February 2024

So the first ten days of February I travelled alone as Kilian was in the Netherlands for his fathers funeral. Kilian had departed from the Bariloche airport and would also be coming back here again. So I decided to stay around Bariloche. We had been in this area before; the first time when we entered Argentina on our way south to Ushuaia. So I knew that within a radius of 200km there would be plenty to do for me. It is a nice and safe area although it was very crowded. With the green mountains and azure lakes it offers lots of opportunities for the outdoor life the Argentinians so love. And since it was still the summer holidays with kids being free from school, there were lots and lots of tourists. After I had dropped of Kilian at the airport it was already late afternoon so I decided to spend one more night near the Bariloche lake. I was a bit nervous driving at first. I can drive just fine but it had been a while and usually when I drive, Kilian is still there. It would be horrible of course if something happened to the van while I was solely responsible for it! I made it to the lake side just fine, but in front of the lake is a big area to wild camp with numerous paths, all covered in a layer of rough gravel. I took a wrong turn and when turning around I misjudged a part and got stuck in a thick, loose part of the gravel road. I hadn’t turned on 4×4 yet. ” Great” I thought, “first solo wild camp spot and I am immediately stuck! But I knew what to do. I got out and started digging the gravel away from the tires and of course turned on the 4×4. At my first attempt I didn’t get out but, managed to free the car on the second attempt after digging away a bit more gravel. I was actually kind of proud, I got myself out and at least I now knew I could do it. I drove on to where I actually wanted to camp and managed to set up the van. Including releasing the tensioning strap from the bike rack so I could open up the back (where the chairs and our clothes are) and got the roof popped up. Those two things are difficult for me as I am shorter (I had to climb on to the bike rack to reach the strap) and I don’t have as much strength as Kilian, the roof is quite heavy. Pleased with myself I made a simple dinner. Before going to bed I locked up the van a bit extra for security. I had a peaceful night.

The next day I got a text from Kilian who had safely landed in the Netherlands, without any delays. I decided to drive to San Martin de los Andes. A nice touristy town around 200km north of Bariloche. I drove the seven lake route again and actually enjoyed the change of travelling solo for the first time. But I was still glad to arrive in San Martin, driving 200kms of curvy mountainous roads was enough for me. Usually Kilian drives because he enjoys it and for me it is mostly just a way to get from A to B. In San Martin there is a free site for campers, directly at the lake. There aren’t any facilities but it is also close to the town centre. There were already lots of other campers, mostly from Argentina and Brazil. The first night I camped next to a Brazilian camper but I moved the next day. Most Brazilian campers are huge and have all sorts of facilities like noisy air-conditioners… I spend several nights at this place, enjoying sunbathing and swimming or walking in to town to browse around the shops or have a drink. I also ate quite a few empanadas as they have the best ones here in the whole of Latin America! At least that’s what I think. I talked to several other people and one nice guy from Argentina gave me his business card. He and his wife were enjoying the last few days of their holiday in San Martin and he told me that when I needed help, I could contact them. I carefully kept his card, he spoke English as well and I figured if the van broke down he could talk to the garage for me, especially as he had also seen the van. Because no matter how self sufficient I am, I have very few technical skills and I would never be able to fix anything myself if something would break.

After several days in San Martin I decided to drive south again. I didn’t want to drive any further North, away from Bariloche. But I knew that about 200kms south of Bariloche there was another nice town, El Bolson, where there was also a very nice wild camp spot next to a clear river and I knew I would enjoy myself there for a few days as well. But I first spend two nights at another free campsite near a river in the seven lake area. I camped under the trees, surrounded by Argentinian families. I did some laundry in the river. Although it was nice to be in nature again I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought. Being alone and without cellphone reception it was very quiet and a bit boring. So after two nights I drove to Villa Angostura to do some shopping and get fuel. I camped at the lake where it was really very crowded but I did manage to find a spot. The first night there was too much music but the second night it was fortunately quiet.

While I was there I spoke to Abigail from Meat around the world, who we had also spend xmas with in Ushuaia. They were also in the area and we decided to meet up at the lake near Bariloche. So instead of continuing my journey to El Bolson, I camped another night at the lake, where they arrived late in the evening. The next day we also met up with Anouk and Ralph, two Swiss people. We had met them in Mexico and Guatemala and although they had already returned to Switzerland, they were now in Argentina for a holiday. We went to a campsite and the six of us had a bbq and a great evening together.

Anouk and Ralph had a tight schedule and got on a plane to Mendoza the next day while I drove to colonia Suissa with Richie, Abigail and Zoe. Colonia Suissa was first founded by Swiss people, hence its name. But there were no nice Swiss wooden houses. It is a small but very touristy town with lots of stores and restaurants.

We had and nice afternoon and then returned to the lake at Bariloche. There we had dinner together and then spend the rest of the evening at a campfire with four other people. One of them a chef who had brought a big piece of beef which he prepared over the campfire. It was honestly the best meat I ever ate! We also saw an incredible beautiful sunset. All in all it was one of those magical evenings and I was really sorry for Kilian that he couldn’t be there! I ate too much and went to bed well after midnight.

The following day we drove to Villa la Angostura again as Meat around the world had some things to take care of there. We first walked the town together and then split up for a bit. I went shopping for food, after having been cooked for the last two nights it was now definitely my turn to cook. We met up again at the lake near Villa la Angostura. We shared another dinner and the following day we enjoyed the beach, not only swimming but also playing dinosaurs with Zoe, who is 4 years old.

Then we went our separate ways. Meat around the world continued their journey north while I returned to Bariloche as Kilian would be arriving the next day. After almost two weeks in the Netherlands, Kilian arrived back in Bariloche at February the eleventh. We were glad to see each other again and Kilian had brought back many things from the Netherlands. Like shoes to fit my big Dutch feet but also liquorice, speculaas (a Dutch cookie) and many other things, most of them have been eaten by now, unfortunately!

The next day we visited the chocolate museum near Bariloche where they explained the history of chocolate and we admired some life size chocolate statues. We didn’t buy any of the really expensive chocolate. Fortunately Kilian had also brought back some Tony Chocolony bars. Latin America is the continent where cacaoa beans grow, but the really good chocolate actually gets imported from Europe! Any chocolate that is made here either doesn’t taste very nice or is very expensive (and still not as good as EU chocolate!)

From Bariloche we drove up north via route 237, a scenic route where we camped at several rivers, enjoying a swim and grilling. We were on our way to Mendoza, the next city after Bariloche. But Mendoza was still 1000kms away.

So after a few days of daily driving we spend the weekend at Las Lajas a midsize town. On Monday the 19th we left our campsite and went to a little church where there was a water tap so we could fill up our water tanks before driving on. This was a bit outside of town and behind the church there were only a few houses, this was obviously the poorer area. There were also quite a few stray cats. And a little kitten that was sitting in the middle of the road, not moving as our van approached. Normally cats get out of the way of course (dogs not necessarily). So while Kilian was getting water, I walked up to the little tabby and white kitten, who had his back to me. It was clear he was very ill, with a damaged eye and a snotty nose and he was painfully thin. Needless to say I picked him up. We still had some food in the van as I knew it would come in handy one day. I gave the little guy some special wet food called recovery, and he ate that quickly. Being so thin it was obvious that he had been starving for some time. This means the digestive system can’t handle lots of food. So after he ate a bit I took it away. Of course I wasn’t going to leave him there to die.

He was about 7 weeks old and 200 grams underweight. That doesn’t sound like much, but it meant he was actually 25% underweight, which is a lot. We drove to the centre and after some asking and searching we actually found a vet. With his snotty nose and damaged eye he looked to have a “cold”. However the feline calici virus isn’t as innocent as a cold and can kill cats. It was clear his eye was very damaged and the local, basic, vet thought he would loose it. However I had heard that before while being a kitten foster carer in the Netherlands and had managed to safe an eye before. Hoping to do the same for this little guy I searched online a bit and found an ophthalmologist in Mendoza, an eye specialist vet. We spend one more day at Las Lajas so we could take better care of this little guy, as it was clear he wouldn’t do well in a hot moving vehicle. He was now on antibiotics so we hoped he would feel better the next day. He was already very sweet and cuddly, probably happy to have food and some comfort and care. We weren’t sure if he would live but he made it through the next crucial 48 hours.

On Tuesday the 20th we continued our journey to Mendoza, now skipping a few sight seeings. We contacted the ophthalmologist, Ofvet, and got an appointment for Friday. After some careful consideration and trying out names for a few days, we named him Finnley. On Thursday evening Finnley just happened to look at his nose while I moved the eyelids to give him his eye drops. Therefore the upper left part of his eye became visible and I noticed some small thorns sticking out of his eye! The poor little guy, that must have hurt so much! There was nothing we could do right then, so we were very glad to arrive at the eye vet to following day. After an examination he gave Finnley some eye drops to numb his eye and he removed the thorny grass seed that had caused his eye to be so badly damaged. He then also removed a large piece of grass from Finnley’s nose! These objects were causing his issues, not a virus!

The vet told us in order to save the eye he would need a surgery very fast. This wouldn’t be without risk as Finnley was still underweight. But of course we wanted Finnley to be able to lead his best life, so we agreed to the surgery the following Tuesday. In the meantime we had to give Finnley two different types of eye drops every couple of hours and of course plenty of food. From Thursday to Monday we camped at a winery south of Mendoza that had a fancy pool. Mendoza is known for its wines, which unfortunately we aren’t very interested in… On Saturday the 24th Kilian celebrated his birthday and we went to a very nice restaurant where we enjoyed some good food.

The winery was south of Mendoza and a bit far away from the vet. We needed to be at the vet early on Tuesday so we moved to a camping closer to the vet on Monday. On Tuesday Finnley had his operation and he did well. Later in the afternoon he was already well enough to want to run around outside and tried to get his cone of. Because it was very sandy and dusty outside he had to stay in at least that day. We had quite the challenge keeping Finnley inside and we also had to make a little harness out of ribbon to secure the cone.

He did well on Wednesday, but on Thursday he wasn’t feeling well and started walking strange. I was worried and took him back to Ofvet. He noticed Finnley was pretty constipated. We could take him home and see how he would do or we could go to a regular vet. We chose to go to a regular vet who kept him for a few hours and gave him lots of fluid. After that Finnley was fine. He probably would have been fine with some more time. But honestly, I panicked. Losing Binkie so suddenly has left his mark…. I also wasn’t sure what to do with Finnley the first few days. Of course we would help him, but would we keep him? I haven’t written about it anymore but I was still grieving for Binkie. And a travelling cat needs a lot of paperwork which takes quite a bit of time and effort to get. But by now it was clear we would keep Finnley. So we now have a travelling cat again! In the surgery the vet also sowed a membrane over his pupil to protect the eye and hopefully the hole in his eye will close. The membrane has to stay on for a month. So at the time of writing we are still in the Mendoza area.

Every week we have a check up and in the meanwhile we get to know the area really well! Finnley is learning how to be a travelling vankitty! He has no problems wearing a harness although he will typically walk the opposite direction of where we are going 🙂 We have also been exposing him to many situations like being in his backpack, meeting new people, city life, wearing a tracker and crossing water. He couldn’t care less about bumpy roads and continues playing or sleeping even when we drive a serious off road track. He isn’t yet fully used to being in a different location every (few) day(s), but he doesn’t make a big fuss out of it either. So pretty soon he will be fully ok with that as well. He has started leaving his mark inside the van as well, scratching and chewing on everything within his reach! He likes climbing trees and he is very cuddly. He will eat almost anything. His toys are now everywhere in the van and we have already lost a few balls. We have also started getting Finnley his paperwork. On the 25th of March the membrane will be removed. Fingers crossed that his eye has healed enough! We will let you know in our March blog, or if you follow us on Instagram of Facebook, you will know sooner! We also have lots of video’s on Youtube.

4 thoughts on “February 2024”

  1. What a joy to read! Not going to lie, Willow and I teared up a little when we read that you are keeping Finnley 🥹

    What a strong kitty he is ❤️

    Will be watching closely to see how his eye is doing.

    • Aah, thats so sweet! Thank you ❤️ Yeah he’s a strong and brave boy. Also very naughty 😸 And super sweet. We will post about his eye on IG as soon as we know more.

  2. Gefeliciteerd met de komst van Finnley! Ik snap dat je ook rouwt om Binkie, dat was een wel heel speciale kat. Ik wens jullie veel geluk samen. Grtjs Ilona

    • Hoi, dank je wel. Ja Binkie was heel speciaal en niets kan dat ooit veranderen en zijn dood zal altijd verdrietig blijven. Maar Finnley vult wel het katvormige gat dat in ons leven was ontstaan. Voor mij is het leven zonder kat toch minder leuk. Groetjes


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