodrigo in for having the ignition coil replaced. We drove to the Toyota dealer in Buenos Aires as we had an appointment at 8:00am. Thankfully they had the spare part in stock, so Rodrigo could be fixed in a day. Below you can see a picture of the part that has been replaced and how it was temporarily fixed MacGyver-style with duct tape. It cost up about 100 USD for the new part and the installation – with a free car wash and Toyota coffee mugs on top.
While Rodrigo was in the shop, we took the train back to the city center to sell the books that we are not going to take back home. It took us a 50 pesos taxi ride, a visit to 9 bookstores but finally we sold the lot for 70 pesos – seriously less than what we were expecting but then again it was the only bookstore in town that wanted to take them and we didn’t want to carry them for another 5 blocks. That’s a total profit of 20 pesos… about the cost of a cup of coffee. Anyhow we were happy that we did not have to dump the books in the trash and that someone someday will buy one.
We had lunch in the city and took the train back in the afternoon. Notice how the Argentines are queueing for the train! Very civilised!
What better way to start a sunny Sunday morning than with a nice breakfast? Through the luxury of our little house in Buenos Aires we are slowly but surely getting accustomed to sleeping in a bed, having a fridge and constant internet connection.
We headed into Buenos Aires on the train today, the city of tango, Evita Peron, Boca Juniors versus River Plate, the pope, … . The first train we were on broke down and everyone had to get out, but the second one got us to the city center! Buenos Aires is a really beautiful city on a Sunday morning. Wide lanes, plenty of green and beautiful buildings. We did not take a lot of photographs today, but here’s one of Marijke outside the ‘Casa Rosada’, which is the Argentine equivalent of the White House.
The Plaza de Mayo is the place where for thirty years the ‘Madres de Plaza de Mayo’ used to protest every day. Their children disappeared during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.
Everywhere in Argentina you can find signs that the Falklands (‘Las Malvinas’) belong to Argentina. It’s an issue that we don’t really understand… but it’s a sensitive topic here still…
We had a nice lunch at a local parillera – where meat is grilled continuously and vegetables are optional.
We took the train back in the early evening and relaxed around the house a bit. The owner kindly donated a suitcase so we don’t have to buy a new one to be able to get back home! Tomorrow we take Rodrigo in for replacing the ignition coil, we need to have our laundry done urgently and we need to sell some more equipment!
What’s new Buenos Aires?
I’m new–I want to say I’m just a little stuck on you
You’ll be on me too!