Hey, did you know that you can really miss bacon, salami, cheese and yoghurt? Especially, when growing up in a region where this comes in big abundance.
For a long time we were waiting to find traces of all the European immigrants that set out – not so long ago – to find their luck in the “New World”. In Peru we finally found the first sign of the European “Exodus” to South America.
Otto Kunz makes the best Mortadella we ate on the continent. But not only his sausages and luncheon meats are delicious. The cheese isn’t half bad either.
Chile, the land of the German/Austrian Kuchen and Brotzeit tradition. Kuchen stands for sweet cakes and sweet pies usually enjoyed with a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Brotzeit is a savory snack (between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner) consisting of bread, cold cuts and cheese.
Funny enough, they use the German word Kuchen instead of a Spanish expression. So, in the middle of nowhere you might suddenly see a sign “Kuchen”
that usually belongs to a coffee shop or bakery. The Brotzeit, though, is called “Onces”. Restaurants and coffee shops offer a wide variety of “Onces” (11 o’clock) savories.
In bakeries and supermarkets you can even buy real German-like sourdough bread.
The German influence is still remarkable in Patagonia, especially in the Lake District. Therefore, you can always find a beer garden 😉
Otherwise, it’s more the traces of Italian immigration that make us rave about Argentina. For the first time in ages not only fresh pasta can be found but Gnocchi too. Man, and Italian style salami are offered in the smallest store. The Italians even introduced Coppa – sliced, in one piece, industrially produced or home made with grandpa’s recipe.
On a hot day, all these yummies make a really nice, cold dinner 😉
The Welsh and Irish brought their culinary traditions with them, too.
Therefore you can find English Afternoon Tea even in Patagonia
– in towns founded by Welsh immigrants.
Hey, and in Buenos Aires lives a Swiss.
And what is he producing??? Raclette Cheese!!!
in Brazil, you really arrive at the border triangle Switzerland – Germany –
Not only will you find all the goodies… No, they offer all the Kitsch,
and the architectural style, too.
Even the Paraguayans know that the best beer is produced in MUNICH!
In the small museum about immigration, in the Cabildo in Asunción (Paraguay), hangs a map
and a time chart showing year of immigration, destination, origin and number of immigrants.
stayed a couple of days with us – we headed out to the airport. Our destination: Puerto Iguazú.
The rows in the airplane were so narrow that Thomas’ knees touched the seat in front of him. Our friend Mark, being well over 6 ft, would never fit :-O When the flight attendants showed the usual emergency procedures we noticed that the life vests were missing. Checking under the seat… Really, no life vests, instead a sticker on the tray mentioning that the seat cushion is a floating device. After take-off we flew a big loop over the Rio de la Plata and some way up river – without the afore mentioned life vests 😀
Puerto Iguazú greeted us with warm sunshine and a humidity level of 90%.
The next day a bus brought us to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Even though the bus drove through Brazil, we didn’t have to pass the Brazilian immigration. Soon, we were, in possession of our rental car, westbound. The landscape, flat, green, with bits of forest and the occasional rolling hill didn’t seem foreign to us. More so the many white, blond or brown haired people in their old fashioned clothing. Ah yes, the Mennonites…
Our first stop was supposed to be San Bernardino. Founded by Germans/Swiss at the shore of Lago Ypacaraí and today’s weekend destination for the rich and famous of Asunción, the capital. During the week, and low season on top of it, a dead town with incredibly high accommodation prices.
Frustrated we decided to head into Asunción, only 40 km (25 mi) away. Ha, three hours later, we regretted this decision. My “love” for Paraguay increased to an unimaginable level when the coordinate of our hotel proved to be wrong and, finally having arrived, the room wasn’t worth its money. The Lebanese restaurant with its delicious falafel did a lot to reconcile us.
Some people and guidebooks compare Asunción to Buenos Aires. No idea why. It is quite a bit smaller. There’s no Tango and no pedestrian zone. A favela (slum) lies in the middle of town. Sounds bad, but isn’t so.
Our day in Asunción started at the breakfast buffet in the neighboring hotel, a ??? star place belonging to the same chain as ours. Our exploration started in balmy, humid air under a sunny sky. In the Manzana de Rivera, a collection of nine old restored houses, the guard of the “Museo Memoria de la Ciudad” acted as our (unwanted) guide. But we learned a lot from the charming young lady. For example, that Paraguay was the first South American country to declare its independence. Or that around 1820 the whole existing city, with the exception of a few buildings, was torn down, only to be rebuild in square blocks (Hippodamian Plan, grid plan).
Palacio de Lopez, seat of the Paraguayan government, has only one similarity to the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires – its pink (rose) color 🙂
The local Cabildo is a bit uncomfortable to reach since the big park on the city map has been transformed into a shanty town. Apart from that little inconvenience the Cabildo offers a little museum about immigration, an impressive staircase
and a view of Bahia Asunción.
But the most fascinating activity in Asunción is roaming its streets – one eye on the sidewalk
– and letting the gaze wander over house walls.
Here, local artist found over dimensional canvases
For the next days, the weather forecast announced rain. We still started out towards the South, in direction of Encarnación. Soon we learned that the warning signs “Attention, water on road”
are better heeded.
On the way, Templo de San Buenaventura, a small, inconspicuous church with an amazingly ornate interior,
called for a stop. But when we reached the church, the door was closed – lunch break / siesta. Now, many of the South American lunchbreaks are not of a duration where you sit in a café and wait for it to pass. No, they last three to five hours. But the guardian, just about to leave, offered to work overtime for a little appreciation from our side. An offer we gladly accepted.
But we idiots were in such a rush that we didn’t have a camera – not even from the phone – with us. We had left it all in the car 😎
which were very successfully built and operated in both departments. From 1609 until 1768 theJesuits amassed hundred thousands of indigenous people in these reductions. To save them from slavery and death but as well to Christianize them – without robbing them of their culture and language. The handicrafts produced in these reductions are still famous and sought after.
It was exactly this success that proofed to be fatal for the Jesuits. In 1768 the Vatican and the Spanish crown forcefully expelled them from South America.
Some 30 decaying missions remain in South America. A number are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At least three of them lie in the departments of Misiones and Itapúa.
With this background, the movie “The Mission” staring Robert de Niro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson was the predestined evening entertainment.
The Misión jesuítica de San Cosme y Damián was our first impression of these reductions. Due to some misinformation we didn’t see as much of it as would have been possible. But it still was, due to the restored roof, an imposing sight.
Contrary to this, Encarnación had nothing to offer us. Famous for the biggest carnival in Paraguay, we found it little appealing. But she’s the perfect stop to explore the surrounding area.
Passing Mate shrubs and trees (we never really learned which of the shrubs and trees we passed are actually Mate) – as well as Mate tea factories – and Mennonite settlements we returned to Ciudad del Este.
There, the lady of the rental car company asked if the car was clean. Limpio??? Clean??? Never in my life, after all the rain and mud… Well, the car needs to be clean when you return it :-O
Little was left to do in Puerto Iguazú before we flew back to Buenos Aires.
Brazil – fifth largest country in the world. The last adventure? For South America it looked more like our second last 😉
Beaches like in paradise, warm weather, old colonial towns and the Amazon – rainforest like river – were supposed to be the highlights, according to our guide book. The distances – unbelievable. Too far for the six weeks we had allotted us to explore Brazil. Rio de Janeiro, in the far south of the country, is on the most direct route already 2’092 km (1’307 mi) from our chosen border crossing, Chuy.
Brazil – South America Extra Large? European and foreign at the same time. A language that is familiar to our ears. More musical, softer than the Spanish sounds which accompanied us for many months. The feeling, that one should understand, but really seldom does 😉 Where else sounds the type of your motorcycle like the name of a lover? Our friend Pepy owns a Honda “Gisèle” – wow, never heard of that one before. It needed a picture, our friend Leonardo showed us, to realize that we knew “Gisèle”, of course, – simply as Honda XL 😀
First surprise were the two border agents that handled us and our bikes. Both of them spoke excellent English. One even told us, that close to the border of Paraguay we would need to be very careful and shouldn’t drive, under any circumstances, at night. Thanks to the very low import duties in Paraguay (and the very high ones in Brazil) there are a lot of contraband activities in the area.
On that first day, the province of Rio Grande do Sul presented itself in an unbelievable range of green – from the darkest you can imagine to the brightest. The ride was nice, even though the landscape stayed as flat as ever. Pastures and fields, swamps, forests and small lakes graced our path. The houses, small and simple, were colorful spots in the sea of green – like flowers on a plant in full bloom. Not only the landscape seemed more tropical. Wind warnings were palm trees instead of the famous Patagonian shrub/tree.
We even saw a wide array of wild animals – sadly all dead beside the road.
Our friends insisted that we can’t miss out on Gramado – a town in the mountains. Mountains, there are mountains around here???
The landscape sure became hilly, the road winding. We gained the “incredible” altitude of 800 m (2’625 ft) and ended up in “Utopia / mountain resort”. Frame houses,
more Fondue restaurants…
Oh, and have I already mentioned the fondue restaurants? 😉
… chocolate manufacturers, bratwurst and German beer
But not only the architecture and gastronomy remind us – in a very kitschy, Walt Disney kind of way – of European mountain resorts.
Pedestrians have the right of way and the sidewalks shiny, clean.
Stray dogs, since Mexico part of the scenery, are practically non-existent. Whereas the cat returns as a pet.
We chose a hotel that, at the end, proved to be quite inexpensive. A guest kitchen with a full stove, oven and a microwave as well as pots, pans, plates and cutlery were provided. But it was the breakfast buffet that really was over the top – simply heavenly. Daily they offered at least six savory pies and the same amount of sweet cakes, a variety of bread, bread rolls, cheeses, meats, egg dishes, dairy products, granola and fruit – until you burst. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures 😦
Breakfast was so filling and good, that we really didn’t have much opportunity to visit the restaurants. And I’m very embarrassed to admit, that every day, I smuggled some slices of pie to our room for dinner – they were simply too delicious.
Thomas took the opportunity to make the next oil change. And man, what a bummer! He found metal shavings on my oil draining plug 😦 We still decided to head on north, to visit our friends in Criciúma, where we would check the oil draining plug once more.
Good tarmac with a couple of nice bends lead out of Gramado. On a high plain (plateau) we rode through lush green countryside. We were clueless about the fact that we followed a brim between the plateau and the coastal region which leads from Gramado almost all the way to Florianópolis. The whole day we rode in an altitude of 800 (2’625 ft) to 1’000 m (3’281 ft). In Cambará do Sul we turned off the main road.
A gravel road lead us to the Cânion do Itaimbezinho,
a 5.8 km (3.6 mi) long and 600 m (1’968 ft) deep gorge. And as impressive as the canyon was,
we were more fascinated by the Araucaria forests. We hadn’t expected that many of these “ancient” trees, some as dense forests, in this region.
From about 1’000 m (3’281 ft) on the brim of the the Cânion do Itaimbezinho some dirt hairpin turns lead us down to Praia Grande (big beach – not that we really found a beach) at about 30 m (98 ft) above sea level. There, we enjoyed the coolness of the river, icy beer and a myriad of butterflies
that seemed to be everywhere while toasting in over 30° C (86° F).
We had a rendezvous with our friend Pepy. We were supposed to meet him at 2 p.m. in Criciúma and then proceed to the beach with him. 250 km on tarmac shouldn’t be a challenge.
Ha, what looked like tarmac on our maps turned out to be 185 km – with a detour – of dirt.
Soon we left the coastal plain, climbing back up onto the plateau.
Already a bit short of time the missing bridge came as a bit of a shock.
But a really nice, helpful local explained us km by km (or mile by mile) how to navigate the 10 km (6.25 mi) detour.
Therefore the endless concrete hairpin turns that led from an elevation of 1’460 m (4’790 ft) into the coastal plain was a foggy challenge.
We were an hour late by the time we made it to the meeting point. Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t only Pepy that waited in front of the closed restaurant. No, Jonathan, whom we had met in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), and Gabriel were keeping him company. They all accompanied us to the beach house of Pepy’s family, our home for the next week. Pepy showed us around while Gabriel and Jonathan went shopping – a Swiss Café Complet (bread, cheese, mortadella). After the meal our friends left, honestly worried that we were still hungry. Really, no pizza???
Tuesday we just hung around the beach house. The weather was okay, but it was too cold to swim.
The village, during the week in low season, dead – apart from two supermarkets and a “hole-in-the-wall” bar.
Wednesday evening was Churrasco Night.
Ednei, our grill chef from San Pedro, sadly couldn’t make it. But Gabriel proved to be quite up to the task. Leonardo, Jonathan, Pepy – with wife Giovana and daughter Yasmin – were really good company.
It was soon agreed that Friday was the evening to visit a bar in Criciúma
– including chauffeur service for us;
40 km one way.
Thursday, Pepy’s parents Irene and Pedro came to visit
– bringing coffee and cake. The cake turned out to be: Schlüferli (a Swiss specialty made out of fried dough)…
Who would have thought that this specialty would make it across the big pond 😀
Sunday came and brought Ednei as well as Pepy, including families, Jonathan and Gabriel to the beach house.
At this point we would like to thank the Papas do Asfalto – Pepy, Leonardo, Jonathan, Gabriel, Ednei and all their families. They offered us, like our friends in Mexico and the USA, a home far away from home. Amigos, foi fantástico! Muitíssimo obrigado!
Heart heavy we had already made up our mind to return directly to Buenos Aires. At the beach house Thomas not only found additional metal shavings on my oil draining plug but a drop forming on my shock.
Our friends suggested us a very clear route and with their best wishes we started out on the 1’500 km (937.5 mi). No problem at all.
Our 31st country on this trip seems to have little to offer apart from the beaches along the Atlantic Coast. But honestly, at home, what do we really know about Uruguay? Well, our first stop, in the small town of Fray Bentos,
For the last time in South America some of our dearest friends were assembled at one spot.
Kanako (Coco), Takeshi and Wasabi had already shipped their car to Europe. They would be flying from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam at the end of March. They plan to explore Europe for three months before they start their overland journey home to Japan. Mid-March Mandi and John would load their van into a container to ship it back to Florida but fly ahead on March, 18th. We spend two nights at Chacra Holandesa with all of them.
Then, to soften the goodbyes a bit, we spent another two days with Mandi and John in a rainy Montevideo
Everything must come to an end – like the comfortable, funny meetings with our friends. Riding out of Montevideo I shed a couple of melancholic tears. Most of our friends were already long gone. But soon I had to concentrate on traffic and our next destination.
Yes, my heartrate still accelerates when we head for a new destination. Curiosity takes over. Antsy, with a – I’m pretty sure – stupid grin on my face, I sit on the bike – following Thomas into the next adventure!
Okay, there is no translation for “Januarloch” but the meaning is quite simple. After all the festivities, the money spending there is the January Hole – no festivities, no money, tiredness, long winter nights, people being just a bit depressed 😉
So, apart from the fact that we reached Ushuaia, January hadn’t started on a good note.
But since we got our spare parts, fixing the starters was top priority. Therefore, we returned from Ushuaia to Rio Grande. We not only had a nice apartment but a motorcycle mechanic had agreed to let Thomas work in his shop – while he was on holidays. When we were ready to get started, his daughter couldn’t get hold of the workshop key.
Luckily, Fernanda had a boyfriend with a small workshop, he and his friends used for their ADVs, which we were allowed to use. My bike came first.
All went smoothly
until the side cover cracked while Thomas tightening the screws. No way to hit the road without being splattered with engine oil. The guys agreed that JB Weld and some kind of bracket should do the deal.
Then the paper seal of Thomas’ side cover ripped. To find seal paper was kind of difficult but in the end we got lucky. So I cut a new one.
Friends of Fernando, the shop owner, showed up and invited us for an impromptu BBQ session.
They had a huge build-in grill in the workshop.
We were driven home after a fun evening and then picked up again the next morning. Hoping that all was fine, we took the motorcycles back to the apartment.
But both side covers were still leaking. That meant more time in the workshop, drinking more Mate.
Finally, after four days, Thomas was willing to ride on. It’s so easy, when you can simply press a button
and the engine roars 😀
After 369 km (230 mi),
two border crossings and a ferry,
that brought us from the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego back to the argentine mainland, it was clear that we couldn’t continue without spending more time trying to fix my side cover. On iOverlander we found a recommendation for a local mechanic. Luis proofed to be our savior in Rio Gallegos.
Not only was Thomas allowed to use his workshop, free of charge,
but he knew a welder that he trusted to weld my aluminum side cover. Thomas had removed the JB Weld very carefully.
After the welding
a new paper seal was cut and then we could only hope.
Rain cut our next riding day short. But after 237 km (148 mi) the side cover was still dry/sealed. An entire landslide went off our hearts – what a huge relief. It would have been almost impossible to get a replacement in Argentina.
The only reason to stop in Caleta Olivia would have been the sea lion colony directly beside the road. But that day, there wasn’t even a single one on the beach, of course. The locals assured us that this was very exceptional. Ha, big help, didn’t mean the beasts returned…
As it turned out, we wouldn’t have time to return and have a second look after finding a hotel room. Unloading our tail bags, we discovered that Tom’s rear tire had simply dissolved on the last kilometers.
Completely unexpected, we had to find a new rear tire. Sadly, 18 inch (in our width) isn’t really common down here. But we were lucky and found one at a reasonable price. Thomas took the wheel out, carried it to the dealer who took him to a shop to have it mounted. Soon, the wheel was back in and we went to pay for the tire. Suddenly, the dealer wanted 50 USD more for the tire – mounting not included. If Thomas didn’t want to pay the more expensive price, the dealer wanted the tire back. Huuuu???? After a long discussion that let to nothing but hot tempers on all sides, we put cash on the counter – the original price and 15 USD extra – and left the shop without another word. Since the guy didn’t show up at the hotel he must have been satisfied.
After the experience with Tom’s tire, we weren’t willing to take chances but ordered new tires all around. 10 days later we should be able to pick them up at the post office in Puerto Madryn, a bit further north.
That left us with a lot of time to ride a part of Argentina that most people describe as boring.
In almost all the blogs we follow people choose either the route along the Andes, take the ferry back north or are suddenly in Buenos Aires.
We decided to ride some more dirt, which provided us with some change.
In Trelew we spend 6 days in an ultra-cheap AirBnB – 10 USD per night (for 2) incl. breakfast.
Our landlady lent us her car to visit closeby Gaiman to enjoy some welsh afternoon tea. We visited a tea room where, once upon a time, Diana, Pricess of Wales, had a cup of tea.
With 36° C, 97° F, in the shade, it was too warm for us to drink afternoon tea. Instead we went for an aperitif.
Then it was time to change location. Over the next three days our three tires arrived in Puerto Madryn.
Our landlord was fine with us changing tires in the yard and even took care of our rundown ones.
Still kind of undecided, we continued north.
The coastal towns and the transit stations were full of tourists. The hotels overpriced and therefore not worth their money. Vacation season, high season, then transitions into Carnival Season in certain regions. Riding a bit more dirt,
1’000 km (625 mi) before Buenos Aires we reached our limit. Our only thought was getting out of the hype. The idea to continue along the coast and meet up for a beer with the bikers we had met on the Carretera Austral wasn’t attractive anymore, since they lived in the biggest beach resort – Mar del Plata.
Settling down, waiting for the high season and the Carnival to pass, not playing the hotel game for a month… Three dusty, boring and hot days later we moved into our little apartment. A bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, WIFI, a washing machine AND AC 😀
Taking the ferry to the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego we left Punta Arenas. It was an uneventful, bumpy two hours ride crossing the Strait of Magellan. In stormy wind we arrived at our little hostel in Porvenir, a village enthusiastically named Future. There’s hardly another place in South America where locals gave us such a friendly welcome. Within 30 minutes we knew the family history of at least three people 😀
Mind is set on reaching the End of the World – should be easy all is planned out. Of course, it didn’t go according to plan. First, the king penguin colony was still closed when we arrived –opening at 11 a.m. only. Second, Thomas had a flat. Sure, this couldn’t have happened in any other place than the no man’s land between the Chilean and Argentinian border and it had to be the rear tire.
Naturally, this was not a wind covered place either. Does that even exist down here???
Then there is always a first – even if you have been riding as long as Thomas: No way we wanted to take of the helmets in this cold wind.
As for the gloves, well, no choice there. After 90 minutes we were back on the road.
About a 100 km (+/- 60 mi) before Ushuaia the landscape changes. Instead of dry, windswept plain mountains start gracing the view.
In super high spirits we rode up to the city limit to take the absolutely mandatory pictures.
Then, the TWO HOUR search for our accommodation started, which was supposed to be a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the city center. Urgh, our elation had turned pretty sour by the time we finally got into our apartment. There, we discovered to our surprise that our mood manages to drop even further. Luckily, Megan and Mike had made it to Ushuaia ahead of us. They were joining us in drinking ourselves from misery to bliss 😀
Ushuaia is a very touristy place. During the season, most days, it has a cruise ship or two in port.
Another big tourist magnet are the Antarctica cruises. Filled with tourists in the summer months the city offers a pedestrian zone with a wide range of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. bo
More and more of our friends made it to the End of the World. Some only stopped to shop for groceries, others overnight. Peter arrived from Germany – with our spare parts.
Thank you so much, dear Peter!
We rode to the end of Ruta Nacional 3, the road that leads from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, the second End of the World.
That was it! Our KTM’s, Thomas and I made it safe and sound to Ushuaia. We rode the 51’000 km (31’875 mi) – most direct route according to Google Maps: 21’808 km (13’630 mi) – in only 240 days (which leaves us with 309 days off the bikes).
The biggest mechanical problem had my KTM in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico. We can look back on thousands of good experiences and nice encounters – without a single negative one that would be worth mentioning here. We had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with old friends and to make new ones. Therefore we take this opportunity to thank each and every one that was part of this piece of the trip and that contributed with their presence to make it into an unforgettable experience. It would take too long to mention everybody but they can be found in the blog since Deadhorse. Thank you for your friendship, help, support and all the good times we could spend with you!