June 2024

Early June we finally arrived in Buenos Aires. We camped at Parque el Rosedal. A nice park about 8 km from the city centre and with a big parking lot. More overlanders have started coming here since Buenos Aires (BA) has absolutely no camp grounds or RV parks or anything in the city. For a city place this was actually quite good. Safe, clean and mostly quiet at night and Finnley enjoyed the park. BA is definitely a city that never sleeps, there’s always traffic noise. The capital of Argentina is huge, the total area, including suburbs covers an area of 203km2 and has well over 3 million people living in the actual city and another 12 million people live around it. This is a third of the countries population and it’s the third biggest city in South America. Lots of people come to this park to play or sports outdoor. People were very friendly and when we were at the van relaxing it was basically a non stop show and tell! Finnley definitely had a lot of admirers, as he should 🙂 When we arrived there we met up with our overlander friends Mark and Liesbet from roamingabout.com. We explored a part of the city with them and shared food and drinks together at the van in the evening. After four days they left but only a day later Kombichronicles arrived so we were never lonely.

Before we started to explore the city as tourists we first went to the long awaited appointment with the endocrinologist. What a disappointment! He shortly looked at Finnley and the previous results and then told us to get his blood tested for several hormone levels and thyroid. Yes we knew that was necessary, that was why we were there! But this overpriced specialist vet centre doesn’t have a laboratory! So he basically told us to go to any vet and get the blood drawn and send to a lab and then he would look at the results. Wth! We could have had that done three weeks ago! He also couldn’t recommend us a vet or anything, just told us to go find one. After paying of course. So upset and angry we left. We eventually found a vet that specialised in cats and who could take the blood the following day. The results came five days later and all of the levels were normal. So that was a huge waste of time. By now I have contacted a Swiss travelling vet who I send all the results and have a plan on how to go on. More about that later.

We went with Mark and Liesbet to the Telmo area. A part of BA that has a big outdoor market in the weekends and also some indoor markets with quite little shops and lots of restaurants. We ate Belgium fries together at a snack bar (chips shop) run by a guy from Belgium. We also walked through the colourful streets of La Caminito. Basically a street museum where all the houses are painted in bright cheerful colours and we admired some tango dancers.

On our own we also checked out some famous buildings like The Congress, Casa Rosada (both government buildings) and the El Ateneo book store. This book store can be found in a beautifully preserved theatre and is voted by some to be the most beautiful book store in the world. It was definitely impressive.

We walked a lot in the city. Preferring to leave the van parked instead of having to pack it up all the time. On average we walked about 10 km per day. We walked through the streets down town with many impressive (but nameless) buildings, walked through the free zoo that was close to the park and walked over to Chinatown for some Asian food. BA is very expensive so we didn’t go out to dinner or anything.

We also arranged the paperwork for Finnley to cross the border to Uruguay. We almost always put Binkie in his backpack in the back without going to the hassle of getting him his ofical paperwork, which was just a copy of his European pet passport (Latin America is incredible bureaucratic). But Binkie would sit quietly and Finnley talks a lot. So we got him the paperwork that is also valid for 60 days, so quite a good deal really. We once more tried to get the rabies titer test done, but that is just not possible in Argentina.

And just before leaving the city after well over a week I took an empanada cooking class. I love the Argentina empanadas and want to be able to eat them after leaving Argentina. It was an intense but fun 4 hour class where I also learned how to make Chipa, a kind of cheese bread.

Buenos Aires is close to the border with Uruguay and we drove in to this country on the 14th of June. This was our fist new country in about 8 months and we finally got to put a new flag on our van. All in a row of its own, since we have organised the flags by year. More flags will follow this year so hopefully it wont be lonely for long.

The border crossing was super easy and fast, definitely the most efficient one in South America so far. Uruguay is the richest and unfortunately also the most expensive country in South America. We first spend two very nice days at a beach near Fray Bentos, the border town where we crossed. Here the river is so wide it is like being at the sea. We immediately noticed a difference in people. They were friendly and polite but distant. The Argentinians are very sociable and often approached us for a talk. But the Uruguayan people don’t do that. Which might have been a good thing anyway, because the “Spanish” they speak in Uruguay is definitely very hard to understand.

Our first camp site was definitely beautiful!

After a couple of relaxing days we drove on to Colonia del Sacramento. This is the oldest city of the country, founded in 1680, right across from Buenos Aires. We admired the old gate and the streets of sights. We then had some severely overpriced food in a mediocre restaurant. We wondered through the streets a bit. I takes about half a day to see this town. And its nice but not that special to be honest. And that goes for the entire country. If I had to describe Uruguay in one word, it would be “boring”. The second word would be “expensive”. Imagine $5 for a bad bread, $8 for a decent bread, $4 for a simple ice cream. Except for the lunch in Colonia, we cooked at home. Because this is such a rich country with lots of European influence and easy import rules, I had expected more international products, but everything was pretty much the same as in Argentina, only twice the price.

And apart from some nice beaches (but it was midwinter when we were there) nature also doesn’t offer much. Some hills, all below a 100 masl. Lots of agriculture so lots of fields and cows. Apart from the palm trees we could have been driving through central Germany or the North of France.

One good thing though, are the nice and easy wild camp spots. Near Colonia we found a deserted, private beach camp which Finnley also thoroughly enjoyed as it was safe enough for him to go off leash. Although technically we were still camping at a river, with no land in sight and some tidal influence, it felt like being at sea. The water was still sweet though. We would spend a total of 5 days here.

Anyway in Colonia it was time for Finnley’s 2nd vaccination against a few common diseases. So we went to a vet in Colonia and he got the shot (he dramatically acted like he was really being shot…) I also decided to go out on a limb and ask after the rabies titer test. And she immediately knew what I was talking about. Normally they also did the test but her boss, who was the only one who could do it, was on vacation for two weeks. But she did put us in touch with another vet. We went there and decided to have it done there. But with an upcoming holiday (they have way too many on this continent) and all the preparation for the lab and of course her other appointments, we would have to wait a few days. After careful consideration we decided to do the test here, rather than in the even more expensive Montevideo. Instead of hanging around Colonia all the time we decided to visit Montevideo in the meantime. There we would also met up wit Lukimog. A German family we had spend some time with a year ago in Peru. And of course to do some sightseeing of the national capital. Well that was the plan. Montevideo is the most dead, boring city we have ever been too! We have seen livelier cities in the pandemic. It really had nothing to offer. And here we saw a surprisingly amount of homeless people and boarded up buildings. Uruguay’s wealth is definitely not for everyone. Well, we roamed around down town for about two hours and then headed back to our free camp spot at the harbour. In the summer the city is apparently much livelier and you can go to the beach directly at the city.

Kilian managed to get some parts, since we were having problems with the starter engine again. A few days before in Colonia, as we wanted to drive in to town, the car wouldn’t start. The starter motor had been acting up a bit and now it didn’t work. Kilian spend several hours cleaning it and taking it out twice. After he put it back in the 2nd time the car still wouldn’t start. Until Kilian hit it with a hammer and voila! After two days in Montevideo with bad weather and a now broken heating as well we drove back to Colonia, ready for yet another vet visit the following day.

As you have read above I contacted a Swiss travelling vet for some advice about Finnley. She advised us to get some of the blood work redone that had been done in Salta as that was well over a month ago. Given his history of nearly starving to death she thinks the prolonged malnourishment may have done some damage to his organs. Recently Finnley’s obsessive behaviour with food has gotten a bit less. So there’s a good chance his blood results have improved by now. She also advised us to have his blood pressure taken. And since we feel Finnley doesn’t jump as much as he should, an x-ray of his hind legs was also advisable. Given Finnleys age it is also about time he gets castrated. We talked to the vet in Colonia about all those things. She was fine with the blood pressure and blood work, but advised against castrating him until his blood work came back. And apparently x-ray machines are rare in Colonia. So we decided to start with the blood work and have him castrated and x-rayed at a later time. Well his blood pressure was fine. But taking the blood turned out to be a drama. We had already started the lab process (with a certified lab in the USA) for the rabies titer test with this vet and paid the roughly $140 dollars to the lab, so we had to continue with this vet. It turned out that she was afraid of taking blood from a cat. This led to a huge amount of stress for Finnley who was finely given some calming drops that didn’t work. I will spare you the entire drama but we ended up going to a different vet who took the blood and we took the blood sample back to her. Unfortunately getting blood from a stressed out cat is like getting blood from a stone. So we only had just enough blood for the rabies titer test. We left angry (but stayed polite because we still needed her) and with a stressed out cat. After 15 minutes in the van the calming drops started to work and Finnley slept the rest of the day. We took the blood with us to have it shipped with DHL from Montevideo to the USA lab. We have to wait at least two weeks for the results. Lets hope he has enough antibodies against rabies, because if not, we have to repeat the whole process, which has cost us around $360,-

So we were back in Montevideo and after some repairs with a unsatisfying result, Kilian decided to have the starter engine revised again, a year ago or so he had this done in Peru. There was also the option of buying a new one. But it was made in China and the repair place (that also sold the new starter engine) advised against it. It took about a day and a half to have it fixed. Meanwhile Kilian managed to get our heating working again. Since it was only about 11C we were very happy with that. With the starter engine fixed and all the sightseeing definitely done in Uruguay we drove back in to Argentina for, I think, the 7tht time, on the first of July. This time we will only shortly be in Argentina though, as we are on our way to Paraguay. Back in Argentina the first thing I did was buy some in of their delicious empanadas, lets hope they have good ones in Paraguay too!

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