Almost the end of an amazing journey……..
Well the morning certainly didn’t go as expected ! The Army soldier from last night didn’t come back before I was ready to leave with any stickers or patches as he had promised, and then when I set off out of the park I went out on a totally different road from that on which I had entered last night, and not only found a very impressive fort, but shortly afterwards got pulled up by soldier at a guard house who requested paperwork I didn’t have before he would let me out of the park ! This looked like being an interesting day !!
I knew I would never remember all the twists and turns I had taken when following the army jeep in to the camp site last night, so I was relieved to see that there was a sign to “Ruta 9”, the main road I wanted. Following these signs, it was only a few hundred yards before I came over the brow of a hill to find a big statue of a man on a horse, situated beside an enormous old fort. (At least I now know what Fortaleza means – I add another word to my Spanish vocabulary !)
The chap on the horse was Coronel Leonardo Olivera, who lived from 1793 – 1863, and apparently went to India as well as later seeing action here in Santa Teresa. The fort itself is very impressive, and was seemingly built in 1762 by the Portuguese, although it seems that there was quite a lot of conflict in this area with the Spanish. I won’t go into detail about the fort – You can read more about it here if you want. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortaleza_de_Santa_Teresa
But I was impressed that apparently all the granite blocks in the walls are the same dimensions, which seems kind of amazing when you are rapidly trying to build a fort to aid in your colonization efforts in a foreign country !
From the fort I went on down towards the main road, and suddenly found a little guard post with a chain across the road and a soldier sitting there drinking his maté. When I got there he asked for some kind of paperwork – Which I didn’t have – And it then seemed that he couldn’t work out how on earth I had got into the park without this paperwork ! All my efforts to explain that I had been led into the park by a soldier in a jeep, and had never been given any paperwork, fell on deaf ears, and after much toing and froing I was told to wait while he got on the phone. I then waited another 15 minutes or so until another soldier came rushing down the road on a motorbike and stopped at the guard house. Once he had removed his helmet and had a sip of his mates maté, he seemed to understand my Spanglish much better, and he soon was writing out the piece of paper I was supposed to have received on entering the park last night – Presumably so I could then hand it in to the other soldier whose job it was to collect them ! I started to think that maybe there was a chance that I wouldn’t be thrown into the Fort’s dungeons today – Until I saw him write that the camping fee was 300 Pesos – About $12. Small problem – After last night’s ATM fiasco in Chuy, I still had no pesos ! This then took another 15 minutes to resolve – With the soldier agreeing that they would accept 38 Brazilian Reals. So I handed him 40 Reals – And he didn’t have any change, and I must have got the most honest soldier in Uruguay because it was another 10 minutes before I could persuade him to keep the 2 Reals change ! Eventually it was all sorted, and the chain was lifted, and I drove away, relieved to have avoided the dungeons !
After last night’s ATM issues, I decided to go back to 30 kms back to Chuy to try again to get some Uruguayan money. In town again, I first went to the bank I had been to before, and queued up for the teller. Allthough I was second in line, it was some 20 minutes before I got served because old people kept pushing in. I finally worked out a sign to mean “Old people over 65 get priority service” – But to get that priority service you have to stand in a special lane drawn o the floor in the bank – I was in the “normal” lane !! I guess old people get the priority because the bank doesn’t want them karking it while standing in line in their bank !! Anyway, eventually get to the teller, and he tells me the bank doesn’t change money ! Some bank. So where can I change money ? He points vaguely to the right and mumbles something, then says “Proximo” to get his next unsuspecting victim ! Meanwhile, I am asking everyone where I can change money – And eventually an armed security guard, obviously keen to get this crazy gringo out of the bank, tells me to go 4 streets up, turn left, and there I will find the cambio man. So off I go, and sure enough, 5 minutes later, I have swapped most of my Reals for Pesos, and am off back to the car.
Once there, I find the car surrounded by a whole lot of locals who seem to be working on selling watermelons off the back of a truck, but have become interested in my car. They want to know where I am from and all about my trip ! So I chat to them for a while, and during that conversation I work out that the town of Chuy seems to be divided by the Brazil / Uruguay border – And buildings on the north side of the road are Brazil, and on the south side are Uruguay. I had simply gone to a bank on the “wrong” (ie Brazilian) side of the road last night and there got Reals out of the ATM. Today I had gone to a cambio man on the south side of the street, and had no problems.
I tell you, you learn things down here by making the mistake the first time, but because you are travelling into different countries all the time, you rarely get a second chance to do it right !! I think it would be a good idea to do the trip all over again – And I would have no problems at all second time around !!
Pesos in my pocket, I finally headed on south down the coast. One of the first things I noticed was how many horse carts there are around here. I had seen several sitting around in Chuy waiting for work, and then I saw a number on the road, trotting along with all the traffic. Maybe road tax on vehicles is too expensive in Uruguay ?!! Not far down the road I turned off down to the beach at Agua Dulce just to see what it was like, and once again it was a place where the road ended up on the beach in the middle of the little town. But Agua Dulce wasn’t as interesting as some of the other places I had seen recently, so after a brief wander around the village, I made my way back to the main road and continued on south.
For the next 200 kms, there was nothing too startling – Flat fields, and quite a lot of waterways to cross, and then it slowly got more wooded and hilly as I got down towards my destination. And that was a camp site near a little coastal town called Jaureguiberry, just about 70 kms east of Montevideo. And it is a camp site well placed to cater to the many people who ship their cars from Europe to Montevideo and start their Transamerican adventures here, and also for the many like myself who are ending their adventures here, and about to get on a ship to Europe. And Heinz and Sylvia who own the park cater to that need very well. Uruguay automatically gives you a 12 month entry visa for both yourself and the car, so many people park their cars in Uruguay for the S American winter and fly home to Europe for the summer, to return the following spring to continue their travels in S America. So the camp site has an area where you can securely leave your car while you go back to Europe, as well as providing all the cleaning and washing facilities one needs in order to prepare vehicles for And it is also a great meeting place where stories of trips and adventures are swapped over a beer, and new arrivals can pick up a few hints before they head north. The fact that Sylvia also bakes bread each morning that is available is another benefit !
On entering the camp site, I found German motorcyclists Helmut and Bea who I had met a while back were getting ready to fly back to Germany for a few weeks for his sister’s wedding, while there was another German Troopie of Bernd and Viola (and little Jack their dog !). Soon we were all chatting, and met another couple Walter and Margit from Switzerland who were parking their van for the winter and about to fly home. It is a great little camp site and Heinz and Sylvia couldn’t be more helpful - They know all the shipping agents and A perfect place to end the trip and attend to all the chores like cleaning 6 months of dust off and out of the car prior to shipping, getting everything packed and sorted for the boat, doing laundry, and, for me, trying to sort out insurance for my car in Europe which is turning out to be a nightmare. It seems that it is almost impossible to get insurance for a foreign registered car in Europe unless you are actually a resident and can prove it, and even then it is only on a temporary basis until you get your vehicle registered in your “home” country. I think I have solved it now, but it is not cheap !! Amazing what unexpected issues crop up when you are only trying to drive around the world !
My vessel leaves Montevideo on the 29th April, and apparently I can just roll up on the docks on the appointed day, drive on the boat, and walk up to my cabin ! If so, easy. I have a few more things to do to the car and on the internet, but I will probably go into Montevideo next week for a look around. In the meantime I am almost finished here. I will shortly be doing a final post of the highlights of the trip as well as a few of the best photos, as a kind of summary, but apart from that I guess this trip is over. I won’t have wifi on the boat, so I guess I will be starting again once I get to Europe !
This last 12 months has been the most incredible Adventure – So much better than I ever imagined it was going to be. I have met some of the most amazing people, seen some incredible sights, and driven over 60,000 kms doing it. I have had a ball.
I can’t wait to get over there and explore some new places in Europe. Till then, thanks you to everyone for journeying with me and sharing my adventures, and especially for sending me messages and emails along the way – Until you do a journey like this, you will never know how important your messages and love and support are. Thank you all.
Hmm, now I wonder what I can call the European leg of this Adventure.........................