Saturday, 18 April 2015

0247 Around Paraiso Suizo

16th April 2015
I climb a mountain and find a Jaguar "at it" !

While it is peaceful sitting around the campsite, chatting to like-minded people, and generally relaxing, there comes a time when something needs to be done.  First of all, one needs to go to a supermarket to buy some more beer and wine to enable one to keep on relaxing.  (And also some more food supplies, of course).  Additionally, one feels a need for some exercise for other parts of your body than your drinking arm !  With this in mind, Swiss friends Simone and Michael and myself agreed to combine a trip to the shops in Piriapolis (about 15 kms down the road) with a climb of Cerro Pan de Azucar, Uruguay’s third highest mountain.  So I dusted off my crampons and oxygen tanks, and we set off for an adventure.

I would like to say that Uruguay has some of the highest mountain peaks in S America, and so give the impression that we were embarking on a treacherous expedition, but alas, it is not true.  There are two mountains in Uruguay that just reach 500 metres, and Cerro Pan de Azucar, the next highest, is in fact only 390 metres high, although I should point out that if one also climbs to the top of a 30 metre high cross found at the summit, you can reach the dizzy height of 420 metres.    And if you care to translate its name, it is Sugar Loaf Hill, which in itself does not conjure pictures of icy crags reaching into the clouds…………………

Once we arrived at the entrance, we parked the cars and set off.   A sign at the start of the trail does warn of poisonous vipers – so it is not fair to say the climb was totally without life-threatening danger.  Nevertheless, being seasoned explorers, we chose to continue with the ascent.  An easy gravel path went on for maybe 200 metres, and we passed some animal enclosures where local Nandu (small deer) and capybaras relaxed.    However, once we turned a corner and were out of sight of the car park, the path stopped abruptly and we were left with 3 options of paths to follow.  After two dead ends were found, we set off up the third, and soon found the trail marked by crudely painted yellow arrows on the rocks.  Where the path "didn't go", they painted a large red "NO" to advise you to go look for a yellow arrow elsewhere.   Other than that, it was a case of scramble up as best you can.  It was steep, and rocky, and far from easy, although it was looking unlikely that I would need my crampons or oxygen bottle at this stage. 

After about an hour of scrabbling up the steep trail, Simone decided her knees had had enough, and decided to sit at a vantage point overlooking the valley, and wait while Michael and I continued our ascent.  This we did, and maybe half an hour later we summited – With a VERY strong wind blowing that made it difficult to stand.  But the 360 degree view was superb, and we could see the seaside town of Piriapolis below us, and further
away to the north even Punta del Este was visible in the distance.  The concrete cross at the summit was showing distinct signs of weathering,  but Michael and I made it to the top, so can say we did the full 420 metre climb.  The arms of the cross are actually seating areas, although I didn’t feel particularly safe whilst doing so, and we soon made our way back down the spiral staircase to the comparative safety of the windblown rocks at the top of the Cerro.

As we made our descent, we came across a somewhat distressed Simone, no longer sitting quietly on the rock where we had left her.  It turned out that the poisonous vipers we had been warned about when we started our climb did in fact exist, and one had crept up behind her, and it was only when another hiker who happened to be passing at that moment told her “Not to move !!” that she leapt up and saw said serpent coiled and ready to spring at her.  Fortunately, once disturbed, the snake slithered away into the bushes, and we scrambled back down to the base of the hill without any further encounters.

Once there, we wandered through the quite expansive zoo, or Reserva de Fauna, even catching a couple of Jaguars “at it”, as one might say.  It is certainly all action here in Uruguay !  The zoo was a little sad, but the Jaguars (once they were not otherwise occupied) were fine beasties – Although the male went to sleep quite quickly while we watched – Must have been the warm sunlight ! J    
Some zorros (foxes) were lazing under a tree, a wild pig trotted across the path and went into the vulture compound to stir them up a bit, and I found out that the big and noisy ducks / geese that I had seen in the wetlands beside the road when driving south a few days ago were in fact called Chaja.   In another section there were a couple of fine horned owls that were enormous – about 3 feet tall – And fine looking birds.  I love the way owls can blink one eye at a time, as if they are winking at you !

By now it was lunch time, so it was agreed that we would drive into Piriapolis and try to find a restaurant before we went to the supermarket
for supplies.  I followed Simone and Michael in their Land Rover (we had to take two cars because both of us only have two seats in our cars) into the sleepy town, and along their Corniche – A very impressive one with the enormous Argentine Hotel and Casno being the centre point.  But as with many places after Easter, it is mainly shut down, and we drove along mostly quiet and deserted streets searching for a
restaurant that was open.  We finally found one at the end of the town, and enjoyed a fine meal before heading off to the supermarket.  After finding most of what we wanted in this excellent supermarket (considering the small size of the town), we then headed back to the camp site at Paraiso Suizo, and set up our vehicles again for camping.  An excellent day – Mountain climbed, supplies obtained (including previously mentioned beer and wine), and we were ready for a few more days of relaxing.

Trouble was, that night, it started raining and getting very windy, and the next 24 hours were quite horrible, weather wise.  But that is a story for another day – Today we achieved our goal and had a great day………despite Simone’s encounter with the viper !!

Finally, for anyone interested,  the details of my ship to Europe are as follows :-

Grande Amburgo – Ship specs and a photo of this beautiful cruise ship can be found here :-

As far as I can determine, my route to Tilbury will be as follows :-

Board in Montevideo on 29th April
Paranagua (Don’t ask me, look it up for yourself)  2nd May
Santos  4th May
Rio de Janeiro 6th May
Vitoria 8 May
Dakar  21st May
Hamburg  1st June
Tilbury  3rd June

Not sure what tours are included in the port calls, but I doubt  if there will be many any !
Photos are here :-    Later !!!  For some reason Picasa will not let me into my albums to "flip the switch" that will make them visible to all.  I will keep trying.


  1. I saw your car in Hamburg on board of the Grande Hamburgo while loading old and new vehicles with destination Africa. Is Africa your next part of your adventure?

  2. Just back on wifi, Markus. I plan to be in Europe for 12 months or more and will only then decide which way I will go home to Australia - via South Africa, via Russia / China etc, or back through Canada / Alaska. Which one ? Decisions, decisions !!!!

  3. It must have been a thrilling experience to watch all those animals up close.
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