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

South Brazil – photo

Porto Alegre:

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A community garden in the middle of the city:

Veřejné sdílené záhonku uprostřed města:

Aiamaad keset linna:

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Why can’t it work like this in Europe too?/:

Proč to nemůže takhle fungovat i u nás?:

Miks Euroopas ei võiks see selliselt töötada?

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Vegan burger (Porto Alegre has got an extensive alternative scene):

Veganský burgr (Porto Alegre hostí celkem pokročilou alternativní scénu):

Vegan burger (Porto Alegrel on lai alternatiivne valik):

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Hilly countryside with great German descent and influence, 2-3 weeks before Christmas. We found it funny especially how lame can Christmas trees and other decorations get:

Vysočina s pořádnými německými kořeny, 2-3 týdny před Vánocema. Specielně jsme se nasmáli nad místními vánočními stromky a dalšími ozdobami:

Mägine maakoht Saksa mõjutustega, 2-3 nädalat enne jõule. Me leidsime, et see on naljakas, eriti arvestades kui magedad võivad jõulupuud ja dekoratsioonid olla:

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Ruta romantica – a popular route going through this region. The name romantic is related to a lot of flowers along the road. Funny is that there is no single other flower but this one in 2 or 3 colours:

Ruta romantica – oblíbená trasa klikatící se tímto krajem. Jméno romantická se velmi vztahuje k všudypřítomným kytkám podél cesty. Sranda je, že nepotkáte jedinou jinou kytku, než tuhle ve 2-3 barvách:

Ruta romantica – väga populaarne tee selles piirkonnas. Nimi ‘romantiline’ tuleneb lilledest selle teelõigu ääres. Naljakas on see, et seal pole ühtegi teist lille. Ainult see lill 2 või 3 eri värvis:

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The German descend and influence literally erupts in the middle of the Ruta romantica in two neighbouring towns making it a tourist magnet. We were not impressed at all but for locals it seems like real little Alps. To be fair, it might be the only area in the whole of Brazil where snow appears once in a long while:

Německé tradice se třeskutě nahromadily uprostřed této cesty a oblasti, ve dvou sousedních městech, ze kterých je turistická Mekka. Na nás to vážně nezapůsobilo, ale pro místní to dost možná budou opravdu malé Alpy. Je fakt, že to je možná jediná oblast v celé Brazílii, kde se jednou za čas objeví i sníh:

Saksa mõjutused lausa voolavad kahes külas keset Ruta Romanticat, tehes sellest korraliku turistide magneti. Me ei olnud väga vaimutuses, kuid kohalike arvates nägid need välja kui ehtsad Alpid. Kui asu olla, siis see võib olla üks piirkondadest kogu Brasiilias, kus lumi üldse maha tuleb:

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One place did impress us there although the crowds were quite annoying:

Jedno místo se nám tam ale vážně líbilo, ačkoliv nekonečný dav turistů nám nedal vydechnout:

Üks koht avaldas meile muljet, kuigi rahvasummad seal ajasid meid närvi:

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Wonderful canyons and mountains of Santa Catarina:

Prvotřídní kaňony a kopce Santa Catariny:

Imelised Santa Catarina kanjonid ja mäed:

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And wonderful beaches and coast of Santa Catarina:

A prvotřídní pláže a pobřeží Santa Catariny:

Ja imelised Santa Catarina rannad ja kallas:

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Flora of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina:

Flóra v Rio Grande do Sul a Santa Catarině:

Rio Grande do Sul ja Santa Catarina taimestik:

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Around Itaipu:

Kolem Itaipú:

Itaipu ümbrus:

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Let’s spend remaining Brazilian change on some typical food. Ok, what do you have? For this money? Manioc fries and fried (both deep) banana empanada. Try not to get thirsty after that:

Pojďme se zbavit posledních brazilských drobných za nějaké typické jídlo. Tak co máte? Za tolik peněz? Maniokové “krokety” a banánová empanada, obojí z friťáku. Kdo nedostane po tomhle žízeň, má u mě pivo:

Raiskame oma viimase Brasiilia valuuta kohaliku toidu peale. Olgu, mis meil siin on? Selle raha eest? Maniokki friikad ja praetud banaani empanada. Ürita mitte janu kustutada pärast seda sööki:

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IMG_20191214_073224_8Although modern cars and trucks are very common too, you can also find museum not only within the countryside but on international routes too:

Moderní osobní ani nákladní auta tady vůbec nejsou výjimkou, ale prastaré vykopávky se dají potkat nejen u strýce na poli, ale i na mezinárodní dopravě:

Olgugi, et moodsad autod ja veokid on tavalised, võib siin ka leida muuseume nii maal kui linnas:

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Video

Uruguay

This country was supposed to be a bit something different for us. There is told not much to be seen, climate, nature, people, standards and development pretty much European, yet we were curious about it, curious how this small country of no significant advantage compared to others can be doing better than its neighbours in so many ways and yet the people to be extremely friendly and laid back. We wanted to start our trip just here, take a while, do some volunteering, get to know it, get to know a bit of Spanish and get ready for Latin America.

But we gave way to the goal of getting a car first so instead of heading there directly from Buenos Aires we went to Chile to get the car and then drove from there to Uruguay. We crossed the bordering Rio Uruguay and felt the difference from Argentina immediately. Better kept, better maintained and more European looking. The landscape, the fields, reminded us so much of Europe above the Alps, except warmer climate and some trees. True, the landscape started looking like that a bit already on the Argentinian side between rivers Parana and Uruguay. The names of the places are funny in the southwest – Mercedes, Nuevo Berlin, Nueva Helvecia – letting you know of massive Alpine countries’ past immigration around here. However it is still Latin America. You will run into siesta time which can take up to 5 (maybe 6) hours, but then you can visit most shops until 8, sometimes 10, 11, weekend including. When you drive on a perfectly nice road, don’t get too confident, sooner or later you will hit a typical SA hump not seen in Europe, not even in UK or Ukraine, that can seize the vehicle out of the road, you will hit dirt roads, you will not find anyone speaking English, you will struggle to find prices on goods or groceries in stores (unlike in the other countries, even fuel at the filling stations), you will find speeding very common and allowed even though not reckless or dangerous as in more temperament countries, you will find roads straight for 20km, you will find pedestrians and cyclists on motorways (if you could call it that way) and even people chilling and making BBQ which is a national sport here. Anywhere any time. Uruguay is the furthest in 21st century within the continent and that also includes legal gay marriage or legal marihuana. Strangely enough we have not been able to see that much on the streets. What caught my attention is this habit that I have not experienced before. In a let’s say supermarket which is near to European standards there is always a bunch of security guys (or ladies). That wouldn’t surprise you after other LA countries at all but without noticing you do get scanned and you do get informed that your knife (and probably other items considered as guns) are not allowed in the market and need to be stored in the free of charge lockers located conveniently near the entrance area.

Vast majority of tourists in Uruguay visit the coast. Starting in Colonia del Sacramento just across the La Plata mouth from BA, all the way up to Punta del Diablo and Chuy by the border with Brazil. Since most interesting stuff is there, we did it too, with various plans to explore the inland, ending up exploring a bit of it. Colonia is very famous as 1. the crossing point to BA and 2. the old colonial architecture. Our impression was average, certainly not worth an extra trip for sightseeing. Just a nice town much fuller of foreign tourists than this town would be worth otherwise. There is an extensive sandy beach (from now on I will write just a beach, I doubt locals would anything else but a sandy beach consider as a beach. It is so plentiful). The water was super warm and pretty dirty, so we decided to wait for the east coast, but it did not stop the others. The rest of the south west wasn’t worth a note but we did like roaming the country.

Montevideo is not worldwide famous for its architecture or history, but we have seen of it in there more than in BA and Santiago together. Still not much, but it’s nice. On the western shore there is a port and on the eastern shore there are beaches massively used by locals. The beaches are nice, the water still not as much, it is still La Plata and not the ocean, but much better than in Colonia. As everywhere, people from the country or smaller places would tell you the city is crazy, but it is as crazy or busy as other cities of its size, even a bit less than that. We did not find a host and so the beach hosted us. We had a mission to find a place to get a vaccine against rabies and typhoid. It was surprisingly complicated, they don’t give them in hospitals, so we asked for a private clinic and it was hell of a thing to get it out of them, first they said they don’t have any, then that you need a doctor’s prescription and etc.. What a mess. We found a place to get the rabies vaccine but couldn’t find for typhoid. Hopefully in Brazil, which has got the tropics. We also couldn’t find anyone to get some weed from (since it is as legal as it gets and Hanna had some pains to kill so we assumed it would be convenient). None. We found it rather hard to get in contact with locals. Weed is legally grown and distributed by state or grown and consumed by locals. You can only buy it from a pharmacy and only as a local, foreigners are not allowed to purchase. Great.

From Montevideo we hit the countryside just above it. Not so much to see, but it is quite pretty. Vast majority of the land is pastures or fields and always fenced. Difficult to find a place to park for the night actually, or even find a shade without leaning on someone’s property. In one god forgotten little town we ran into an event where local drumming group was marching around the square playing solely drums, mostly with their hands. If this would happen in Europe it would be sometime during the day but there we were talking about 10PM. Literally walking around with a toothbrush in the mouth ready for the bed, we got caught unprepared for that. We went on two small hikes staring two small hills. Once we got lost and once we got not let in as the area was closed after 3PM for entry. You could also not bring less than 1l of water per head, worse than good for hiking shoes/boots, less than 1 adult with, any kids younger than 7 and any cell phone. On a 300m hill!

The most popular neighbourhood of Uruguay is probably the southeastern tip around Punta del Este. It is an urban area patched from many many towns and villages stretching mostly along the coast, more or less mixed of standard residential and seasonal tourism accommodations (there is virtually no other than seasonal tourism). But Punta del Este town is else. I have never seen before such a concentration and extent of new, 5,10,15story buildings all looking like they could be apartments, offices, headquarters etc. but all they are is summer holiday apartments and units. Dead empty 9 months a year or even more when Argentinian economy is struggling – which is for example now. Most of the tourist come from BA and rest of Argentina, big bunch from Brazil too and only then Uruguayans or others. It is a cult. You’ve simply got to go there for the summer and you’ve got to go there every year, it’s a tradition. It might be taking a part on the joke that it is the suburbs of BA (originating from the thought why Uruguay isn’t a part of Argentina when it’s more or less the same). Tradition also is to rent the same place every time so people have old friends that they hang out with every summer. If you are on budget and want to rent a place our there, your best bet is to rent it out from March to December and for January and February, when the rentals easily add up a whole zero to the price tag, sleep in a tent, car or get out. People build new houses just to rent them out for 2 months. The madness goes even stranger regarding the Brazilians, because once you visit their seaside, you wonder what in the hell attracts them on this worse, colder, more crowded and much more expensive place. Argentinians have a huge country but their seaside offers relatively little. And the ocean is cold. Until Punta del Este we kept experiencing 35dgr sunny days but then it went rapidly down, because 35 is usually a peak summer in Uruguay, not spring. But the ocean is still cold then, only in mid December it gets bearable.

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At the end of this urban area we were hosted by a nice family. German/Moldovan. The kids (4 and 2) spoke or at least understood fluently 4 languages (German, Russian, Spanish and English) and around the age of 5 were about to start learning Portuguese at school. That was one of our biggest shocks on the trip so far. The parents had a lot to tell, they had tremendous experience with Couchsurfing and hitchhiking, he even engaged in organizing some of the communities and websites, and they recommend us other two hosts further on the road, which approved really neat.

After that we went almost directly to one of the related hosts. He on the other hand lives in the middle of nowhere in forests/bushes, where he’s got a 8ha land full of trees, bushes, little rivers, birds, snakes, boars, escaped cows from the surrounding gauchos (SA equivalent of cowboys rasing cattle or horses) and the only connection to the civilization over a bad mud road and satellite data. He built himself a tiny hut out of mud and timber and he lives in the bush in piece. As we wanted to try a volunteering stage in Uruguay related to the countryside and “ecoliving”, we agreed with him on a few days as he does offer that anyways. We didn’t work much really but we helped him a bit with elevating a home water tower. Which is something highly popular in these parts of the world. For every house to have its own water tower, simply a plastic tank on a few timber or brick posts. Although he is a German, he easily adapted to the LA engineering standards and so we didn’t overdo any precautions. The rest of the time was dedicated to chilling in the nature, talking about life or preparing an easy meal.

From there we moved up to the last place in the country, Punta del Diablo on the coast. It is the opposite to Punta del Este, it’s small, calm and somewhat rustic, just small one two story houses with yards, beach barely organized or marked, but yet somewhat touristy – though regarded to backpackers, alternative or at least-wanna be alternative people (like us, just a bit richer). At the edge of the village we took a proper volunteering opportunity at an alternative eco/sustainable accommodation place. It contained of a bunch of tiny ball rounded domes for couples in a calm, hidden place by the forest and by the beach, off the grid. We were about to help and learn about “ecoliving”, local culture etc. Excitement was in place.

First day we were told to chill out and get to know the place and people. So the main guy showed us a bit around and gave us one of the domes, the only not wooden one, but a textile one. To stay there and to figure out small bits how to fix and improve details. So we went to sleep in there and we saw a bunch of big ants wandering around. Both of us really dislike most insects, ants not the least, so we went to sleep to the car for the time as it was night already. In the morning boss came to us and wanted to send us away because we didn’t do anything the day before. Exactly as instructed. Might be related to the pot which he smokes all day long like cigs. So we cleared that out and got assigned to clean the dome with a brush, water and poison. When we unfolded the duvet we found the whole bloody nest and then two more nests in the same bed, full of eggs and stuff. Gosh that was gross. Imagine at night you are so tired you don’t even light up you just jump in the bed. Boss just repeated to clean it all. I gave up but Hanna proved a strong gut and did it. After a while we convinced him at least to take a look at it. So he did and said “Incredible. Nooooo. Incredible! Imagine I sent the guests to sleep here, hahaha. Yea, clean that all up.” No shame. At that time he still really liked the idea of having me there, a civil engineer. So he asked me some tips on his wooden structures (meaning crooked planks and bamboo nailed or screwed together so so, so it would hold a few years together). I did give him some tips and was ready to give a lot more but he didn’t like them and kept his own ideas and from then on all we did was her cleaning and me painting (just timber treating, no art involved). After 5 days of zero interesting work, zero cultural or language exchange, they wouldn’t talk to us unless necessary, finding that the place isn’t eco or sustainable at all, after working 4h a day and having provided no bed, no food, only bathrooms and an empty kitchen, we just left. Couldn’t have been more pointless.

The beach next to which we were was really nice however at that time it wasn’t 35dgr like before but more like 15 and windy. You wouldn’t find many people without wetsuits in the water either, which was probably 15 too. The forest next to it turned in to a kind of a subtropical jungle sample, protected as a national park. It is interesting how quickly you could change from planted and sterile forests (eucalyptus mostly) or pastures over vast parts of the country into a jungle where you get lost immediately. None of the trees or bushes we could recognize, but that wasn’t new for us on the continent. In the whole picture though, again, not so much interesting. The most exciting moment after all was, when we ran into a capibara. What a shock that was. But already 100km further, in Brasil, there are thousands living freely in the wetlands just like that.

The last stop for us was in Chuy. It is a duty free zone little town, kind of. So everyone from pretty far would go there to shop imported goods, fuel etc. It is binational and the border is one big open avenue making the centrepiece of it, overfilled with shops of varying quality. Apart of prices which were reasonable compared to insane in the rest of the country, we found useful or quality stuff that we wouldn’t find anywhere before. So we bought for example a corded fridge, because the previous one that came with the car didn’t work. What happened to it? The previous owners of the car didn’t like to charge it with the 12V plug and because they are handy fellows, they found a wire of a similar connector with a 220V plug and shaped it with a knife so it would fit in the fridge perfectly. Just a bit of craft work and plug it into 220V, no problem!

That was our two or three week stay in Uruguay, we did not manage to connect with the locals much, our hosts were Europeans and Argentinians, we did not manage to soak into the local calm life, we did not manage to push our Spanish into talkative, we did not find any wonders of the country, but we had  nice time and we could imagine it as a nice place to live, for some people. More than elsewhere we found confusing pricing of the goods. Sometimes in the local pesos, sometimes in USD and you go figure, both have the same symbol. In Chuy it could also be in Brazilian reals and you could guess even more. The weather can be pretty hot in summer and cannot be much freezing in winter, it can get windy or humid anytime, more in the winter, but certainly windy by the ocean. Sometimes the landscape reminds you Europe, just the flora is different. A lot of roads ale unpaved but generally in ok condition, considering the little traffic, little winter and little slopes, it makes sense. Much more than in parts of Brazil or Argentina for example. Argentinians are famous for their mate and bbq. Uruguayans are even more crazy about both. Their mate gear is often better looking and really omnipresent. That seems to be a bit of a standard for Uruguay to be in the shadow of Argentina and they don’t like it. And I understand that. Nevertheless the similarity is inevitably huge.

Video here

Uruguay – photo

Colonia del Sacramento:

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Montevideo:

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Countryside/venkov/maal:

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Punta del Este urban area/souměstí/linnapiirkond:

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This hood is literally named Buenos Aires, founded by a man from BA and flooded by tourists from BA:

Tahle část se doopravdy jmenuje Buenos Aires, založena chlapíkem z BA a zaplavována turisty z BA:

See piirkond kannab nime Buenos Aires, sest üks mees Buenos Airesest asutas selle ning nüüd on see täis turiste just sellest samast linnast:

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I’m not sure about the customs in the other countries around but here kettles have an extra button for an extra option – mate temperature. Boiling is too hot for mate and that is unacceptable:

Nejsem si jist, jak to chodí v okolních zemích, ale zde mají rychlovarky extra knoflík na maté teplotu. Vroucí je moc horká na maté a takle by to teda nešlo:

Ma ei tea päris täpselt, kuidas see teistes riikides käib, aga siin on veekannudel eraldi nupp mate temperatuuriks:

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2 most random bridges I remember, just half an hour from each other:

2 nejpodivnější mosty, co znám, jen půl hodinky od sebe:

2 kõige suvalisemat silda, pooletunni tee kaugusel üksteisest:

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This one in the shape of a roundabout isn’t even a roundabout per say, not even a junction. Just a road suddenly shaped into a round:

Tento je ve tvaru kruháče, ale kruháč to funkčně není, ani křižovatka ne. Má jen dva výjezdy naproti sobě:

Olgugi, et sellel on ringtee kuju, ei ol see ringtee, isegi mitte ristmik. Lihtsalt tee, mis läheb järsku selliseks:

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Roger’s house which he build himself (as a writer, no technician) in the middle of the bush/forest:

Rogerův domek, co si postavil vlastníma rukama (jakožto spisovatel, žádný technik) uprostřed lesů/křoví:

Rogeri maja, mis ta ise ehitas (ta on kirjanik, mitte ehitaja) oma metsa ja põõsaste keskele:

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Erecting his water tower, both trying to pretend we know what we’re doing:

Stavba jeho zahradního vodojemu, oba se snažící dělat jakože víme, o co běží:

Veetorni ehitamine, mõlemad teeme näo, et me teame, mis me teeme:

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Punta del Diablo:   

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This is where we were sent to sleep:

Sem jsme byli poslání spat:

Siia siis saadeti meid magama:

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This is ecoliving/takhle prý vypadá ekobydlení/see on öko elamine:

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And this is classical Argentinian engineering – shower drainage must be at least 5cm above the floor:

A toto je klasický argentinský inženýrink – sprchový odpad musí být alespoň 5cm nad podlahou:

See on tüüpiline Argentiina inseneri töö- duši äravool peab olema vähemalt 5cm põrandast kõrgemal:

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NP Santa Teresa:

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Video

2 European rednecks in Americas

After very long 2 years of tough saving money and her passing a masters degree we finally got to do our dream trip around the Americas. Previously we have only travelled a bit around Europe but never any further. Now from Estonian late autumn (0 and dark) we went into the beginning of South American summer (25+ and sunny) and two weeks were not enough to adapt…

Our first stop could not have been any more dreamed than that. London. Yayyyyy! Things that you expect in Latin America would hit you right away there. Our flight from the EU to London was already shifted into the overseas section, English border officer with my ID card in his hand asked my passport too so I had to pack out my whole backpack and let the line behind me feel that it ain’t so easy to get on this dream island, currency exchange offices had 10 times more employees than customers with rates varying by 40/60% between buy and sell! And sim cards with stickers 99p as a whole country flat rate were sold for 20£. Walking out of the airport to the nearest store with sim cards lead me into a jungle full of mud and weird looking taxi drivers within just 200m. Just about what you can expect from a developing country. On the other hand, the pleasant difference was, everyone spoke English.

In Buenos Aires international airport English was rather scarce though. There was just one exchange office, it had 2 armed guards and a hell of a line. Obtaining a sim card was not a problem of the price, rather than of other means. Passport was required and you would not get a contract nor just a prepaid card, you only could choose a one off package and you could only choose from one option. Eventually passport was required also whenever we tried to pay with a card in a shop. Is this Cuba or what?
Argentina is quite cheap now. Recent economic problems and high inflation pulls Argentinians back from travelling abroad and favours incoming foreigners. By far cheapest thing we found in our humble two days were trains. 700km ride to Cordoba for 10e (although taking for example 13h) or a city train for 0.10e.

Buenos Aires town is big but the urban area is just huge. We certainly have not gone through the full size. My personal feeling from the city was “like from around the Black Sea”. Without much of history that we are used to in European cities, most streets and blocks are straight and same looking. Endless panel blocks almost never two same next to each other gave me at least a feeling of colourfulness, which it isn’t there actually. Panel blocks look like their planning and construction was not heavily centralized like in our countries. We came to the city with the expectation for Paris of South America – and were disappointed. I would not say sightseeing can offer much and definitely not to travel overseas just for that. Well, for our good, that’s not why we’re here.

For our accommodation we chose Couchsurfing straight away. Getting to know the local life, system, people was pretty important for us. Although looking for it late, we were lucky enough to find a shelter at a young couple’s house. The estate contained a two story house (them downstairs, her dad upstairs), another house (her mom, divorced with the dad) and another house – a store – run by both mom and dad – and it works! JWhat was adorable, her mom is also on Couchsurfing and the second night she had a German couple starting their South American trip just like us, over as well. So we had a common dinner even with the dad. With typical local food – empanadas. Which looks like a thing n.1 beyond the borders. You see them everywhere. Theoretically you can fill them with anything but finding them ready without both meat and cheese is virtually impossible.

After a ride in a city train where we met people trying to sell really random stuff or earn some coins by playing guitar and singing, just in front of our ears, we had to take a bus to the airport that did not stop at the airport and dropped us one stop further so we had to walk 3km back to catch a flight to Chile. Our hosts told us it’s a new airport. Well, perhaps newly opened as a public airport. Otherwise it’s an old military airport where old panel blocks are wearing off, grass grows in between them right on the runway, mechanics are fixing old plane parts right next to the runway and just behind them local boys play football because there is no fence. The terminal looks like a changing room of a big gym, people are waiting for their flight outside on the grass, and security checks as lax as without the scan you’d think you’re boarding a small ferry.

In Santiago de Chile international airport you can see a pretty modern and developed airport, where again, you can’t get a wifi, you struggle to talk English or find information. Regular public transport doesn’t run there although it is not out of the city. A special bus needs to be taken for a triple price and worse comfort than a standard city bus would give.

Our time in Santiago started quite hectic. We arrived on Friday dinner time and had to get across the full width of the city to the other edge of it. We hardly understood how does the public transport work but the guy from the airport bus told us subway certainly works so we took it as the safer option. When we hit the town, everything was closed, because on Friday evening of course everyone went protesting (as for the situation then). And subway – of course it was closed. With her heartbeat over 150 I guess some old man sitting by a small table on the pavement started talking to us. In good English, wow. Well he did help us, he did tell us the buses run quite ok and this and that way it is safe but it took him near to an hour meanwhile the dark was setting. He kept complaining about the protests and was trying to stop young protesters (they were all young it seemed) and inform them about the real problems – environmental ones. Not that us nor many of the protesters disagreed but it was really not the time for anyone to bother. At a point we cut him off and walked to take a bus. We needed a card that could only be purchased in the – closed – metro. So we were preparing a heart breaking speech for the driver but just about everyone else jumped in without checking in, so we did as well. Our final neighbourhood did not look very trustworthy but it was calm and our host lived in one of few communities with a guard that were actually extremely nice and safe. And he proved to be an amazing host, his English was perfect with none Spanish accent and he was a hydroengineer as well. Doesn’t happen that often! He also did mention that many scorpions like to seek shelter in his house (should have seen her look) but they don’t attack, jump, climb nor poison. Only to check our shoes, clothes and bags on the ground before using them. (her look still on). We did not meet a single one but we did meet a huge walking stick and a chicken spider just the next day. Also not attacking nor venomous. Eventually there should be almost no venomous animal in the whole Chile. Chile seems a good starting point for westerners. We also experienced our first earthquake just the second day. What a weird feeling! But can’t wait for more.

In Santiago we were as disappointed from sightseeing as we were in BA. Apart of a 300m skyscraper with the high Ands in its background we found literally 0 building to be worth sightseeing. Maybe a little hill Santa Lucia just downtown. Where we managed to get only after a few days earlier during the day as otherwise it was full of protests, roadblocks and annoying teargas. There are numerous hills around where you can have a great view on a city of no beauty. It isn’t really ugly either, to be fair. What it is, unlike most Europe or BA, it is very dry. If you want to have grass in the garden, you have to water it massively. Most gardens in or out of the city are just bone dry dirt with some resistant trees, bushes or flowerbeds that you water or irrigate a lot. It is the fact that this year is very dry and the summer basically started but the landscape give you the feeling it is not much greener otherwise. Our week in Santiago was very hot and blue skied and it was difficult to walk around the town or drive a car during 11-6 daytime.

Our second hosts were very young teachers that were very much into the protests and so every day after work they went for an hour at least around the corner to stand on the corner, hit whatever instrument they had (bongo, drum, whistle, flute, rock, pot and spoon or brush), maybe a flag or a sign and keep playing a plain “ta ta tatata” all the way. And people around would be joining, either walking by or coming out of the houses or shops and especially cars passing by with honking. All around the city, or perhaps even the country. They would also meet new people up and spend the rest of the night with them by a dinner, drink, joint or else.

Our purpose to see Santiago at this moment was else though. We wanted a car and it seemed not very feasible anywhere else but Chile. On Monday we hit a travel agency specializing on for overlanders and cars for them. After so much online struggle few months before and of trying to get a converted minivan from a previous traveller, we luckily got one anyways just then. The previous guys are French and we learned that there were a bunch of equips before in that car. The clock says 370k km in this 20 year old Toyota and we have to believe in another 200k in this popular and rather reliable car. It doesn’t have powered steering wheel so I want to see Hanna parking with it. Myself I am so out of breath after this workout. Sadly this was the easy part. The hard part was the bureaucracy. You need tons of papers, tons of fees and no one speaks English. So doing it without a help of a friend, previous owner, or the agency we hired, could be a lot of fun. Especially during the striking and protesting time, when a thing that takes 2 hours can take 2 weeks. Finally we got our papers within a week, some others got it faster, some slower. We have more than 8 documents now allowing us to travel with it within some countries but the final one, the document of my ownership, will only come in 3-8 weeks. That paper is a piece of standard soft white paper without any chip or extra protective feature, just a barcode. Laminated in the cheapest plastic cover I have seen. 6 year old kid would fake it for me in half an hour, but the officials take a month or two. If there is no strikes, yeah.

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Second weekend in Chile we had nothing to do in the city so we went in the Maipo valley just outside of the town. We pulled over just next to the main road to sleep. Some cops woke us up asking our documents and sending us away. It was pretty close that they would learn we have no papers of the car yet. Lucky enough, our too bad Spanish saved us. They told us it is dangerous there and anywhere further up the valley even worse. Actually it is most likely the other way around, which we did. Once we were even invited to park in someone’s farm to hide in a shadow. After the weekend we received our papers and took off right away towards Argentina. To fix some bits on the car and to add up some tools and supplies. Because Chile, at least Santiago and around… is nowhere near to cheap. Central Europe prices what we found. We were told that Chile is expensive indeed. But we were also told that their roads and motorways are of an excellent quality. Well, not sure what the American standards really are but regarding European standards I’m pretty sure even in Ukraine they wouldn’t be happy about these roads. I couldn’t imagine what everyone meant by “these South American bumpy roads” could mean because when you open a streetview, you will often see a very decent surfaces. Oh Lord, the roads really are bumpy. They don’t even need potholes to knock you off the road. The roads just simply hop up and down like when you sail a sea, sometimes expectedly more often unexpectedly. Just like with the rest of infrastructure, German or Japanese perfectionism is a giant utopia around here. A decent shower or toilet is something we have not experienced yet either.

So that was our first two weeks, quite stressful, sure not so enjoyable though pretty interesting. Some of you including us would say spending 24/7 the whole year together will test our relationship properly, sooner or later. Although we have gone through a lot together, yes, of course. Well, I can tell you now, way sooner than we would have imagined. Basically we started argue on the very first day. Hoping it’s the initial stress and mess.

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