We stopped in Buenos Aires for a couple of days to let Nestor know where we were going, called the states and picked up any mail that had arrived. We also stocked up on groceries. While there we heard that the law might have changed enough that we could import the motorhome. But we would wait until we got back to find out for sure.
On the 11th we left Buenos Aires at 6:30 in the morning - on our way.
From Buenos Aires we were headed north west towards the border with Paraguay and it would take a couple of days to get there. It was kind of fun to be traveling, I think we were all going a little stir crazy. Everyone settled right into their “trip” routines.
The weather was warmer - no rain and clear skies. The two-lane highways were good. As usual sharing the road with the Argentine drivers was an interesting experience. At one point we were passing a big truck on his left (like we should be) and when we started to pull back in front of him there came a car up off the shoulder on the trucks right. He was also was pulling back on to the road - in front of the truck - just where we were going. Bill just kept pulling in to the lane and the car swerved back on to the shoulder dropping behind us. The truck blasted his horn and that was the last we saw of the car until a mile or so down the road when he passed us - on the left.
Around noon we stopped in Rosario to visit the San Lorenzo Battle Monument and the Monumento a la Bandera - the monument to the Argentine flag. It is a huge monument in the middle of a big empty grassy park on the Parana River. We parked and walked around the Battle monument then went across the street and walked over to look at the other monument and the river. The Monumento a la Bandera itself is about ¼ of a block into the grass towards the river. We admired the monument then decided to walk a little past it down the slope towards the river. About twenty steps in to the grass we were attacked by swarms of the biggest mosquitoes I had ever seen. (I’ve since seen bigger and hungrier in Canada.) They just rose out of the grass as we approached. Slapping, yelling and running we beat a hasty retreat back to the motorhome. No wonder the park was empty of humans.
Once back into the motorhome we applied salve and settle into the serious business of travel again.
Each time we went from one Argentine province into another we had to stop and show all of our papers. And it wasn’t just us - it was every vehicle that went through. Strange concept for us.
Crossing out of Buenos Aires Province into Santa Fe there was a small incident about our “Top light not working.”
We stopped at the barrier, Bill got out and handed all the paper work to a guard who then walked around the outside of the motorhome. He came back up beside Bill and in heavily accented English said, “Your top lights not working.
“What,” replied Bill?
“Your top lights not working,” he repeated pointing to the back of the motorhome.
“My top light?” quizzed Bill.
“Si.” He walked towards the rear of the motorhome Bill following.
The guard pointed at one of the brake lights saying, “Top light doesn’t work.” Ah ha, Stop Light.)
“Yes it does. I’ll show you it works,” Bill said as he went in the door and stepped on the brakes.
John Mc had joined the guard in back watching the light. “It’s okay,” yelled John Mc.
Bill got out and the guard came towards him hand out - “Top light doesn’t work.”
Bill took one look at the open palm and headed for the guard office saying in Spanish that he wanted to talk to the man in charge.
“Okay, its okay,” said the guard, handling Bill the papers. “Go.”
“What was that all about?” I asked as we pulled past the check point.
“He saw the American passport and thought he could collect a little money. We didn't have any more problem when I spoke to him in Spanish.
The countryside we drove through was varied and interesting. There were a lot of farms growing everything from sunflowers to rice and cotton. Also lots of cattle ranches. We saw ostriches running wild. I was surprised about the ostriches - never thought about them being native to Argentina. We passed through several small towns before we stopped for the night at a roadside rest in Calchaqui. When the kids were little they had guinea pigs for pets - here they were running wild all over the place. All night long we could hear their distinctive squeaks.
As we continued north we crossed into yet another province - this crossing was even more bizarre than the previous one.
We came to the road barrier and stopped. Before Bill could get out a guard was at the door waiting for us to open it. He came in and looked around, especially concentrating on the younger boys. He asked for the passports and paper work, studied them with a frown on his face. Where had we been he asked. He indicated we should stay put while he got out and went inside the guard house. Soon he was back asking Bill if the boys had had measles. - No they hadn’t.
Well then we couldn’t continue as there was an epidemic in the area we had just passed through. Maybe they were carriers. The conversation went on for quite a while, Bill finally leaving the motorhome and going into the building. When he got back inside, he slammed the door, settled into his seat, started the engine and drove towards the crossing; we were almost touching the barrier when it rose to let us pass.
“What the heck was that all about?” I asked. He explained to me about the measles.
“Well how did we get to pass then?” I inquired.
“I explained to them that we had just driven through the area, we didn’t stop anywhere for the kids to get exposed. Then I told them I would drive through the barrier if they didn’t lift it. I guess they decided we were okay after all.”
We spent that night in a campground in Tatane. The setting was very nice and the kids were kept busy checking out the wild life. Randy, dear Randy, caught a snake he had to share with everyone. And John found a spider web that was as big as a car. I would hate to see the spider.
We were sitting around outside after dinner just relaxing when two gauchos came riding up out of no where. They had seen the motorhome and were curious about us. They were dressed in real gaucho attire: Bombachas, black loose-fitting trousers; long sleeve shirts covered by ponchos; each had a facon which is a large knife stuck into their waist sash. Both had whips coiled over their saddle horns. They pulled their mounts up and talked to Bill for a while. Their horses were beautiful. Prancing and rearing as they spoke with us. They told Bill they were out hunting for ostrich eggs. About a half hour later they were back to show us the eggs they had found. There would be a lot of omelets in one of those.
The next day we should reach the border with Paraguay.
The scenery was changing some, getting more tropical again and very pretty. Now there are lots of palm trees, huge plants and colorful flowers. The air is full of beautiful butterflies every size, kind and color imaginable. There were wild parakeets flying all over, a real treat to see. The kids of course ran themselves ragged trying to catch one.
“Dad, what are those things out there, the dirt hills?” inquired Paul who was sitting up front with me. He was pointing off the road at big mounds of red dirt. Some were higher than the motorhome. They were in an area that had very little vegetation of any kind growing around it.
“Marabuntas,” replied Bill as he slowed and started pulling to the shoulder. He stopped the motorhome so we could take a good look at them. He told us they were a type of soldier ant. When they are on the march they destroy everything in front of them: vegetation and living things alike. We spilled out of the motorhome and cautiously walked towards one of the hills to look at it. Hadn’t walked too far when we caught sight of the ants. They could have carried us away if they wanted to. Some were almost two inches long. When you see one to two inch hairy black ants crawling around your curiosity was quickly satisfied. We made a hasty retreat to the safety of the motorhome. Even Randy wasn’t interested in getting closer. Luckily the ants weren’t in a marching devouring mood. They were just strolling around, some carrying leaves and twigs in their mouths heading for the hill. For days I kept checking the motorhome for hitchhikers.
Driving through Northern Argentina on our way to Brazil
So far since leaving the United States we had driven 13,117 miles down the Pan American Highway