2 Sep 2017

Home Again

We flew back to the UK on 1st June and since then we have been flat out with moving back into the house and sorting all of the issues associated with letting a house for 3 years (especially the garden), but given the income it has provided it has been worthwhile.

So apologies for the lateness of the final blog for this phase, especially as there is not an awful lot to report. The final week was a question of navigating by the weather forecast and whilst the skies were pretty grey with a fair amount of rain, we managed to avoid putting the roof tent up and down in the rain, but it was pretty cold in the evening, which required  thermals and down jackets to keep warm and resulted in the bottom room being added a couple of times.

The highlight of the last few days was the visit to the old Frey Bentos factory, where in its hay day they were slaughtering 2,000 cattle per day to make their corned beef and meat pies and oxo cubes.

Then back to Colonia where we decided to cross to BA a day early and booked an extra night in our  Air B&B.

Because we will now be spending a lot more of the year at home but the Land Cruiser will stay in South America for the forceible future we decided that another travelling vehicle was required and in February we bought Renault Traffic long wheel base, high roof van for conversion to a camper. This was supposed to happen whilst we were in South America, but various delays meant that it wasn't ready when we got back and was finally handed over 3 weeks later, 2 days before we moved back into our house!

It is not 4x4 and we sleep inside, so not as intrepid as the Land Cruiser, but just what we need for touring Europe. We have done a lot of touring round Europe over the years, but with a max of 3 weeks it was often a 1,000 mile dash to the area we wanted to visit and another 1,000 mile dash back at the end, so now we can go for a couple of months at a time and take it slowly.

Our first trip will be to Andalusia in Spain, starting in a few days, driving slowly down through France and round Portugal, the return trip will be a lot quicker as it will be cold in France at the end of October. Then 2 months at home before heading back to South America and hopefully this time Patagonia in January.

Overnight at a fuel station after a torrential downpour, but fortunately dry over night (and a nice hot shower in the morning)
The ubiquitous Frey Bentos tined pie, eaten by millions in the UK, but how many of them realised they were manufactured in Uruguay?

Many of the buildings are in a state of disrepair

But the offices have been left exactly as the last employees worked there

What they produced over the years

The famous OXO

An add from the First World War

Camped on the beach, it was quite sunny and warm here for much of the day, but cold in the evenings.

It is amazing what you find in a loo, this is the toilet bowl of a disused toilet with 6 pups crammed in!. There was a large bowl of dried dog food for mum and Chris cooked an extra portion of chicken and rice for her.

Intrepid for 10 minutes rides again! This time in comfort

23 May 2017

A Cultural Diversion

Having had to make a dash for the pass to avoid getting snow bound in Chile and then moving straight on to the Hostel in Mendoza to avoid getting wet, we found ourselves ahead of schedule, with seemingly not an awful lot of interest on the way. But having already done over 5,000 miles we did not want to deviate too far off route, so we decided to follow the weather and headed north to San Juan, where we had  2 really sunny days relaxing in a camp site.

Searching the Lonely Planet I saw that Che Guevara spent his youth at Alta Gracia, south of Cordoba and there was a museum there, it was an the way so that is where we headed. On the way to Alta Gracia we stopped off at the Rocsom museum, the most diverse we have ever seen, from a wooden framed bicycle to a 2 headed cow, various examples of old x-ray machines, a room full of old dentists chairs, old carriages and cars, the variety and multiplicity was endless.

Alta Gracia turned out to be one of our favourite places and our best camp site in Argentina, and ended up staying for 5 days!. As well as the Che museum there was also a museums dedicated to Manuel de Falla, a Spanish musician who spent the last years of his life here, plus a Jesuit Estancia, which was the centre piece of the town, including church, residence, slave quarters, a clock tower and a small reservoir. To top that we also found an Irish pub with a locally brewed version of Guinness.

On the Saturday there was a 10k run setting off and finishing outside the Estancia and after it had finished I wandered into the church and found a guy tuning Harpsichord, turned out there was a Barroc concert that evening with a mix of original and replica instruments of the time, the sound was amazing and it was free!!!

So impressed with the Estancia we then detoured slightly north of Cordoba, t visit 2 more Estancia, Santa Catalina in the middle of the countryside and Estancia Jesus Maria on the edge of a large town, where we are now camped in a delightful little camp site. So what we thought was going to be a boring trudge across Argentina has turned out to be quite a cultural experience! However, the next 2 days will be driving, mostly motorway, until we get to Uruguay.

Heading towards Cordoba, just as the sun sets, the rain clears and we get the most amazing sun set
The wooden framed bicycle in the Rocson Museum (made in Italy in the 1930's

Two headed Calf

A Collection of Gramophones

A Room full of Dentist Chairs

A 9 foot high projector, used in a New York Cinema in 1950

A pair of Armadillo's

A Ceiling full of Lamp Shades

And a room Full of old cars and car parts
Our camp site in Alta Garcia

Had some amazing old trees and this huge Cacti
And an airfield next door, continually dropping people out of the sky

The finishing line at the 10k run, with the church of the Estansia in the back ground
A model of the Estancia 

Inside the Estancia

Typical Bedroom furniture

I find a guy tuning a replica of a Clave (sounds like a harpsichord) in the church
And then see this poster in a shop window
The sun starts to set on the Estancia

and the reservoir
And we had to go to the concert, which sounded amazing in the church

The house that Che Guevara grow  up in

his bedroom

the bicycle he put a motor on to do his first road trip

and his famous motor bike

Chris poses for a picture with him in the back garden

and the routes of his various road trips (from a distance it looks pretty much like our own route

Caricatures of composers from Bach to Faller on the wall in Faller's house

Estancia Catalina

With a completely overgrown Reservoir

Estancia Jesus Maria

14 May 2017

And all we did today was have lunch - again - and what a lunch!!

Having watched the forecast for a few days we timed our crossing to perfection. Had we delayed another day we would have probably had to stay in Chile for another week. We crossed into Argentina at 3 pm and they told us that at 6 pm the border would be closed until further notice due to snow!

The next night was cold and wet, so we decided that a few nights out of the roof tent were in order and headed for Antigua Residence in Mendoza (a Hostel highly recommended on IOverlander). It was a long day driving and we arrived in the dark (probably the third time we have driven in the dark in 3 years) and we were more than relieved to find that they had room for us.

This place is just amazing. Owned by an Italian family that bought this former champagne producing vineyard 7 years ago in an extremely dilapidated state and have converted it into an amazing hostel. they have even converted the ' tanks' that were used to make champagne have been converted into bedrooms. So, after 49 nights in the roof tent and 2,500 miles in the last 17 days and  we decided we would stay here for a few days.

First we visited a place that makes Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, then a place the produces lots of different spirits and liquors and then yesterday we visited  a winery and decided we would stay for lunch, a beautiful setting and when we asked for the menu the chef came out and explained each of the courses in great detail. There was a choice of 3 or 5 course set menu and the chef offered to give us a taster of the first 3 courses of the 5 course meal as our first course, amazing and  accompanied by 3 different wines.

This was followed by the tour, followed by wine tasting and when we had finished our guide put the cork in the last bottle and gave it to us to take home - all in all an excellent day.

We have had a lazy day today in preparation for getting back on the road tomorrow and received an email from the Swiss couple we met at Pisco Elqui saying that they are currently stranded in Chile waiting for flood water to subside, where as here it has been gorgeous whether since we arrived in Mendoza.

We head for the hills
and over the pass

We visit this 106 year old olive farm, with the original olive press still in position

and see the olive trees, also 106 ears old, but these are very young as they will keep baring fruit for 2,000 years.

After the press the pulp was put between these mesh plates and squashed and unlike the press, which was replaced many years ago, these will still in operation into the late 1990's. 

all now replaced by this! Which could be anything.

then the olive oil is collected in these large tanks

like wine the balsamic vinegar is aged in oak barrels

Hostel Antigua, converted from a derelict champagne winery
The old champagne tanks have all been converted into rooms. The owner of the property and master mind of the conversion stands in the distance. The Hostel is run by his two daughters, one of which is standing next to Chris giving us the guided tour

The Cellar used for meetings 
and this used to be a large underground champagne tank
the original safe, inside which they found many plans and details of the original business.

Finca Agostino, we are given a welcome glass of champagne on the roof terrace while we wait for the next tour

then we wander over to the restaurant and decide to have lunch first

Our starter

and main course

accompanied by lots of wine

and a picture with the chef (but I really should have taken my napkin off!!!

and then dessert

followed by the wine tour, this vineyard is only 12 years old so all very modern

Mariana, our host and tour guide, she is actually the restaurant manager but by the time we finished lunch the tour guide proper had to go because it was his mothers birthday so Mariana offered to take his place. She told us that she visited the UK one summer and was like autumn in Mendoza