Argentina

Out of Buenos Aires, first we drove from Aconcagua across the full width of the country to Parana and Uruguay. Without the wind, every single km would be very hot for us. With the wind, above 2km above the sea it was ok warm or even a bit chilly. Otherwise, in the dry west 35+, in the wet east 30+ and tropic nights. You could amazingly see how the climate gets gradually from bone dry by the Ands to fully humid around Parana. East of Cordoba you could see the famous cattle pastures all over the place, west of Cordoba you could see the famous pampa. Somehow we imagined pampa much more grassy, but it was bushy instead. The bush (distanced from each other) is often up to 3m high and so farmers living off the road are completely hidden from public no matter if it’s 20km (which is nothing over there) or 100m off the road. The bush is sometimes denser, sometimes less where even less water occurs. That looks like a semi desert. We spent a night in a place like that and unlike in desert the night was freaking hot and also we met the biggest amount and variety of insects to bother us. Not sure what do they want in such a hostile environment but they are a real pain in the ass. In between the bushes it seems that farmers mostly keep goats and sheep and after that horses and donkeys. Warning signs cattle on the road are everywhere though, no matter if in the cattle dominated east or sheep and goats dominated west.

There is an exception / mountains in the middle of the country, just SW of Cordoba. They seem like pampa too although a lot more people seem to live around there, probably because of more water supply. Very popular in this area was selling usually homemade stuff along the road. Just like in many mountains. Most notably olive oil for as low as 2USD/l and honey as low as 1USD/kg. I am so glad we bought all that closer to Mendoza for double prices designed for tourists.

We wanted to take some hitchhikers along the road already from the Ands but we saw no one until those mountains. So we grabbed that single woman for about an hour ride thinking what an exception was that (and within 10min we saw half a dozen other ones?? Aamn no?). She turned out to be a Couchsurfer and invited us to stay with her however we had to try hard our humble Spanish. We then found another Couchsurfer to be cool in a town called San Francisco. It seemed like a bigger village on the map but turned out to be a 75k city having even own university which our host attended. It was just 5min off his house and it looked like a nursery just with lack of toys and paintings outside. Nonetheless it was a great stop.

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After that we crossed the great river Parana, which is great indeed as well as dirty, had our first car mechanic visit, crossed the great river Uruguay on the border with Uruguay, where Argentinians have a hidden toll gate on the Uruguayan side of the bridge, where is no chance to escape it and charge you ten times higher toll than inland, and left the country.

Back in Argentina we happened to be in the far northeast in the province Misiones. It is called so because that region was heavily colonized and developed by Jesuits’ missions in 17th and 18th century and you can find some ruins from those times in Argentina as well as Brazil and Paraguay. We just crossed the northernmost tip of it to see the NP Iguazu and its famous waterfalls. The road we took was the best road we have driven until then on the continent except inside of the NP which was the worst road we have done yet. There we also saw a couple of storms with the most intense rain we have experienced in our lives.

Iguazu falls were one of the 3 main reasons to visit this part of the continent. They are marvellous indeed, however the overall experience is in our opinion overrated. A lot of people say it’s worth numerous days of visit. It is not, it’s still just a waterfall or if you want a bunch of them and so seeing them all from two different angles is not more than a half day of a visit. It is a subject of mass tourism all inclusive. You can buy a basic entry ticket but you can also buy different excursions, you can get a catamaran ride that drives you right in the falls (bottom), you can hire a helicopter etc. Obviously there is a bunch of crap souvenir shops. We found there the first properly working public wifi in the continent so far, after a month and half.

There are signs and claims how eco-friendly and funded from the collected fees the natural site preservation is, meanwhile the site including the tourist train (so mass tourist wouldn’t have to walk 3km to the upper viewpoint) is diesel powered, there is no trash separation, trash flies around the trails and the local lemurs and monkeys play with it and the massive revenues are used for 1. Further development to allow more mass and idiotic people to come comfortably, that includes for example international airports on each side just for one set of falls! 2. God knows where, but probably to keep the energy corporations’ hands off this valley otherwise they wanted to build a huge dam across the end of the river Iguazu, submerging the waterfalls and most of the national park just like they did with Itaipu. Interestingly there is enough of funds to build new paths (meaning steel and concrete bridges over parts of the falls) but there is not enough of funds to even clean up and remove the remains of the old ones so you walk over the falls and see underneath old rusty beams and concrete pillars. All in all, the falls are amazing but will never want to go there again under the current condition, nor we have the urge to see the Brazilian side either.

Entering the town Puerto Iguazu there was a cop road check point where they were pulling over some (only some, interestingly) cars and a non-cop person was collecting a city tax, in a completely dodgy way. There were no signs, nowhere is that mentioned, nowhere else in the country is this normal. She spoke English, had no option to pay with a card, the options were to pay cash in local, Brazilian or US currency, although the rates in BRL were 40% more and in USD 140% more, even though literally everyone in the country desperately wants USD and will give you even more Argentinian pesos than the real rate is. When I started questioning these practices, she was unable to speak English anymore and just explained me that if I have a problem the police will give me a thorough check. To complete the hospitality of Argentinian Misiones, at one filling station the guy charged me 4% on top for paying with a card, again, nowhere near to normal in the country.

Later around the Christmas time we entered Argentina again, over the river Parana into the city Posadas. We ran into the only and small beach to splash of the heat and went to the town to acquire a sim card and pesos in cash. Even an international big corporation’s big official stores keep their siesta time. 4.5 hours was at this place. It is interesting how just across the border at even hotter conditions they don’t need it but in Argentina and Uruguay a good 4-5h siesta is a must. I must admit the positive thing about it is that they’re open in the evening instead, which we missed a bit in Paraguay after getting used to it. They provided me a card and everything but charging it was unavailable at their store. So instead you need to go to the dodgy kiosks selling newspaper, cigs, lottery and phone covers.

Good times I experienced with getting cash. Even though the blue dollar times are supposed to be over and it shouldn’t be over a few percent in the favour of selling dollars, I have found an official exchange office offering over 10% more pesos for USD than the rate was. And because they were closed I ran into an unofficial office, meaning a room with few random blokes, a school calculator, a chair, a table and a box of cash like in the mafia movies, and they gave me 20% more on USD and 12% more on EUR, without even trying to rip of an obviously unaware gringo. I would have been happy with the actual rate after all those rip-ofs elsewhere. In Argentina you really want to have USD cash with. Without it you will have to withdraw pesos from the ATM and loose at least 2% on the rate and over 10% on the ATM local fees instead of gaining  on the rate and paying no fees.

From there we drove about 4000km towards Tierra del Fuego. The first 1000 was through the humid agricultural northeast between rivers Parana and Uruguay where they seem to grow oranges for most of the country. Nothing much to see there, lots of police checkpoints, every one of them stopped and questioned us, once there were even two literally 1km from each other and both checked us. Nobody was mean, did not make a scene about some of my tiny traffic offenses, nobody searched us more than comfortable. Funny was that once in a while there were signs saying “Malvinas son (or siempre) Argentinas” meaning “Falklands are (or always) Argentinian”. Important signs might be missing but this will not! This was exactly at Christmas time so we could not spend the time any lamer than driving through boring countryside but it came that way. Next 500km was from near Buenos Aires towards the SW. That looks much less subtropical and you see rather sort of pastures, towns and nothing, very flat. After that we entered the legendary Patagonia (see the previous post for that).

After Patagonia we went to the country the same way we did from Santiago before, around Aconcagua. This time it was late February. The queen of the mountains here was a bit less white this time, surroundings as bone dry as before. Just after the customs we found an amazing site. Its name is Inca’s bridge, but the bridge is of natural origin (see in photos). The bridge is not special only by its origin, nice shape and unbelievable colours, but also by thermal springs right there so humans just built a little tiny spa hut right there, as is very common. It is just next to the road, how did we miss it the last time? We then drove towards the north to explore the NW of the country where the high Andes are.

Wow, if the highest expectations Patagonia did not deliver, the Andes in northern Argentina (and Chile kind of too) did instead. It is a theatre of natural sights staring in the main role rock formations, side roles taken by volcanos, salt lakes, clouds and storms, clearest milky way, rivers (usually dry) and their canyons, the picturesque appearance of lamas – vicunas and flamingos and others. Sometimes expectedly, very often unexpectedly you just drive or walk into some rocks or valleys that would be top top attractions in Europe at least.

The difference between the Andes there and say the Alps is that Alps are simply lifted edges of two tectonic desks and the rocks are more or less just the edges of the desks. While the Andes just start with that, in southern or central Patagonia it is still the predominant feature. In north Argentina or Chile it is overwhelmed by volcanos and their by-products but also, especially on the Argentinian side, by endless sedimental layers from the ancient sea. They all create countless variations of shapes, textures, angles, colours. Because the climate is so dry and it has been so since millions years ago there is no continuous vegetation cover. And because there are so many sediments on the top, the erosion uncovered unbelievable rock formations on a very large scale but variety too and organisms are not covering it or wiping it out.

Except for human sometimes, the population is rather scarce as for lack of water and fertile land, but the Andes there are extremely rich for natural resources, usually metal ores. You may have heard of famous copper, silver or gold mines in northern Chile, Bolivia or Peru. Well, Argentina stands somewhat behind them, but not left out completely for sure. Sometimes they harvest salt from the salt lakes up the altiplano too.

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The best unexpected valley for us was the road RN60 from Fiambala towards Paso San Francisco and Chile, we went there just for the Chilean side but on the way we were stunned what got left behind the fame. The top. The best expected valley for us was Quebrada de las Conchas. That one is famous indeed and it deserves the credit 100%. We had a struggle to decide our route from Cafayate towards north because from there leads the most famous road RN40 also north but a bit more west and there is another valley most recommended to see. Between this fork of two amazing valleys is a great route through the NP Los Cardones, named after the dominant cactus “cardon”.

So we took the route 40, could not continue it up the altiplano, crossed over the NP Los Cardones route and then drove Quebrada de las Conchas south and back north again as there was no convenient way to do them all. All three routes offered some amazing, mindblowing views however if I knew it, I would have skipped RN40 and Los Cardones too, because the sights were far from each other and the roads were absolutely horrific, after all the wonder n.1 was the car did not break down. Quebrada de las Conchas offered the best and the most dense sights and also more or less excellent road that pleased the car, the driver and the passenger(s) too.

Around Cafayate we saw the highest density of vineyards so far. They are all taking advantage of the very hot and dry climate and also high altitude (1500-3000, the latter has the highest vineyard in the world) and so rather red and full body wines thrive in there. However they manage to produce some amazing white wine too. We decide to take a part in some local wine tour but it was Sunday and unlike all other service and shops, the vineyards were all closed and open over rather European business hours. So we ended up in a fancy, highest rated vineyard there was, a bit pricier, in Colome, but the only one opened. Well, authenticity of traditional local vineries was gone for over 15years since a Swiss overly rich artist and entrepreneur took over and turn it into a rather poshy investment. But ok, we learned more than nothing from the area.

Closer to Salta we were highly advised to visit a local reservoir of relatively large scale, which “is so nice, authentic and you must experience the local fish, not found elsewhere”. Well, there was nothing nice or authentic, the bays were occupied by poshy modern summerhouses, water was disgusting, the nearby town was the worst useless hole we remember for long time, and finally the local fish was not to be found anywhere. Later we found they serve it in Salta at least and it’s just another average white fish.

In Salta we visited a doctor that booked us for later the same day, luckily, and the downtown. Salta is rather famous for its historical architecture, making it somewhat more attractive from other similar cities, aside of its great location. I must admit, for what we have seen so far on the continent, one of the most historical and sensible architectures. Street markets though were selling typical useless crap you can find anywhere.

What is remarkable in this part of the country, the change of the climate from a place to a place. The Andes are the widest in Bolivia and it steadily builds up from a relatively narrow strip near Santiago and Mendoza into a 500km wide mountains in Bolivia. In NW Argentina this isn’t mainly altiplano as in Bolivia, rather a narrow altiplano and many pre-ridges on the eastern side, going usually north-south. Some of the “pre-ridges” are over 4 or 5km tall so don’t be too mistaken! The easternmost ridges are so much greener than the rest and it changes sometimes very rapidly. Sometimes you can have a more or less rain forest climate on the east and semidesert on the west of the mountain. Salta is already on the wet side and so we finally caught some freshening rain, which is otherwise so scarce an hour drive to the west.

Even though we were there in the wet season. The rain season goes from around mid December until the end of March or beginning of April. We had the beginning of March and the only traces of rain season were first, clouds and storms always running around the high mountains, never reaching us down there (1.5-2.5km above the sea), and second, dry rivers and wash offs that heavily damage all the dirt roads that are predominant. Up in the mountains we were told is more or less not drivable and we could imagine why. However, when we reached the altiplano, the dirt roads taking off the main road looked so fine… But you never know what awaits you in 200m, really. For this reason we had to let go some high rated dirt roads, on the other hand we let go to some additional cost, car damage and also tourist crowds from other seasons.

At the end, in the province Jujuy, we visited Quebrada de Humahuaca, another famous valley. We found it much less interesting than the hype, but the road was good. Humahuaca is a nice little town, yes, rather crowded with tourists though. The main attraction and probably the most amazing coloured mountains in the whole country, the Hornocal, is accessible from there. Well, the access is pain in the ass and the dark clouds were about to bring hell or at least bad visibility, so we passed on that. I did not want to get disappointed from the very top attractions once again. From the internet pictures, I would call it the summary of all colourful or rainbow mountains or rock variations we already saw in Argentina. The best one of them, but bits by bits we saw it already anyways.

One great colourful mountain view was in a small cute village Purmamarca, just off this valley. Very touristy, very nice. We decided to take the last chance to try some local famous barbecue meat, especially because you could see goats and vicunas running all over the hills, assuming local produce. Out of so many places in the village we narrowed the list into those that weren’t still closed at 8PM (yes, very typical, you open and start cooking around 8PM and peak hours start at 10), that had the dishes we wanted and weren’t overpriced. So we found this one cozy looking place, ordered a BBQ and a typical one dish pot cazuela, with the highest hopes – and got majorly disappointed. I believe this was just bad luck, but we had to suck it up. Meat was stiff, nothing better than if I did it over a campfire and I don’t master it, the meat of 3 types was instead just 1, maximum 2 types, the cazuela I ordered from goat meat, they brought me what they called lamb but in reality it was freaking pork. Trying out meat after a long time, we had enough to wait for another, probably even longer time. After the great cuisine in Brazil, we still kept waiting for the next amazing experience.

On the way out of the country for the last time, we climbed up the altiplano and drove the road over Paso de la Jama into Chile, San Pedro de Atacama. This route is very popular and high rated however we found it so much weaker than Paso San Francisco. On the Argentinian side, after Purmamarca, the only interesting place was Salina Grande, a salt lake that itself is nothing near to pretty or interesting,. It’s dirty, being harvested, surrounded by bold hills, containing no birds, but we were surprised how they build huts, tables, benches and even statues out of pure salt. They just cut out the salt as bricks from the lake, so you could see the layers of sediments and salt, and mortared them together with mortar made of salt and water. I personally was amazed.

I was amazed one more time in the country, just 300m from the border in the tiny village La Jama. There is a new proper filling station and so we stayed there to eat our fresh food before entering Chile. All proper filling stations in Argentina hold two types of diesel and two types of petrol. Regular (petrol 95) and some extra (petrol 98). This was the only proper filling station that only offered 3 – missing one of the regulars, petrol 95. It is striking that the only station missing regular petrol and offering high octane petrol is the one at 4.1km above the sea, where hundreds of kms around you drive 4-5km above the sea, while it is a common knowledge that high altitude does not favour high octane fuel. The exact opposite, you rather need lower octane fuels and so in some countries they issue low octane fuel only exclusively for the high altitude places. However, in Argentina, in the country where logic is not welcome, they don’t mind going the other way. Funny is that if you cross into Bolivia you will never find even 95, maybe even 91, so your vehicle can get a proper test of contrast.

While sitting in the gas station and using their wifi that would be considered extremely slow even in the 90’s, after half an hour it loaded my facebook page for a change and the first post, 5min old, was an article saying the borders of Argentina are closing now. Now. When now? I could never hope to actually load the article so I had to work with the possibly clickbait headline. It was Sunday 9PM so I could easily assume they would close it from Monday morning but, Argentina, you never know. I literally ran into the car, drove directly to the border, hoping they weren’t closed for either reason (lockdown or just early end of the shift). In front of the officers I was very much occupied by trying to calm my deep breath and fast heartbeat (and try that when you drive up to 4km, get in a shock and run), because amid the covid19 panic anyone with breathing problems is taken suspicious. We after all passed, fortunately both customs in one building, and escaped Argentina at kind of the last minute. Next days and weeks showed that favouring Chile over Argentina regarding staying under the lockdown was very lucky for us. Argentinian government released panic creating measures and lot of gringo travellers found themselves in situations of police abuse, locals kicking them out of accommodations, camps, shops, towns, while in Chile things stayed relatively calm. Plus, we had some places to see ahead of us.

In the NW we found a lot of local produce in the small shops or on the road by peoples’ houses, usually plant produce including wine of course, we often saw eggs and goat cheese too, for a change. The local produce was usually good and cheap. Surprisingly we couldn’t find local olives or olive oil. Apart of that, we generally enjoyed this part the most through our whole trip so far and it is mainly because of the amazing deserted nature. In the very north we saw many many people looking of Indian descend rather than the European like in the rest of the country. They seemed to me a lot more conservative, in the countryside living in very primitive ways, and as we were told, like all other Indians, they had really hard time in the past with the Europeans and stay reserved, suspicious or even not welcoming towards them up until today. However, in the towns I had the feeling they are somewhat mixed and I could not see anyone making a difference or a separation.

Argentina is a hell of a diverse country. Well, naturally at least. Apart of that, we have mixed feelings. The people are surely friendly, openhearted, fun, however they often don’t make sense to me. Kind of more than in Paraguay, Uruguay or Chile. I would not probably understand the mentality if I was to live there. The country has got a great potential and it was obvious a century ago when they were top10 developed and rich country in the world and since then they just stagnated into a developing (very rare to get from developed to developing) country that cannot make a use of their great potential (natural resources, land, sea, weather, remains of old infrastructure, high rate of education). As I mentioned before, logic is what I was lacking way too often. We found the country to be super dirty regarding “free-range” garbage. You can see how much European (Spanish, Italian) it is everywhere, however the rich culture, cuisine or architecture of Spain or Italy we were unable to find over there. Therefore we are very much looking forward the Andean and more tropic countries. Nonetheless it was an amazing experience and I would never suggest to avoid it (under normal conditions). Maybe it is partly just overhyped and we expected too much.

Argentina – photo

Buenos Aires

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Household garbage bins in South America:

Jihoamerické domovní popelnice:

Majade prügikastid Lõuna-Ameerikas:

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Getting ahead of so much competition needs some higher creativity:

Vymyslet konkurenční výhody v tak zahlceném tržním prostředí chce fištrón:

Et konkurentsis ellu jääda on vaja rohkem loovust:

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Hereford and handwritten papers? Are we in some lost Welsh village?:

Hereford a ručně napsané etikety? To jsme na konci světa v nějaké velšské osadě?:

Hereford ja käsitsi kirjutatud kirjad? Kas me oleme mingisse Walesi külla ära eksinud?:

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Wow. This is wow in here:

Wow. Toto se tu jen tak nevidí:

Ossa. See on ‚ossa‘ siin:

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Boca:

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Plastic waste upcycling:

Trocha kreativity s plastovým odpadem:

Plastiku töötlemine:

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Iguazú:

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The river and the city Paraná:

Řeka a město Paraná:

Parana jõgi ja linn:

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The bridges over Paraná:

Mosty přes Paranou:

Sillad üle Parana jõe:

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Northeast/severovýchod/Kirre:

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Central parts/vnitrozemí/sisemaa:

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All the green ones are not only just oregano but also just from one brand:

Všechny ty zelené sáčky jsou nejen pouze dobromysl, ale ještě k tomu jen od jednoho výrobce:

Kõik roheline mitte ei ole ainult oregano, vaid ka sama tootja:

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Aconcagua:

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Puente del Inca:

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Paso de los Libertadores:

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Some very strange but common habit of surrounding the crosses along the road with waterful plastic bottles instead of flowers:

Podivný, ale oblíbený zvyk pokládat ke křížkům podél cest petky plné vody namísto kytek:

Veider aga väga tüüpiline komme on viia veepudeleid teeäärsetele hauamärgistele:

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Mendoza:

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This is how street lanes are obeyed in Argentina:

Takhle se musíte držet svého dopravního pruhu v Argentině:

Nii järgitakse teemärgiseid Argentiinas:

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Around Medoza/kolem Mendozy/Mendoza ümbruses:

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Western/západní/Lääne- Argentina:

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Main national roads:

Hlavní vnitrostátní silnice:

Peamised riigi-sisesed teed:

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Standard:

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Towards/směrem k/ Paso San Francisco suunas:

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Someone build himself a hut in the middle of nowhere and nature over 4km above the sea. Of course, plastic, TV satellite and rubbish around could not miss:

Někdo si postavil chatku uprostřed ničeho a přírody nad 4kmnm. Samozřejmě, plasty, TV satelit a odpadky kolem nesmí chybět:

Keegi ehitas endale väikese maja pärapõrgusse, 4km üle merepinna. Muidugi plastikut, satelliit TVd ja prügi ei saa mitte märgata:

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Hot springs in front of Volcan Incahuasi – 6.7km:

Horké prameny poblíž Volcánu Incahuasi – 6.7km:

Kuumavee allikad Incahuasi vulkaani ees – 6.7km:

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Sand dunes in the mountains:

Písečné duny v horách:

Liivaluited mägedes:

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Wine country/vinařská oblast/veinimaa:

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And dried pepper country:

A sušených paprik oblast:

Ja kuivavatud paprika maa:

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Quebrada de Calchaquí:

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That is a cave/toto je jeskyně/see on koobas:

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NP Los Cardones:

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A pile of bay leaves, an apple and a pack of cheap cookies? Welcome to a mountain chaple:

Hromádka bobkového listu, jablko a pytlík laciných sušenek? Vítejte v horské kapličce:

Hunnik loorberilehti, üks õun ja pakk odavaid küpsiseid? Tere tulemast kabelisse mägedes:

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Quebrada de las Conchas:

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The surroundings and the city of Salta:

Okolí a město Salta:

Salta linn ja selle ümbrus:

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The settlement Alemania (Germany):

Osada Alemania (Německo):

Alemania (Saksamaa) asustus:

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Jujuy:

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Purmamarca:

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Cactuses serve as plentiful construction material as well:

Kaktus také slouží jako hojný stavební materiál:

Kaktuseid kasutatakse ka ehitusmaterjalina:

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Humahuaca:

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This is something extremely common in vegie shops/departments, I guess cut yourself a piece or yourself or whatever:

Toto je skoro povinný obrázek v zeleninách nebo odděleních zeleniny, asi si prostě ukrojte kousek, nebo se ukrojte nebo jak chcete:

See on väga levinud juurviljapoodides/lettides, lõika endale tükk või endast tüll või ükskõik:

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Salina Grande:

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Traditional globed outdoor woodstoves:

Tradiční kopulovité venkovní pece:

Traditsioonilised välisköögid:

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These cactuses remarkably change their appearance along with the climate. Up in the mountains they like to put on this white fur-like coat that is not spikey at all – comes only with the upper part or half of the body:

Tyhle kaktusy pozoruhodně mění svou vizáž úměrně k podnebí. Nahoře v horách se rádi oblékají do takovéto bílé jakoby srsti, která vůbec není pichlavá – ovšem jen na vrchní části nebo půlce těla:

Kaktuste välimus muutub päris palju kliimaga. Üleval mägedes meeldib neil ennast katta valge kihiga, mis ei torgi – aga ainult pool kehast.

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Football pitches above 4km look like this:

Fotbalová hřiště nad 4km vypadají nějak tak:

Jalgpalliväljakud 4km kõrgusel näevad välja sellised:

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Did we just spot seaguls in a semidesert 4km above the sea?:

Nejsou to náhodou racci takhle v polopoušti 4kmnm?:

Kas me just nägime kajakaid 4km kõrgusel merepinnast?:

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Patagonia – photo

The competition of the worst Christmas tree spans here too:

Soutěž o nejhorší vánoční stromek sahá i sem:

Konkurss k]ige halvemale jõulupuule on siia ka levinud:

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East/Východní/Ida Patagonia:

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Few minutes on a few meters of a beach:

Pár minut na pár metrech pláže:

Mõned minutid rannas:

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Unprotected sea lion beach:

Nekrytá lachtaní pláž:

Kaitsmata merilõvide rand:

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Then you turn around and see an oil well just across the street:

Jen se otočíte a koukáte se na ropnou studnu kousek přes ulici:

Siis pöörad  ringi ja näed nafta puurkaevusid üle tee:

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And then you turn around back and see stupid locals – sings are to be ignored at all times:

A pak se otočíte zpátky a koukáte na místní idioty – cedule přímo u nosu nikoho nezajímají:

Ja siis pöörad veel ja näed rumalaid kohalikke – märke tuleb iga hinna eest ignoreerida:

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This little bastard can swim 50km of the shore on daily basis and dive 80m deep – just to obtain food:

Tenhle malý zmetek umí plavat i 50km z pobřeží denně a potápět se až 80m – jen kvůli jídlu:

See väikemees võib iga päev ujuda 50km rannajoonest ja sukelduda 80m sügavusele– lihtsalt, et süüa saada:

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Other, rather protected bays occupied by sea lions or penguins:

Další, spíš chráněné zátoky zabrané lachtany nebo tučňáky:

Teine, rohkem kaitstud rand, mis on merilõvide ja pingviinide poolt okupeeritud:

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Tierra del Fuego:

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Nearest palms are to be found about 3000km far or more. Just like with cattle signs where is other livestock but no cattle, we don’t waste money on road sign designers, okay:

Nejlbižší palmy najdeme 3000km daleko nebo ještě víc. Stejně jako s dobytkem na značkách, kde jsou všechna ostatní hospodářská zvířate kromě dobytka, na návrháře dopravních značek rozpočtem neplýtváme, jasné:

Kõige lähimad palmid on umbes 3000km kaugusel. Just nagu märkidega lehmadele, raha just märkide kujundamisele ei raisata:

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Puerto Almanzo, a popular fishermen village. This is just about the best you can see there:

Puerto Almanzo, oblíbená rybářská vesnice. Toto je asi tak to nejlepší, co v ní uvidíte:

Puerto Almanzo, populaarne kaluriküla. See on parim, mis siin saada on:

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Ushuaia:

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Hitchhiking dirt roads is a lot about on which side do you stand:

Stop na nezpevněných silnicích je hodně o tom, na které straně stojíte:

Hääletamine kruusateedel oleneb suuresti, kummal pool teed sa seisad:

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Aaaand Falkland Island’s propaganda cannot miss, Ushuaia is not just a capital of the region it lies in, it is also a capital of 600km distanced islands that have their own capital and also belong to another country!:

Aaaa propaganda ohledně Falklandů nesmí chybět, Ushuaia není jen hlavním městem svého regionu, je take hlavním městem 600km vzdálených ostrovů, které mají vlastní hlavní město a take patří jiné zemi!:

Jaaaaa Falklandi saarte propaganda ei saa maha magada, Ushuaia ei ole vaid oma piirkonna pealinn, vaid ka 600km kaugusel olevate saarte, millel on küll oma pealinn ja kuulub teise riigi valdusesse:

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Laguna Esmeralda:

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Along white man the beaver invaded this end of the world too and brought his own infrastructure:

Kromě bílého muže i bobr kolonizoval tento konec světa a přinesl si svou vlastní infrastrukturu:

Koos valge mehega tuli kobras, kes võttis üle maa-alad maailmalõpus ja tõi kaasa ka oma infrastruktuuri:

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Back in mainland, Chile. Sheep congestions, that are proposed as a joke in Wales, Ireland or Scotland, here take often place in real:

Zpět na pevnině, Chile. Ovčí zácpy, kterými se vtipkuje ve Walesu, Irsku nebo Skotsku, zde jsou běžnou realitou:

Tagasi mandril, Tšiilis. Lamba ummikud, mis Walesis, Iirimaal ja  Šotimaal on rohkem anekdoodid, siin aga reaalsus:

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The only two pictures worth the effort in Punta Arenas:

Jediné dva obrázky stojící za fotku v Punta Arenas:

Ainukesed kaks pilti Punta Arenast, mis olid väärt pingutust:

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Towards/Směrem k Torres del Paine /Poole:

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Argentina – when reading your nationality from your passport is too much hassle, just put “other”:

Argentina – když nalezení vaší národnosti v pasu je moc práce, fouknete tam “jiné”:

Argentiina – kui oma rahvuse passilt lugemine on liig, pane lihtsalt “teine”:

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The only snowfall we had was down in the semi deserted lowlands:

Jediné sněhové srážky nás chytly v polopouštní nížině:

Ainuke lumesadu, mis me nägime, oli poolkõrbes:

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Across the lakes (100km long) from the biggest glaciars:

Naproti největším ledovcům přes jezera (100km dlouhá):

Üle järvede (100km pikk) suurimast jääväljast:

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Chaltén:

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That river was pretty strong and just melted off the glacier few km above:

Tahle řeka měla docela spád a rozhodně tála rovnou z ledovce pár km výš:

Jõgi oli üsna kiire vooluga ja otse jääväljalt sulanud, mõni kilomeeter eemal:

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Official and not cheap camping in Chalten:

Regulérní a ne levný kemp přímo v Chalténu:

Ametlik ja mitte väga odav laagriplats Chaltenis:

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A highway in Argentina (it is not just a building site, it is just another 100km stretch of the really main road):

Opravdu hlavní silnice v Argentině (a to není jakože rozestavěná, prostě takhle vypadá dalších 100km západní páteřní silnice):

Argentiina kiirtee (see pole vaid ehitusplats, vaid 100km peateed):

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Health and safety and accuracy first – a bloke is sharpening my saw:

Zdraví a bezpečnost a přesnost především – týpek mi brousí pilu:

Tervis ja ohutus ja täpsus eelkõige – mees teritab mu saagi:

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When you go desperate from the poor fresh products found in Patagonia, don’t make the mistake and buy tropical fruit:

Když už si zoufáte z chudinké patagonské nabídky čerstvých potravin, nedělejte tu chybu si kupovat tropické ovoce:

Kui sa oled meeleheitel vähese värske toidu pärast Patagoonia, ära tee seda viga, et ostad troopilisi puuvilju:

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Looks like sea, is still just a lake – some 150km long:

Vypadá to jak moře, ale je to pořád jezero – nějakých 150km dlouhé:

Näeb välja nagu meri, kuid on vaid järv – mõni 150km pikk:

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Los Antiguos – never make a detour to visit it – and some more Falkland Islands’ propaganda on the square:

Los Antiguos – nikdy sem nedělejte extra zajížďku – a něco navíc falklandské propagandy na náměstí (totiž, návsi):

Los Antiguos – ära kunagi sõida ringiga, et seda külastada. Ja veel Falklandi saarte propagndat:

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It is the cherry capital:

Hlavní město třeštní:

See on kirsi pealinn:

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Considerable Slavic language skills! Considering how they mess up English on so many official signs, it is not so much surprising:

Parádní znalost slovanských jazyků! Vzhledem k tomu, jak zde prasí angličtinu i na oficiálních tabulích, není až tak divu:

Märkimisväärsed slaavi keelte oskused! Arvestades, kuidas nad inglese keelt kogu aeg sassi ajavad, isegi ametlikel märkidel, siis ei ole see just üllatuseks:

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Friendly stray locals in Chile – stray dogs or cats in SA are just like the people. Hesitation of approaching strangers is zero:

Kamarádští potulní místní v Chile – potulní psi nebo kočky v JA jsou jako místní lidé. Náhodný kontakt s cizími lidmi je naprostou přirozeností:

Sõbralikud hulkuvad koerad Tšiilis – hulkuvad koerad või kassid Lõuna-Ameerikas on nagu inimesed. Nad ei karda absoluutselt võõrastele läheneda:

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Expecting very wet Chilean side, but behind the border it is sometimes still arid Argentina:

Kdo očekával hodně vlhké Chile, měl smůlu. Na hranici je to stále suchá Argentina:

Ootasime väga niisket Tšiilit, pärast piiri ületamist jätkus aga kuiv Argentiina:

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Doesn’t that look like Croatia? Still the same lake:

Nepřipomíná to trošku Chorvatsko? Pořád stejné jezero:

Ei näe välja nagu Horvaatia? Ikka veel see sama järv:

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As soon as we hit the famous Carretera Austral, another backbone highway, we managed to get stuck right on the road:

Hned jak jsme najeli na populární Carreteru Austral, další páteřní hlavní silnici, podařilo se nám uvíznout přímo na ní:

Nii kui me jõudsime kuulsasse Carretera Australi, jäime me keset teed kinni:

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Marble caves/mramorové jeskyně/marmorkoopad:

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For this view they charge you 6e. Because it is a private land. You have money, you can even buy a piece of a glacier in Chile:

Tak za tuto vyhlídku se kasíruje 6e. Je to soukromý pozemek. Kdo má peníze, může si v Chile koupit klidně kus ledovce:

Selle vaate eest küsitakse 6 euri, sest see on eramaa. Kui sul raha on, void Tšiilis isegi jäävälju osta:

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And you cannot see the view without these traces of human ignorancy:

A vyhlídka se neobejde bez pozůstatků po lidské ignorance:

Ja sa ei saa vaadet natutida ilma inimrassi ignorantsuse jälgedeta:

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Dead forest in a natural-made lake that is as old as man-made lakes. One avalanche with rockslide and it’s done:

Mrtvý les v přírodním jezeře starém jako jsou umělá jezera. Stačí jedna lavina strhávající kamennou lavinu a je vymalováno:

Surnud mets looduslikus järves, mis on sama vana kui tehisjärv. Üks laviin ja sellest piisab:

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Carretera Austral:

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Money buys everything here. You can even obtain square hectars:

Peníze jsou vše. Můžete si tu za ně koupit klidně i čtvereční hektary:

Raha eest saab siin kõike. Sa void isaegi osta ruuthektareid:

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Random waterfalls everywhere, wonders in most of the world, nothing in here:

Náhodné vodopády všude kolem, zázraky ve většině světa, zde skoro bez povšimnutí:

Suvalised kosed igal pool. Vaatamisväärsused pea igal pool maailmas, siin ei midagi:

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One of the very few differences between the fjords here and in Norway:

Jedna z velmi mála rozlišností mezi zdejšími fjordy a fjordy v Norsku:

Üks väheseid erinevusi fjordide vahel siin ja Norras:

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One of the very few differences from anywhere else – the world’s only temperate rainforest (it is really very humid):

Jedna z velmi mála odlišností od zbytku planet – jediný deštný prales na světe v mírném pásmu (fakt hodně, hodně vlhký):

Üks väheseid erinevusi ükskõik mis kohaga maailmas – maailma ainuke parasvöötme vihmamets (ja see on päriselt ka niiske):

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Volcan Chaiten that blew 12 years ago and splashed half of the town underneath it surrounded by NP Pumalin:

Sopka Chaitén, která to odpálila před 12 lety a spláchla půlku města dole, uprostřed NP Pumalín:

Vulkaan Chaiten, mis purskas 2 aastat tagasi ja hävitas pool linna enda all, mis on ümbritsetud Pumalini rahvuspargiga:

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3 completely different lakes within 1km:

3 úplně různá jezera na 1km:

3 täiesti erinevat järve 1 kilomeetri raadiuses:

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This is the main but inactive volcano, 2.5km above us:

Hlavní ačkoliv neaktivní sopka, 2.5km nade vším:

See on peamine, kuid inaktiivne vulkaan, meist 2.5km kõrgusel:

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Bariloche:

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7 lake route:

Cesta 7 jezer:

7 järve tee:

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The Chilean Lake District – I would rather call it Volcano District:

Chilská Jezerní oblast – radši bych to nazval Sopečná oblast:

Tšiili järvede piirkond – ma kutsuks seda pigem vulkaanide piirkonnaks:

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Cochamo valley – some call it the Chilean Yosemite. Hope the original one offers more:

Údolí Cochamo – někteří mu říkají Chilské Yosemite. Snad je originál předčí:

Cochamo org – mõni kutsub seda Tšiili Yosemite. Loodetavasti originaal on parem:

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When the sleeping bag had been a bad boy:

Když spacák zlobil:

Kui magamiskott oli paha poiss:

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Northernmost fjords stocked with salmon and mussel farms:

Nejsevernější fjordy zaplácané lososími a škeblími farmami:

Kõige pähjapoolsem fjord, täis lõhe ja karpide farme:

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This is how some people maintain their gardens:

Zahrady některých lidí vypadají takto:

Nii hooldavad mõned oma aeda:

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Felicia tuning!!!:

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Puerto Montt – really, this is as much worth to see as it gets:

Puerto Montt – vážně, to je tak vše k vidění:

Puerto Montt – tõesti, see on kõik, mis seal vaadata on:

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Araucanian forests/Lesy Araucanie/metsad:

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Video1, video2, video3, video4

Patagonia

Patagonia, one of the two main peaks of our trip. Everyone talks about it in superlatives only and we were more than excited. Our time budget was about a month and a half, non binding.

We entered before the end of the year, near the Atlantic ocean. The main road n.3 (in unusually good condition) lead us into constant Patagonian winds. At least for the first month, until norther Chilean Patagonia. Sometimes the wind was average, quite often it was quite fierce. A bit off the shore it was usually from the west as nearly always in Patagonia, by the coast it was changing, but never to nothing. The roads are long and straight so much (so long not so precisely, don’t worry) you hardly imagine in Europe. The landscape changes only slightly and basically is pampa again, just a bit different. Smaller bush than further north and sometimes grass instead – again, usually no turf as we know it, just separated bunches and between them bone dry sand/gravel/dirt mix and as far as you can see. Sometimes this land of nothing was fenced (poorly) for tens of kms and you could see there sheep, rarely. The southern the more we also saw wild lamas – guanacos. Sometimes you could see a corpse of a guanaco but much less than closer to the mountains. Only in the south near Rio Gallegos the landscape got even drier so you could barely see some vegetation. The south though has got a lot of oil and gas so there is people and there is money, not that they would make the towns look better. Quite ugly but from time to time the landscape gets interesting due to a river and its valley or when the flat landscape suddenly drops down and makes nice slopes or even cliffs. A lot of Patagonian plains are some hundreds meters above the sea and near the Atlantic or right at it they drop down quickly and you can watch all the millions years old sea sediment layers. Interesting and nice but can’t compete the Andean layers at all.

There are a few great beaches on the coast but the ocean isn’t very warm. Some beaches are occupied with penguins or sea lions or sea elephants, we saw colonies of sea lions and penguins – those small and not so nice ones but it was still amazing. They really have no shame and could come to you. The penguins used to camp only on islands near the shore, not mainland. On mainland they would be hunted down by pumas or foxes. But when white man came, he hunted the whole island down within a day or few and ran them near to extinction. Just like the sea lions or elephants. Some survived only because they hid on the beaches of the mainland, which were much longer and often well hidden. Only because white man also hunted down most of the pumas and quite most bigger animals, they could survive until their protection was enforced. Sea lion colonies often accommodate colonies of some birds. They always camp at a respectful distance above them and keep intruding for leftovers I guess.. The shore indeed offers a variety of interesting and sometimes even scenic bays, cliffs, peninsulas etc.

If I remember one town from this stretch it would be Trelew. It is an area of significant Welsh descent, in this province Welsh is even declared as the second official tongue. They do try to seduce tourists on that heavily but we were certainly not bothered. Instead we drove there with a hitchhiker – local cop – and looked for two mechanics as our car was striking. It was fairly difficult task because that day was the hottest day we experienced ever. Not in the north, here. The wind was strong but it was so hot that it didn’t help at all, nor the low humidity. Like, what the hell do the Welsh do there? Otherwise there is nothing to see, except for paleontology, as the area (and not only there) is super rich for dinosaurs and other fossil finds. We weren’t in.

For about two days we picked up a Czech couple hitchhiking half of the continent. It was a nice company. It was the only Czechs we have met on the road for months although others claimed to meet many. We said good bye near Tiera del Fuego where we left the car and hitchhiked ourselves too. 450km to Ushuaia and more or less back as there is no other way except crossing wild mountains on foot or taking long and expensive ferries. Hitchhiking Patagonia generally is told to be the easiest and also the safest. Seems like it is no secret as we saw more hitchhikers on the road than in Europe in our (adult) lives. Sometimes you really need to stand in lines for a spot. It took a while but starting after lunch with a ferry we did get to Ushuaia the same day.

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There we went shopping for outdoor gear and had little success. Hanna broke her camera lens and only managed to get a second hand one for her camera without any zoom or auto-focus. Then we did some hike for great views over the area and stayed in a hostel for the New Year’s Eve. Expectations were that we meet so many other travellers whom pile up over there around the time and have fun with interesting people. Our hostel looked like it and was pretty cool and surprisingly cheap (not expected in Ushuaia in summer!). Sadly almost everyone there was a Spanish speaker, no gringos and also we were so tired that we slept in anyways. As fireworks are banned and no crowds really went into the streets, only the ship getting ready for Antarctica cruise honked representatively at midnight and that was it. Nice to experience the New Year’s Eve in the world’s southernmost town. It doesn’t feel like it at all. Only after 11PM actual darkness occurs and people just carry on with their daily lives really. If it was 5dgr colder, I could mix it up with one of the recent European winters easily. This place is sure cold. Even though around the big mountains in southwest of the island there is plenty rain, the wildfire risk is eminent everywhere. The wind is the main thread I guess. A bit north and east from Ushuaia you can see a lot of forests half dead and massively covered with lichens. Some local told us the lichens are the deadly reason, whether it’s true or not we don’t know. We did a bit of hikes and rides off the way but not too much as plenty places are either too remote to be worth the detour or typically paid.

We went to one fishermen village which’s reputation exceeds it a lot. It is literally a few broken houses with no extra views and the only place with their famous seafood wasn’t closed in the season, was pretty expensive and our dish of 7 local fish was basically 2 local fish and the rest of the meat was tuna, which was nothing different from tuna anywhere in the world. Although they are so proud over there for good and rich seafood, no crabs, no shells, no nothing was available either.

On the way back we got majorly stuck in the middle of the way by the ugly but rich (oil) city Rio Grande. It is no surprise it was in Argentina, not Chile, but still a surprise considering all circumstances. We arrived around 9PM and took off only the next day around 6PM. The last spot we tried after few hours standing there another couple came to do the same thing. They stood just a little behind us so no car could pull in between us, stole our ride and took off in half an hour while we had to wait some 4 hours more. Bummer! Fortunately we managed to get back on mainland to the car the same night especially because after that ride we were in Chile.

Tiera del Fuego is very big and we couldn’t see a big part of it mostly as it’s very remote, nonetheless big parts of it in the north and east are just semiarid plains or bold pastures that offer nothing. Coast might be interesting though. Around Ushuaia it is much wetter and far more mountainous, it is wonderful but nothing new to us. Kind of a small Norway.

On the mainland we went to Punta Arenas, to shop and see the shore. Punta Arenas is aside of else known for “zona franca” so for cheap shopping. The zona franca is just a couple of blocks at the outskirts whilst in the town there is no duty free zone, nonetheless as it use to be, the prices were equal. But indeed Punta Arenas was good for shopping for us, it was the first place in two months we found actual reasonable outdoor or electronic gear and sometimes even for reasonable prices. Unimaginable elsewhere! Seriously, stock up in your continent before coming! The shore beneath the city is nothing special but you may observe dolphins (we did) or whales (we didn’t) or perhaps other stuff.

Then we went to the famous Torres del Paine. Most people are so all over it. We were deciding a lot whether to go or not but finally we didn’t. I mean, we did, but just drove by the entrance as it was not a big detour and then left. Our feeling is we did the best compromise. The views from the road were stunning, we saw the eastern half of it including an unexpected waterfall and some lakes. Hiking in was not worth the hassle for us. You need to stick to designated camp sites, you need to pay for them and you need to book them in advance (a lot in summer). Then you need to pay the entrance fee but it’s valid only for 3 days and the 2 most famous hikes are longer. Renewing the 3day entrance cost more than the first 3day entrance. Then you need to pay and book a boat to get over a lake. And the hike selection is just so limited. Just like anywhere in Patagonia. It is so limited that each hiking path is told to be “a hike” so while in Europe you simply “go hiking” in Patagonia you “go do a hike” – wrong, you actually “go do that Hike”, they are so scarce that you usually call the particular one. There is no network of trails cruising the mountains, there is just very few (or just 1) paths that lead there and back or if you’re lucky, round trip. Exceptions might be some very long trails through Patagonia ending up often in the other country, meanwhile no alternative detours or shortcuts appear and nothing at all is to be met on the way. The entrance fees, rules, registration are extensive and particularly TdP is very expensive. Some part of the bureaucracy is however needed due to the extreme risk of wildfires. Wildfires in this region are naturally almost non-existent, the humans cause them. The dry and extremely windy conditions can make them devastating and the slow growing forests with no minimal natural resistance to wildfire environment can easily take 2 centuries to recover. Recently each decade though some bloody tourist (one of them Czech, of course) lights up a wildfire around TdP so a few years ago they made this park extremely strict.

After skipping the glacier Perito Moreno for similar reasons we went to El Chalten and did a 4 day round hike for free with not much of restrictions, just a sign in. Expectation and excitement was in place as it is just under the amazing Mt. Fitzroy and his buddies. The hike was pretty exhausting and mostly not worth it, except: 1. The view over the biggest land glacier outside of Antartica and Greenland, you wouldn’t see it all by no means, only as you see it to get lost on the horizon with occasional white mountains peaking in the middle of it. 2. One of its tails ends up in one of the great lakes down there and we could sleep at the bay where all the blue floes (sometimes 20m or more large above the water) float and gather by the beach, from time to time brake into smaller ones. This part absolutely worth it! And 3. Crossing 2 rivers so deep, cold and fierce that crossing it by foot was almost (one of them) or completely (the other) impossible. So once we crossed it on a zipline as other hikers kindly shared their harnesses. The best mountain view though we saw directly in Chalten as we got lucky to have a clear evening. Fitzroy otherwise is quite shy and hides in clouds around him.

We were warned before the hike that people do get in trouble and just a few days earlier some foreigner broke her leg in the middle of the hike and they had to go rescue her. On the way out of Chalten we picked up an Australian hitchhiker who did the hike a few days earlier and he was with the girl who broke the leg up there. They wanted to carry her but it was too difficult and the rescue team was all volunteers, they came in 28 people and did it all on foot. As they were volutneers, they didn’t want to charge anything. We spend about a day and half with this fella as he was really nice. In the middle of the way we picked up an English woman who roamed the world mostly on cruise ships and hitchhiked only because she lost all her money on the way (cash). So she took our lift as a greater help than it was for us. We also picked up a local older couple who’s car (so much newer and more expensive) broke down and our wreck was still working enough to drive them into town. Especially from Calafate and Chalten up to mid Chile we picked up many more hitchhikers than before in all years. They were all nice.

In some very sleepy hollow I managed to find someone that would sharpen my machete. It was really hard to find a business that would sharpen tools and this time it was again some guy in his garage. The machete wasn’t just a bit dull, it was so blunt the previous guys must have been digging with it, a piece of the blade was missing and on the other side were saw like teeth, super blunt too. I asked in a local key copy and hardware store and he called a guy and the guy picked me up and drove us home. In his tiny garage full of metal crap, from which he was making his life love, BBQ stands, he thinned the blade, sharpened it and even sharpened the teeth. All that he did with a basic small angle grinder, even the teeth, he didn’t even put it in any stands to be solid, not even on a table, he just held the machete with one hand and the grinder in the other one J I must admit him some sort of skill with that but obviously it wasn’t any marvellous job. Good enough for me though. Then he started to show me how to slice BBQ with the machete and while driving me back, the topic was what meat goes on BBQ in his area.

Before switching to Chile again we stopped at the border in the village La Angostura. The village draws an impression it is a high value tourist stop with this, that, craft goods and craft produce, mainly cherries. They are so proud of their cherries they even have cherry statues and the village hall has walls from cherry looking like bricks. Eventually it was even hard for us to get some cherries – in the season – and we only got a local cherry jam. The jam just like other jams we had in Argentina could have been cherry, strawberry or beetroot, we wouldn’t notice. You could only taste sugar as that is what it essentially was. We had better luck in Chile. Sadly, that is a typical Argentinian picture. They draw a stunning picture of this village as of the capital of cherries. They do it with other stuff too. Eventually there is nothing amazing about it, maybe only that it looks like the only place in the whole country where you can get local cherries. The local produce seems so selective and also overrated.

We also had a big problem to get some gas for cooking. Nowhere were we able to refill our Argentinian bottle. Because they don’t usually refill them, they just swap them for a full one. And that is only in 10l or a big one. Our 5l was just left out. As we were approaching a remote part of Chile where we could end up with no gas too, we rather bought an extra 10l full bottle and since then we didn’t know where to sell off the smaller one. So now we carry 3 bottles like complete idiots.

In Chile there was the very famous stretch of it spined with the road Carretera Austral. Only superlatives are told about it. We were majorly disappointed. Half of the road is a dirt road in a horrible state, our car still shakes looking back. The dust really can come into anywhere. Dishes, clothes.. Even though the wettest non-tropical part of the continent, somehow a big chunk of the road was constantly bone dry. Endless mountains are mostly inaccessible and if not, the trails are almost always paid. And sometimes for nothing. Just mountains, nothing really special, if you’ve seen Canada, New Zealand, Alps, Scandinavia.. Views similar or worse, trails much much less giving. The views from the road are amazing but not out of this world as we would have expected.

What is something you won’t see anywhere else is their temperate rainforest. Literally the only temperate rainforest in the world. If you’re into forests you’ll be amazed. It is a wonder. It goes from there north to the Chilean Lake District and a bit beyond. Love it. A huge part of it, although not indigenous, is bamboo. From here on to the north any wet and wild habitat is flooded by bamboo. A nice change for us was around Chaiten, where for a change (from the south, it starts here and goes north) are some volcanos. One of them is accessible by a free hike and it is the one which blew up 12 years ago and flooded half of the town underneath. The whole surrounding is a NP Pumalin, it’s all free and it’s all great. We picked there up the eldest hitchhiker I have seen, a local grandpa going to the next town. Was probably too inpatient to wait for the bus, looked like 85. All Carretera Austral was flooded by hitchhikers, like young backpackers, some stretches had literally less cars than hitchhikers.

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The Argentinian Lake District is very beautiful but overall nothing new for us. Mountains, forests, lakes, rivers as we know it. Couldn’t tell the difference from each other. Perhaps the trees, all the time trees that we don’t know. A speciality is a kind of redwood-look-alike trees that have leaves (allerces) and that grow huge and slow (up to 3000years).

As anywhere else in the dryer (Argentinian more or less) parts of Patagonia we saw a lot of lamas – guanacos and sheep. Sometimes the sheep herds flooded the roads so you had to wait. We expected so much local produce to be sold on the road or in small shops. Nothing! Really nothing. There was some guanaco exception as a poshy product and later we saw sheep meat in Argentinian butcheries here and there but always chicken and beef, even though you never see any. In Chile in the mountains you would expect sheep all the time, but no, rather cows. And never any other cheese but from cow milk. Beef simply dominates the whole Southern Cone without exceptions it seems.

In the Chilean Lake District we saw some nice volcanos (Osorno namely) and also a lot of dead forest killed by the volcanos’ eruptions. We wanted to go back to the last part of Carretera Austral, Hornopiren, but our car failed us this time. Our alternator died in the middle of a few fishermen houses and nobody could repair it for sure. So we spent half a day and a morning to get over 50km and one short ferry to Puerto Montt to get it fixed. Because jumping the dead battery was good for about 4km of a ride. Twice we had to ask locals to charge it at home. Once it died when we tried to board the ferry so we had to wait for the next one. After we successfully offboarded we started searching for someone to charge our battery for the second time, overnight, as it was getting dark. Some initiative locals were so kind to call some friend in another village that could charge it. It was very nice of them however they set up the meeting for the evening so we had to drive there in the dark, without lights on a hell of a bendy road. Wasn’t funny. There we went to a store which might have been our contact, I asked her if she’d got the call about it and she said yes but then she did not understand what the hell do I want. So some other locals standing in the store (10pm, classic) started asking what’s the problem and then a bunch of guys waved us that they help us. I really explained it 5 times that we need to charge the battery, not jump the car, yet they started jumping it. I said it could take an hour, they said ok. They gave it like 2 minutes and tried to jump it. Finally when they realized jumping it does not help, they jumped it the last time to drive it 1km to another guy that has got a charger, finally. Instead of me, they let the by far youngest of them to drive the car and we walked. I thought he would be an expert but maybe they only wanted him to practice because he was super clumsy, took ages to turn around and obviously had to turn the lights on so the car did not drive even the bloody 1km and we had to push it on a bus stop where we slept and carried the battery the last few hundred meters. Funny business with these guys, they did understand me but I could not understand them as they had the worst accent ever and would not even attempt to slow down or clear down at all. I wasn’t sure what’s up like that in the dark but everyone just wanted to help us at the end of the day.

In this fishing region we did not get any nice local fish as it seemed like all they do there is salmon farms. At least we saw a few more dolphins. In Puerto Mont we spent 4 days. We came Friday morning and it took us a couple of hours to find a place to fix it. Some were busy, most couldn’t do it (why?). At the official Toyota dealer they offered a quote 120e. For diagnosis, not the fix! Finally we found a place and they looked skilled and serious. They claimed they can do it the same day, good. At the end of the day they said they are so busy, let’s do it Saturday morning. We slept in the car in front of the garage and in the middle of the night the main mechanic knocked on the car, drunk, and asked me to loan him some cash. He asked 2000 (a bit over 2e) so I spot out no bad intentions but I only had 20k bills so I ended up giving him 20k just to get rid of him, to get back to sleep and to be a friend with someone at who’s mercy I am to whether he can fix it the next day, whether he can do it good and not overpriced. Next day he didn’t come at all and the owner was like “I don’t know what’s up with this man, where is he..” So we waited until Monday, the mechanic was back, in shape, fixed it easily, quite expensive (still less than the official dealer diagnosis only quote) and at the end when I asked back the 20k he didn’t know what I’m talking about. So the owner said that he is there 2 weeks (I though 2 decades, ok) and he already asked customers for money for himself instead of the shop and ended up giving me a discount 10k. This is Latin America as we were told J.

Later on the way north we kept skipping a lot of places and kept having issues with the car, but we managed. In the south it was bad but here it was even a lot worse to find a place to stay overnight. All country is private and everybody has its own fenced, it was sometimes pretty desperate. Yet we stayed on the Chilean side as the other one did not attract us by anything. From here until Colombia all the Pacific coast is desperately dry, and hot. But the sea is really cold so we haven’t even tried it once. Probably better chances are even in the fjords when the sun heats the closed bays up, they were kinda doable.

We did not enjoy Patagonia by far as expected, still it was a great adventure. We were rather lucky for weather, just a few rains, no major winds or long rains although it was windy all the time and driving through the wide planes of southern Argentina could be challenging. We only once experienced snowing and somewhere you wouldn’t expected, dry and warm Argentinian valley where is almost no precipitation all year round. We were somewhat unlucky for little annoying things here and there. Sometimes it makes you think who governs the roads. Paved highway suddenly turns into a dirtroad for an hour and then back. Or an unpaved road suddenly gets pavement for a few km (or even meters) and then ends again. The unpaved roads were really pain in the ass as they were so bumpy and dusty. Here and there you can see amazing places you couldn’t see before but the distance between each other can be hundreds of kms and between is either landscape nice but familiar or simply nothing. Pure nothingness for hours, that is a common thing. Patagonian people are generally richer than in the rest of the countries, especially south (Punta Arenas, Tiera del Fuego, Rio Gallegos). Reasons certainly oil, mainly Argentina, possibly water in Chile, and possibly dense descent of more organized people from central or northern Europe. Yet they have their long siestas! Even in Ushuaia where the hottest summery days are like 20dgr. Overall we are looking forward the north where things simply cannot be the same as we know from Europe.

Video here, here, here and here.

Paraguay – photo

Ciudad del Este – taxi:

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No food, no drinks AND no mate or terere. It is not a drink, it is a special category!:

Zákaz jídla, pití A maté nebo terere. To není nápoj, to je extra kategorie!

Ei süüa, ei juua, ei matet ega tereret. See pole lihtsalt jook, see on eraldi kategooria!

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Itaipu – fierce disappointment/silné zklamání/täielik pettumus:

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This ride has got it all! Mercedes, triple one (the more Mercedes logos the more Mercedes!), tinted windows as a touch of modernity, the age as a touch of the history (and financial necessity), flames, Jesus, 5 stars, a bit of a tuning, including a proper racing wing and a “premium” sign mustn’t miss either. Where else to see that than in Cuidad del Este:

Tento vůz je vším! Mercedes, trojitý Mercedes (čím víc Mercedes odznaků, tím víc Mercedes!), zatmavená skla pro špetku modernosti, věk, pro špetku historie (a finanční nutnosti), plameny, Ježíš, 5 hvězd, trochu tuningu včetně závodního křídla a nechybí ani original ochranná známka “premium”. Kde jinde ho spatřit než v Cuidad del Este:

Sellel sõidukil on kõik olemas! Kolmekordne Mercedes (mida rohkem logosid, seda rohkem Mercedes), toonitud klaasid annavad natuke modernsema, vanus aga ajaloolisema välimuse, leegid, Jeesus, 5 tärni, natuke tuunitud, kaasaarvatud korralik rally tiib ja “premium” silt. Kus mujal kui Ciudad del Estes:

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Paraguay hasn’t reached the Iguazu falls by a few kms and it lost maybe even better ones for Itaipu dam, but this area is so rich for that stuff you can go just behind the town of Cuidad del Este and find another splendid falls. Doesn’t compete the other two but it would do in most other parts of the world:

Paraguay nedosáhla na vodopády Iguazú o pár km a přišla o možná ještě lepší vůči přehradě Itaipu, nicméně tahle oblast je na takové věci tak bohatá, že stačí zajít kousek za město Cuidad del Este a najít si další skvělý vodopád. Na první dva jmenované se nechytá, ale ve většině světa by z toho všichni byli paf:

Paraguai on küll mitme kilomeetri kaugusel Iguazu kosest ning ilmselt jäi ilma isegi paremast Itaipu pärast, kuid see ala on nii koskesid täis, et sa võid vaid minna Ciudad del Este linna taha ja leida imelisi koskesid. See ei võistle küll Iguazuga, kuid teiste koskedega maailmas küll:

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Happy princess has got her dream dress. Have not used it ever since:

Spokojená princezna konečně ve svém vysněném úboru. Od té doby netknuto:

Õnnelik printsess sai oma unelmate kleidi. Me pole seda veel kordagi kasutanud:

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Standard car mechanic’s car lift:

Standardní autoservisácký zvedák na auto:

Tavaline auto mehhaaniku tõstuk:

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One typical local dish – vegan version, just two types of cheese and ham:

Nějaké typické místní jídlo – veganská verze, jenom dva druhy sýra a šunka:

Üks kohalik roog- vegan version, kõigest kahte sorti juustu ja sinki:

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Bella Vista last week before Christmas:

Bella Vista týden před vánoci:

Bella Vista üks nädal enne jõule:

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Some local engineering made of whatever sticks or bamboo or rocks you just found behind the village:

Něco z místního inženýrství založeného na kdejakém klacku, bambusu nebo šutrech nalezených za vesnicí:

Mingi kohaliku inseneri töö suvalistest oksadest, bambusest või kividest, mis ta külast leidis:

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Street sales/pouliční stánky/tänavakauplus:

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Encarnacion:

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Fauna (everything small is at least twice as big as in Europe):

Fauna (cokoliv malého je minimálně dvakrát větší jak v Evropě):

Fauna (kõik väikene on vähemalt kaks korda suurem kui Euroopas):

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What the heck is that painting? Especially the third guy in the back:

Co se děje na této malbě? Specielně ten třetí chlap vzadu:

Mis asi see joonistus on? Eriti see mees seal taga:

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Video

Paraguay

Do you know anything about Paraguay? Anyone from Paraguay? Anyone who’d visited it? Size, capital, importance? Maybe the colours on the flag from selected football world cups? I can imagine and I had to look it up to be smarter than that. Honestly we took the detour to visit it just because it wasn’t a detour once we decided to see Iguazu and Itaipu. The plan was to enter near Itaipu in the east and see the south and Asuncion. See “nothing” but see how does this country of near to no reputation look like. Ahead we learned it’s poor, very hot and very laid back (that much that loosing your temper is very rude).

We entered at the easternmost edge in Cuidad del Este. It wasn’t poor (there are many poor too of course), it wasn’t hot (at the time) and it was certainly not laid back. It is a city of shopping for the following reasons. Just across the border are parts of Brazil and Argentina that are not busy, crowded or rich at all but there is Iguazu and that changes everything. For this particular corner. Iguazu pulls in there endless amounts of tourists, many of them want to see the falls and then spend their holiday and also shop. There is money for sure. All three cities have international airports to allow more tourists. Cuidad del Este does not have Iguazu, only Itaipu, but it has much cheaper goods. In Argentina the import tax on goods is insane, just like in Uruguay and in Brazil it isn’t a dream either. Whereas in Paraguay it is very low. Add up there are lower wages, lower regulation and costs related to it and also add the fact this city is duty free. Plus, fake goods or completely illegal goods are absolutely available there and the government doesn’t intend to stop it. One more benefit is that all three countries are members of Mercosur (although Paraguayan membership is questionable in the last years) and that allows their citizens to travel within very easily with just the ID card and no stupid hassle like outside of Mercosur. Something like Europe without Schengen. So whenever you’re in the area and want to buy more than a breakfast, you will pay an extra visit just across the river. River Parana, just discharged from the great dam Itaipu.

Cuidad del Este hits you right from the first meters after the customs, which is basically downtown. Tall buildings, major congestion easily 16h/day, everything sharply and colourfully lighted, open and willing to accommodate your money. Super busy. Endless shops of great variety of size, appearance, value, quality and type of goods including Apple stores or cheapest possible T-shirts or bracelets. Shops are even on the street, some pavements are just through a line of cheap shops and the owners or staff would approach you and try to sell you their stuff in quite an intimidating way. Much more than in the rest of the Southern Cone including the rest of this country. Between the ocean of shops there are some casinos, 5*(probably questionably) hotels, poshy apartments etc. It is one of the most crowded, one of the dirtiest (both mentally and physically) and probably the ugliest city we have seen in our lives. We went to the national bank to withdraw money, because it was supposed to be the only one charging foreigners nothing. Long queues, Schwarzeneger-like armed security guy in green, no messing about, they told us there that foreigners can’t withdraw at all and directed us to another better looking bank and it was the first ATM that allowed us to withdraw USD too.

Once we got back to the car to take off, some old crooked guy came to the car near the driver’s seat and kept standing there, did not approach us at all. So I started pulling out and then saw his face – only few teeth left and one eye fake, gave an upset face and started backing his arm and fist in order to hit me – well, the car. It took ages, literally he took at least 5s to do that motion and then punched, first the stroke was reasonably fast but the next half of the stroke went so slow that the window just did a little bounce (yes, very loose window it is) and nothing happened. However it was so weird and weirdly scary and we didn’t know what to think about it. Because after that when he saw that even a turtle would run away from him, he pulled out a phone and started calling someone. Then we got stuck in the traffic jam right away of course but the story wasn’t about to continue. Might have wanted some tip as is quite a weird custom in the continent that folks in the streets “look after” your car parked and also show you where and how to park and expect a tip. Even if their service is not welcome. But good customs are to have a hi-vis vest. Within the city you can see many many beggars, usually along the roads and usually of Guarani descend. Sadly typical picture is a few women with a lot of kids sitting nearby and one or few of the kids doing the begging job. After an hour to move barely 2km we went out to visit the Itapu dam.

Itaipu was a major disappointment, well, for me, she didn’t care. Everything looked real neat, so much money smells all over the place, everything for free, but unlike in Brazil offering at least 5 different tours, Paraguay offers only two and poor. Technical tour taking you inside of the dam must be booked at least 2 weeks ahead and the information is near to impossible to get online, basic tour just takes you in a bus, stops at one viewpoint, drives at the lower level of the dam and then crown of the dam, no stops, nothing. At the beginning you watch a 20min video about it in a cinema they have there and you are only told the stats available on Wikipedia and a bit of propaganda, no negative or alternative views whatsoever. You are told how everything around is powered by the power produced there, electrocars in the complex etc. and then the tour bus runs on a 40year old diesel. On top of that, even though the recent rains, the water flow was pretty small and boring, probably need to wait for the rainy (winter) season. As it often goes, the dam itself looks worse than online. Quite a lot.

After that we hit the countryside direction southwest. More or less flat, green and red – it looks like some parts of less developed Argentinian countryside but with red soil more typical for Brazil. Nothing much but small food shops and car mechanics. If you don’t have a car, you need to walk or ride a horse or other animal carriage. Loads of people would sell their own or someone’s produce along the road, but what we did not expect and were disappointed by was the selection and sometimes prices. We read food in Paraguay is very cheap and rich. Neither. Standard groceries in shops cost the same like in the western world and the selection is usually very poor. Very few items of local produce. On street markets or along the road you find the local produce and sometimes it’s considerably cheaper, sometimes not so much (maybe gringo price). And the selection still – poor, poor. Watermelons, one or two types of melons, pineapples, bananas, sometimes tomatoes, lettuce, apples.. Most of them would sell only watermelon and one two more things. Literally everyone would have watermelons. As for the season probably. Later season I would expect a lot of mangos as mango trees were everywhere.

Paraguay is heavily occupied by cattle pastures and you would expect its produce to be sold on the street – very rare. Reason? Probably because of the social inequality hanging as a heavy local baggage for long time. 95% of the agricultural land, which is most of the land there, is in hands of a very small number of ranchers. And the ranchers don’t just innocently let their life’s luck to do its own, they tend to corrupt the politics to keep or even expand their position. So all the cattle and related produce goes rather to mass production and from the very little land poor people have, they can’t produce more than for their own humble use.

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Cousine looks very basic and isn’t bad but you wouldn’t come home and said something like “this Paraguayan stuff, we have to cook/get it”. One thing kind of special for the country would be Paraguayan cheese. It is a pretty soft whitish in colour cheese that looks and tastes like a mix of cream, yellow and other cheese. It was developed over a century ago after the devastating war that put the country from the richest and most developed into the poorest and least developed on the continent. The cheese was developed to be as easy and as nutritious and full of extra protein as possible to feed the people. It tends to be put on meals or sandwiches. It’s quite nice, interesting, nothing special though, not that there would be any special or excellent cheeses anywhere in the Southern Cone at all.

The people are told to be very curious about foreigners as there aren’t many and sometimes approach you to ask about your travels or your country. Indeed this we experienced more than in the other countries, nothing crazy though. What is crazy is the terere culture. Just like mate in Uruguay. They are so proud of their terere culture and rival with the others doing mate and vice versa. Eventually it is the same, only mate is with hot water, terere with cold water. Kind of would have made sense to me drink terere in summer, mate in winter, but suit yourself. Both use exactly the same gear including thermo mugs.

Most roads are unpaved or paved in a way I haven’t seen before. Stone/cobble pavement from stones that look like of a volcanic origin and are rather sharp and nowhere near square or rectangular. Just edged stones and they keep paving more and more roads brand new with these stones. It seems it takes a lot of man work to set it but what does man work cost there, right. Driving on it isn’t any pleasure. Nothing looks super nice, maintained, punctuality nowhere. There are a few little German towns in the south (one is named HohenauJ). They looked a little better plus they were Christmas decorated, at least where events would gather. No idea how is it usually but there and this year most of the decorations were made out of waste, mainly bottles, mainly plastic. That was very cute, especially somewhere where otherwise waste management is extremely underdeveloped. Nevertheless we saw less litter than for example in Argentina. Most of the dirt around was the dust and mud – which is fine, but litter is still a problem too.

We were warned very much that the country is ridiculously hot plus humid and we were quite worried about both heat and mosquitos and other bugs. Only in Cuidad del Este we managed to get a mosquito net. At the end it was warm or hot but actually we were pretty lucky and no heatstroke and no bug invasion took place. Surprisingly easier than other countries before we were able to find public wifi in the towns and villages. Not often, not perfect, but still better.

In one town we had to seek a car mechanic for 3 issues. One mechanic fixed one, sent us with the second further down the road and with the last one sent us to Encarnacion, a city on our way in the south. He also connected me with an “amigo” from Encarnacion that actually speaks English (wow) and can help us. The equipment of his garage (big and with a few workers) was so basic and the guys were so nice. Both pretty usual. In Encarnacion we checked a bunch of mechanics because the first fix – side window mechanism broke again and also we had a gas issue and else. One mechanic didn’t want, one couldn’t, one didn’t have time, some were non existent (as for recommendations) and it was a lot of hassle generally. Fortunately the prices were friendly indeed. Without any ease, we fixed our stuff, even the gas issue, that the previous owners of the car left with us again. After we agreed with the English speaking “amigo” to meet up, we wanted to drive there. But the car quit starting at all. So we walked there and he helped us with his mechanic. It was Saturday and it could have been done on Monday. So we waited two nights and finally after a week and many mechanics, we were good for a while.

Encarnacion is a city on the southernmost border of Paraguay. On the shore of Parana, actually a reservoir made up there. Across is the Argentinian city Posadas. Encarnacion alongside of Cuidad del Este and Asuncion are the only cities in the country. Each therefore must be special in some way. This one is told to be the prettiest. Some parts were eventually kind of nice, nothing more. So we had some idea how does Asuncion look like. Not the best! There is an artificial beach (although looks natural) on the shore of the reservoir. It is really warm and fairly clean. And popular, well, of course, there is no sea. Lot’s of young and well doing people go to chill there.

In the city we met up with the “amigo” that turned out to be a half Swedish half American old former psychiatrist that was a brother in law of that mechanic. The mechanic and his sister, the shrink’s wife, were about half his age. He moved to live there as a family but they planned to move to Sweden.

His views on the government were very poor. His views were different from ours in some ways but I would believe the very most of his views on the local politics. Paraguay went the poorest and least developed almost 150 years ago. But in the 70’s and 80’ of the last century when most of the continent turned into a dictatorship, the Paraguayan one made the country the most corrupted and backwards. And that is valid ever since. So under these circumstances it is fairly easy for the big ranchers and oligarchs to keep the customs current. As for an example let me mention the reservoir near Encarnacion. When they planned to build the dam over Parana and flood the shores of Encarnacion, the government kept the information for themselves as long as the rich people linked to the officials could learn it and take an advantage of that. All the shore was inhabited by local poor fishermen mostly and their houses were in very poor condition. The rich people started buying out their houses of the upper part of the shore. For pennies of course. Only the upper part because they knew where exactly will the water reach so they bought out all of the properties above this line to make it into poshy summer houses or to sell it with enormous profit. The people beneath this line – weren’t left even with pennies. They were relocated to the outskirts into pretty much slum conditions and left alone. As for the Guarani, Paraguay presents itself as an enormous protector of the indigenous people, Guarani is with Spanish the official language of the whole country and the currency is called Guarani. Behind that though is zero support to the community. Our host participates in some non profit activity helping them out and one of his stories was how they went to one of the government Guarani support centres and asked about food charities. They had a big warehouse full of food support for the Guarani but they never released it. When they were asked, why, the answer was “how can we give them food? We give it to them and they will want more!” And with that the food kept rotting in the warehouse without a use. I would not dare to say the indigenous people are treated any much better in the other countries around though. Just for an example.

In Encarnacion we decided to skip the way to Asuncion as an unnecessary detour. All southeast of the country looks probably similar, the northwest is different but it was too far and too little to offer for us to drive there. There is very few people and just wide plains of swamps, pastures, bushes and semideserts. Somewhat sad, somewhat happy country. Lot’s of people that live normal live as workers or (work)shop owners don’t seem to complain and live in peace. Low crime rate, low natural disaster rate. Nothing much to see. We also tried some famous Jesuit missions’ ruins and didn’t ring the bell either. Hard to make an opinion. I believe Hanna didn’t like it much, I didn’t like it less than Uruguay or flat lowlands of Argentina or Brazil. I sort of understand why Europeans that wanted to disappear, either from the law or from the European life, went to Paraguay.

Video here

South Brazil

We only visited the smallest part of Brazil, the south and not even all of it. Because Brazil is as large, as populated and as diverse as the rest of SA, it was still like we visited a whole another big country. We entered in the southernmost border crossing of the country, in Chui from Uruguay.

It looked dodgy already a few meters across the border. The people, the shops.. In a shop you’d be asked to leave the backpack at the entrance but not in a locker, just on the ground by the counter. Sounds so risk free. Later on I heard Hanna telling me a story how someone stole a bag like that and the staff at the counter haven’t bothered or noticed whatsoever. No thanks.

We started driving over 500km directly to Porto Alegre because we decided there is nothing interesting enough for us until then. I researched extensively how to avoid the omnipresent toll stations on the highways. There is a law in Brazil claiming the right for everyone to have an alternative route around the tolls free of charge and also if you don’t have the money on you to get a ticket instead and pay it later. So I first found some small roads around them on the map, ready to take them. Right at the first attempt it was such a disaster that I gave up on it for the rest of the country, especially in the state Santa Catarina, where the tolls are rare and cheap. My first attempt started with going on a small country road, the way around the toll. Even empty tractors went slower and cautious on this dirt road probably bombarded in the war and never been repaired again. Which was more or less the only vehicles using it regularly. It essentially was just an access road for agricultural vehicles unlike the map claimed. The last section, which would get me behind the toll suddenly ended in the middle of it. Simply there was a fence across and just a private field behind. Thank you maps! Thank you laws! So I went back the shortest access “road” towards the highway and got there but had to go kms back in order to get on the right side of the highway because a lot of junctions were just one way and you could only turn around on a “return” point. A return point is highly popular in SA and all country junctions are not an intersections but just a turn in the middle of the road, you just indicate left, use an extra piece of road in the middle and give way to the oncoming traffic. Safety first! I have seen it in Baltics as well and it is safer than it sounds but extra caution must be taken anyways. After that I tried hard not to pay the toll and get the mentioned ticket instead. Instead though, they sent me back to the nearest bank to get cash or to get lost. The nearest bank was 50km far and certainly closed for the day. That much about law justice in Brazil. The idea of the tolls was to contribute for the costs of high quality high speed highways. Meaning in reality sometimes an old single lane broken road where driving above 80km/h isn’t safe.

In Porto Alegre we were hosted by another great guy, this time actually a local. He was pretty alternative and pretty likeminded, but because he was a software developer he shared with us a fully working pretty fast wifi. It was the first fast and non-malfunctioning internet connection we experienced on the continent within 5 weeks. We had to park our car 2km away because in that neighbourhood night car vandalism is a trendy hobby. Apart of that and dense crowds downtown full of people approaching you really close without any hesitation (probably absolutely normal there) we had really no concerns about safety at all. However our hosts told us some absolutely insane stories from Rio/Sao Paolo and some pretty tough ones too from much safer cities such as Porto Alegre. We indeed saw how any business handling larger amount of cash for example paid extra security services. Cash couriers wouldn’t be two guys with hidden never used pistols like in central Europe but 4 or more guys with machine guns and heavily armored truck. And there should still be gangs that do like open bank robberies and stuff. Again, these things you had to notice, watch, talk about and realize with some effort, the feelings from the streets were so positive. Compared to Chile, Argentina or Uruguay we found the streets of the city a bit more interesting, more colonial and also the groceries and food generally richer, more diverse and some local (meaning Brazilian meaning it could be from 5000km away) products of much higher quality for the same or lower price. That is what we enjoyed for sure. Only we were advised not to buy local wine because the local wineries have no idea what they are doing. Walking down the streets in the evening you would see literally every pub, bar, club, restaurant, fastfood, barber etc. no difference – screens with football matches, and I mean like 5 screens with the same match. Other things – no chance.

Problematic for us was money. I exchanged my surplus of Uruguayan pesos on the border but wasted it much faster than expected. Withdrawals were either expensive or even not possible, for some mystic reasons. Card payments were available very widely but way too often did not want to work. Mostly the transaction went through on the 3rd, 4th or 5th attempt or never. I was not the only one. They always asked if the card is debit or credit, for a reason that we still don’t understand. After some time we discovered that debit means in Brazil credit and credit means debit. Isn’t that logical? So with that knowledge we started having a problem with card payments in 50% cases instead of 90%. They also usually have to go pull out from the back or from some premium till a special extra golden card terminal that would work with foreign cards. And later on I found in Spanish it’s the same but the payment would usually go through anyways. Not in Brazil!

For everything to be much funnier, there is the language issue. I have no idea what’s it like in Portugal but in Brazil, no one speaks English, no one speaks Spanish, if they claim that they do a bit, they don’t, if they claim that they don’t at all, they do a bit. Written language seems pretty similar to Spanish so you can figure out but spoken sounds nothing like Spanish. It sounds like a mix of completely different languages and you understand as much as you can understand for example Hungarian. Auto, credito, diesel, internet, nothing more. Obviously spoken in an insane speed and probably dialects too.

After Porto Alegre we started slowly exploring the hilly area going north, relatively near the ocean. It is probably the most interesting area (beside the coast) where hilly countryside brakes the edge down to the coastal lowlands creating a fantastic scenery. It also is the greenest part of the land because Atlantic winds blow into it and drop a lot of their water. I think it goes beyond Rio but we only drove up to Santa Catarina and its capital Florianopolis. First 200km after Porto Alegre we stayed mainly on a route called Ruta Romantica. Its name comes from the flowers along the way and we found it highly overvalued and the name a joke, nevertheless we did enjoy it. The country is really hilly and roads are very curvy. Lots of villages or towns are greatly German influence since the 19th century and are sometimes funny to watch for that. There are two towns which are levels above that all, they are full of Alp style shops, restaurants, hotels etc. and are absolutely crowded in the season. We found nothing interesting there though, except one wonderful waterfall just next to one of them. Much more can it offer just a bit further north where you can find some absolutely stunning canyons, that also have waterfalls and really cool wild forests to walk around. There are a number of roads climbing from the coastal area up the hills and they are a sure challenge to drive (or not get sick from). Half of the roads are not paved and when a road isn’t paved it means horrific! It’s nothing like in Uruguay where the dirt roads are usually well drivable, here it’s for tanks. That we certainly did not enjoy and one more bad habit on the Brazilian roads is the slowing humps. They are in the other countries too and way too often and way too harsh for the purpose but in Brazil they took it further, they have them everywhere and extreme.

Meanwhile up the hills subtropical pastures (by the way, the cows look often so different from ours) are quite prevalent, down by the cast we saw more close to tropic fields full of bananas, rice and other stuff. Bananas were grown by the road and kind of like a wild forest you wouldn’t guess who’s that, what field do they belong to. But the main thing is the coast and the beaches, Santa Catarina has got so much great to offer. Beaches always sandy, long, wide, not even crowded considering it was already hot in the air and warm in the sea. Even the famous island of Florianopolis had the beaches quite far from crowded, even though they are just amazing. It is fairly easy to camp near or park near, you can get delicious and rather cheap food or drinks. Because it is not as flat as in Uruguay, there are random hills between the beaches, you also have some wonderful views every now and then. Also, the cities and the coast seemed to us very cosmopolitan, much more than Santiago, Argentina or Uruguay.

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If something was crowded, it was the city of Florianopolis. Just like Porto Alegre. Very much. Navigating was pretty stressful,.it was somewhat more difficult than the other countries so far, mainly because the drivers are reckless, not many rules are followed, signs are rubbish (out of the city often just missing), you never know how many lanes does the road have and the locals seem to know as much as you,. but the stronger wins, right. And also, the so popular one way system in SA gets into another level in Brazil, where it doesn’t rotate logically (left,right,left,right), but very randomly (for example left, left, left, left, left, right, right, left…). We had an assignment in the city, to get our third rabies vaccine and it was fun to handle it once again. First we got a contact via a friend of a friend from the hospital where they give it. The contact only asked us why do we need it and never got back to us. So we went to the hospital and after an hour and half of trying to communicate with hands and feet, we got to see a very young doctor that actually spoke English. We learned that we need to register with the hospital and then we get the vaccine for a special request. They usually do not give such vaccines of low urgency because simply there isn’t enough of them in the country. At the end though, the shot was for free.

Then we turned to the west and cut through the countryside towards Iguazu and Paraguay. Nothing much about that, it’s nice, all the way hilly to Argentina. We went into Argentina to see Iguazu and crossed the border at another point than is usual for tourists. The crossing went over the river and the customs were on each side of the bridge. Because these countries are within Mercosur and the border controls are pretty lax and often they don’t bother with exit stamps, only enter stamps,. we considered the empty Brazilian side as a sign that it is the Friday night and who would work if not necessary. At the Argentinian side though we were sent back. The Brazilian customs were not in the original and logical building on the way but somewhere back deep in the town where no one passes and no one would expect it and where no signs lead at all. Classic logic. When we found the building we struggled to find anyone or how to get in. Inside it was just one officer and us. He gave us a stamp with the wrong year and two TIP (temporary import permit for vehicles) instead of one. When we discovered, Hanna convinced me we need to get back to get the year fixed. The guy took out his stamp and hit it right on top of the ‘wrong’ one. Hanna was confused and asked, if it’s okay that way and he was like “ah, I don’t care. If they care in Argentina, come back”. Thank you officer! Nobody cared though and so we only wasted absolutely unnecessary 2h to cross there. Later we also crossed into and out of Foz do Iguazu on 2 different points and the customs were at the right place because these are busy routes, but they managed to mess it up again. You always need to check in the people with passports and then the vehicle with customs. Sometimes you struggle to find where to check the passports, you need to ask some guy that sends you somewhere and there they send you somewhere and finally you find a guy either standing on the road or in an abandon part of the building that takes you somewhere else and fills the papers with you virtually on the knee. And the layout is always different and always makes no sense.

Our just over a week in Brazil was eventually fun, we really enjoyed the landscape and food, there is no doubt. People are friendly and open and without the language barrier it could be a lot more fun. There are also a lot of downsides that I really didn’t like but the conclusion was the country has got a lot to offer. and what we heard is the rest of the country is nowhere less interesting than the south and is very diverse. so the whole Brazil could be worth another half a year trip. Anything but boring!

Video here