Thursday, 25 November 2010

Jungle hangout……

This could be the quietest Latino weekend yet.  You have to understand that on Fridays, Argentines head to the river, to the coast, to the campo.  To light fires, cook beef, and party until Sunday evening.

We’ve decided to head for Saltos del Moncoa, a provincial park on the upper Rio Uruguay, an area of protected jungle forest.  This salto or waterfall is somewhat different in that it runs along the river longitudinally, rather than across it. You need to go by boat to view it, and unlike it’s transverse cousin, is best viewed when water levels are at medium flow.  Too great a flow and they become submerged.

Spookily quiet road to Saltos de Mocona

Up to 11 o’clock this morning you could have been forgiven for wondering why it was so green.  Off to the north, cloud is starting to amass, humidity is building, and we are reduced to pushing our steeds up a 1:4 hill, dripping sweat.  It takes the better part of two hours to cover a relatively short distance, yet not one car has passed.  It’s downright spooky. Still the clouds congregate, the atmosphere becoming heavy and oppressive. Something has to give; the question is when?

The when happens about five minutes after the tent is pitched, bags stashed in the vestibule and water on for a second breakfast.  It starts slowly, only a few large wet drops of rain.  The thunder starts to rumble far away, of to the north, the temperature drops and the wind picks up.  It’s coming.  Then it hits.  Now I know why the roadside ditches are so deep, why the Rio at 1000 kilometres from the sea, is still 1km across.  It’s a jungle, jungles are wet places.  What doesn’t figure in this equation from the university of the blindingly obvious: where does the cold, damp wind come from?

This being an Argentine campground, there’s banos, wood fired shower, a fire pit and a tin shelter over tables and chairs.  We might be damp, the RH might have gone beyond saturation, but we’re dry, we’re safe, and with front row seats for a grandstand viewing of a climactic theatrical.  Thunder rolls around the hills, the sky starts to break up, going from high level monochrome to a rolling, boiling maelstrom.  The clouds gyrating, spinning around us, all the varying levels moving at differing speeds, differing directions.  A tumbling, turbulent tumult.  Shafts of sunlight suddenly pierce through, lancing rods, stabbing the far hillside, only to be extinguished moments later as the next clatter of thunder unleashes the next downpour.  Lightning flashes, steam and mist rise out from the valley floor, cutting the tall trees into pale cardboard outlines.

Throughout all these atmospherically theatrics, the gregarious weaver birds: yaka-torries, carry on their noisy discussions, building their pendulous nests in a single date palm tree.

Then it goes quiet, the rain stops, the thunder stops, the wind stops, to leave only the slow drip of water from the gutterless roof onto the red wet pitted soil.  That and the incessant squabling of the nest builders.

It’s now Friday afternoon and we’re still the only people on the campground, on the only campground in the park.  The only road in or out is within audio distance, we haven’t heard a vehicle in the last three hours.  I’m starting to question if it really is a Friday, if this waterfall really exists or is all this beauty the
figment of somebody else’s imagination.  The truth lies somewhere in the latter.  These saltos are suffering from big brother syndrome.  The iconic touristic honey pot of Cataratas de Iguazu are not far up the road.

It’s now Friday evening, the generator is puttering somewhere of in the dark, the lights have come on. Three jungle fowl are fighting over a mate, still the nesters are squabbling, parades of moths start to congregate around the light bulbs, settling on our bags, shoulders, hands.  Still we’re the only people around.
Eight o’clock, full dark, no moon, still the only people around.  It’s going to be the quietest Friday evening yet, no dogs, no cockerels, no slamming doors.  That is until a pantheon of celestials take a hand.  They start with a light show.  Silent strobes of pale electric blue light etch out the silhouette of the forest, sudden profiles shuttering , flickering, too fast to identify.  Then the distant grumble of thunder catches up, rolling around the valleys, flowing over the vegetated mesas.  The coruscations come faster, the thunder thumps closer to their source.  The storm Gods: Thor and his mates up the ampage, and move overhead and settle down to hurling bolts of electricity across the sky.  A chaos of noise and flares.  Growing bored with their pyrotechnics, they decide to add a further percussion: a tympani of rain on the drumskin of the tent.  Now the lightning and the thunder come so fast, that it’s impossible to connect one flash to it’s crash.  A confusion of chaos, an anarchy of noise.  Slowly the clatter and the shambles settle down to one thunder flash tied to one thunder clap, that rolls like a drum roll, flowing out across the sky, seeming to wheel around and return.  The volume rising and falling, growing and diminishing, finally tapering away to black silence.

Now it’s the turn of the frogs and ciccadas to start their own symphony. The jungle by night is a noisy place.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Uninteresting fact: numero dos:…….

Why is corned beef called corned beef?

Since Anglo-Saxon times any grain, wheat, barley or oats, was known as corn. A salt crystal was of a similar size to these cereals and was used orignally in the preservation of meat, hence corned beef.

Mild observation: numero uno…..

Two ants walking towards each other on a 3mm wire, meet, exchange chemical vocabulary, and then pass each other.  They will inherit the world, post apocalypse.

Shopping Story No. 1

Presenting a 100 peso note [there’s 6.4 pesos to the pound sterling] causes consternation.  Generally the manager has to be summoned to authorise it’s use.  In Azara, a small sawmill town in southern Misiones, the shop is in darkness, you need to feel your around for provisions.  Being local must help as they don’t go in for the Tesco trick of rearranging the store, so as to entice some impulse buying.  On this occasion the high denomination note requires the offering of two red apples in lieu of change.  The healthy option, in comparision to the old days of the Italian sweetie lira.

A further 20 kilometers down the road in Conception, and the navigator gets 4 boilings as change for a bag of deep fried empanadas.  It doesn’t pay to count your chickens!

There’s a good reason why the grass and the wheat look so green.  It does rain: an average of nine days in October, so our road atlas claims.  When it does, the road can take on a whole new character, a complete personality change.

Coming in to Mercedes: a river town on the Rio Negro, a downpour starts.  Ruta 21 runs down into town, and what starts as an innocent rivulet in the gutter, engorges as each tributary join from each succeeding side street.  As we pass each new block it increases from stream, through spate to raging torrent, down which we are cycling.  Back up hill and the flow diminishes, up to the watershed.  Now a further few kilometers and we are over the Rio Negro, looking for a side road to take us to Paysandú . The sign says “Do not use on days of rain”.  That could be today, but we don’t have a great deal of choice, so on we push.  We’re working off a 1:2,000,000 map and the scripting for the town of Fray Bentos takes precedence over road detail.  Our excuse for not noticing the slightly longer hard topped route.  Plough would be a more accurate description. All the wash out has collected on the flats and in the dips in the rolling countryside.  The mudguards are the first to clog up, the brakes grind, and the wheels spin out at 4 kph,we slither and slide through each succeeding bog. We had anticipated this section of road to be over 80 kilometres of all weather gravel, and not slog through the bog.  However, due to navigational excuses it turns out to be a mere tenth of that.  The navigator stays upright to the penultimate slough, when she opts for the wrong line, ends up slumped, a total wipeout, whilst wearing sandals.  She’s not sure which is worse, the grit in the mudguards or the mud between the toes.

A lesson in believing road signs.  Also a timely reminder for later in the trip, as we had speculated taking a much longer earth road, one with no escape routes, a three day adventure in the dry, or a potential disaster in the wet.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Wild Camping - Guerilla Camping

It takes a sixth sense, a degree of luck and ever expanding knowledge base:  renewed for each country, to find a safe wild campsite.  In northern Canada it was the refuse bins that provided a bear proof cache for food; on east coast USA, it was the electicity pylon lines; in Australia: the high ground above road cuttings. We don’t always get it right.  A pick-up point for illegal immigrants on the Arizona: Mexican border wasn’t one of the best low adrenalin nights we’ve spent at the side of the road.

However, here in Uruguay, things are generally a lot slower, a product of low population density, old cars and underpowered timber lorries.  The roads in the north can vary from overengineered highways with vast, smooth hard shoulders and few vehicles, through sand filled potholed carriageways and even fewer cars, to earth roads and no cars.  Our definition of a busy route might be two grain lorries, a timber wagon, three cars and a moto for each kilometer cycled.  Ponies and horse carts don’t count.  All the roads have a wide berm or grass shoulder, a haven of wild spring flowers, new bird spotting and good wild camping possibilities. All we need are a couple of judiciously positioned shrubs to hide behind, off a corner so as not to be caught in searchlight beams of trucks and, this being gaucho country, not astride the pony path.  Our tent is green and they don’t use lights: neither on the horse nor on cars, we witnessed the latter one night on the autopista and the former when the navigator was woken by three horses cantering past our hidden site.  She could feel the ground shake either from hoof fall or her heart beat.  No sleep for some time.

Last night’s choice was amongst Australia’s greatest export: the eucalyptus tree, in the commercial forestry that surrounds the town of Fray Bentos.  No bears, pumas are rare, and the only snakes we have seen have been road kill.  So I think we have ticked most of the safety boxes, which will give us a chance of a quiet night.  At some point I come to; it was very dark, the moon had gone down, the road was silent, but I could hear something very close to my head.  Those who have camped will already understand how noise can carry, expand and transmogrify.  A grazing ewe cropping grass in Glen Coe, raccoons scattering bin lids in Indian Springs or the humping hippos in the tent next door.  It’s information from a single sense, unsupported by any of the other four.  Noise without the visuals; now add in night time, strange surroundings, and the brain concocts a whole cocktail of scenarios, most of which become comical with daylight.  I’d guess that a small rodent was cleaning up in the rubbish bag that lies between the tent skins just a few inches from my head.  I really couldn’t be bothered getting up to do anything about it; there are mosquitoes out there, and anyway I fall asleep again.  I’m woken sometime later - it was probably an exhaustless moto going home - it’s still dark and the mouse is still eating.  It must one hungry or engorged animal.  The adrenalin subsides and I fall back to sleep.  At some point just before dawn; it’s an age and male thing, but still the mouse thing is eating, I’m convinced that I can hear individual jaws chomping and chewing on something.  I lie awake waiting for dawn, putting off the inevitable manoeuvre of extricating oneself from a sleeping bag and diving out of the tent flaps whilst the waiting mosquitoes charge in.  Waiting for dawn because I’m not so sure now as to what really is out there.  We’d been watching two foot lizards the day before.  I’ve tried shaking the tent skin, but to no effect, munch,munch,munch……..

I open the curtains and instantly all is revealed.  We’ve broken one of those cardinal rules and left food where animals can get at it.  The bread and last night’s tea of corned beef, were tied tight in a plastic bag: we were in Fray Bentos partaking of cultural and gastronomic tourism after all.  We had also pitched right between two colonies of ants and both had constructed motorways.  The vegetarians to shred the baguette , the carnivores to clean out the beef tin.  Both objected to my naked feet interfering with their industry, by sending out the guards to attack.  Nippy stuff, formic acid, so I retreat and up-grade from bare to boots.
That was last night; tonight will be different. We’re in Paysandu, it’s Friday evening, and the Los Brujos moto grup are having their 10th annual rally.  We’re pitched right in the middle of a biker rally. That’s a tale for another entry, we do know that it will a different night noise wise from last night.

‘Blood, Sweat and Tea’, and ‘More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea’ by Tom Reynolds

There are also new books in the ‘free’ list, from a selection of sources; for example, Tom Reynolds books about the London Ambulance Service. These are articles from his blog made up into book format. I’ve read both of these, and found them entertaining, funny, sad, and at times profound. The formatting is pretty non-existent as the content has come straight from the blog, but I found it hard to stop reading. Tom (real name Brian Kellett) is an ambulanceman in east London. He gives a fascinating insight to his work, and incidentally to life in the big smoke. What really fascinated me was how many hospitals with A & E there are in the city; they never seem to be any further than a couple of miles away. Living on the A1 in Haddington, we regard ourselves as pretty close at 20 miles to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary! And as I watch the motos buzz past with the whole family aboard, including babes in arms, I wonder - just wonder - have we really progressed by not letting the fast response car take a sick baby to hospital because it doesn’t have a suitable child seat fitted?
The Navigator

The Route

The observant among you will have noticed that The Chronicler's stories do not run in the order of our route.  To avoid confusion, and to satisfy the map addicts amongst our friends, I've attached a map with placemarkers roughly outlining the way that we went.  You'll find it at the bottom of the page, below the posts.  This is a new game for me, so if anyone has any hints or tips or bright ideas to make it better, please let me know - particularly how to get the infernal thing to centre on Argentina rather than the US of A!  I've tried to centre the map before saving it, but it still reverts.  Menwhile, you'll need to drag the thing down to NW Argentina.  STOP PRESS: I did it by dint of using  Seems to work.  The points shown are our overnight stops.

The Navigator

Sunday, 21 November 2010

On the forecourt of the petrol station

A familiar feature of the gas station - a dispenser for
agua caliente, or hot water for the mate termos
Also very suitable for the coffee fix.

New country, new environment, new currency.  We need to find an ATM, a hole in the wall.  The cajero automatico will never be open to the street but in a glass cabin sometimes with an armed guard sitting in the corner.  The tourist officer, who shares an office with immigration and passport control on the Brazilian: Paraguayan border, has recommended the Esso gas station, on the grounds that it’s on the main through road; on a roundabout, so should be easy to find.  It is easy to locate, it’s on the roundabout; only on the wrong side for us.  New environment: how do Paraguayan roundabouts work?  Of course they work, everybody does their own thing, in their own way, all with respect.  The motos might aim for you and have you in their trigger sights, but they won’t actually hit you.  We plunge into the rotunda and get spat out, unscarred thee exits later.

The streetscene outside the immigration/tourist info office
in Ciudad del Este. Paraguay
The bean counter goes off to interview the money machine and try to extract a few million guaranis.  I am left to guard.  It’s then that I notice the two men standing at the corner, beside the pay desk.  Both have kahki coveralls, kepi hats, heavy leather belts, and shield shaped arm badges.  Uniforms of quasi militaristic regalia.  Both are holding what looks like the business end of a Karacher high pressure water washer.  Second glance confirms that the gun that’s attached to the tap is waiting to wash windscreens.  The other has shotgun cartridges bandoliered around his belt, he then turns to expose the night stick and hand gun.

We’ve arrived in Ciudad del Este, the hub of Paraguayan mercantile enterprise and counterfeit central.  I’ve already been offered Titanic 11, sunglasses, lotto tickets all whist being stamped into the country. It’s a local election Sunday, so most of the major emporia of electronica are closed.  Such that the only people around are the security guards outside the jewellers, the pharmacies, the credit unions and the petrol station.
It makes them very stark and very noticeable.  Security is big business.

The bean counter survives our latest encounter with an ATM,  returns with a fistful of new currency.

The Chiperia Barrero

The Navigator's Posture Coach

It’s like the corporation’s number 57 bus, you wait an hour and then along come three, all at once.

Yesterday’s hotel breakfast in Caaguazu was fresh crushed pineapple juice coffee and the local bread speciality: a white dried out rusk that explodes if you try to break it open.  Best to dip it in a liberal dose of dulce de leche. So we headed off, some what underwhelmed but with confidence that we would find the chipa man at the side of the road, long before the call for second breakfast or an early 'onces'.  No chipas in Repatriacion, none in Oviedo, none in San Jose. None all day. We end up with a millanesa: minute steak in batter served with a wilted lettuce leaf and a styrofoam roll.  Added for good measure were some deep fried dough balls of indiscriminate provenance. There’s never a healthy option on truckers’ roadside stop.  So today we head off, this time with no inclusive breakfast and little hope of our chipa fix.  We turn the corner out of Itacurubi, a van is coming up hill, his loud-speaker crying “ cheeee…..pas cheee…..pas”.  We flag him down and inside two minutes he’s got the navigator’s ‘phone number.  Bloody fast workers these Latino lotharios!  We get four large round rings that turn out to have bacon chips and maize polenta in them.

So, fully victualled we’re ready for the day.  By El Ayala we have passed three chipa bakeries and twelve road side stands.  Not to mention all the itinerant sellers going door to door with their baskets balanced on their heads. The roadside barras are always manned by ladies.  The chiparias, the bakeries, provide them with a uniform of the classical “French maid” style: frilly white apron, short black dress.  Only some of these ladies haven’t been “maids” for over half a century.  By Caacupe and San Lorenzo the score has gone beyond recall.  As we start to hit the outskirts of Asuncion the colectivos and the local buses start to multiply, rushing past in a roar of diesel smoke, only to suddenly pull in front of us.  They barely stop either for ascending or descending passengers.  The chipas lads, it’s always lads without sexist uniforms, leap from moving bus to bus.

Given the number of buses that pass I’m surprised that a No 57 isn’t one of them.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The War Between Bottom and Brooks: a butt of a problem

There may be a land where saddles are made of rainbows and stuffed with clouds…… (Three Men on Wheels, Jerome .K . Jerome)
Planning is everything.  Which  is why I decided to buy new leather Brooks saddle one month before setting of on an extended cycle trip. For those hillwalkers of a certain vintage, those of a pre-Gore-texed age may remember dubbin and blisters stacked on blisters as they tried to break in a new pair of Scarpa leather boots.  It took about ten Munros, three strips of moleskin, and a trip back to the cobblers to get your old boots resoled.  You told yourself that it would all be worth it in the end, as you hobbled down the Lairig to  Luibeg. Your mates faked sympathy, always fifty yards in front.  As with Scarpas, so with Brooks.
They are the first choice of the long time, long distance cyclists.  We met Eric and Amaya in northern Uruguay, who had had a new Brooks DHL'ed  out to them in French Guiana when the old one collapsed, not prepared were they was to accept any substitution.  However, like  your 1970’s boots, they take a lot of perseverance.  You know from experience that eventually a love affair will blossom, it’s just that at the moment it’s all loathing, revulsion and red inflamed sores. To convert these devils to angels will take the power of a saint and a tub of Hypercal, probably from fiend to  friend somewhere around Asunción.
In the interests of a photo montage I had considered taking a series of pictures, say one every 100 kms to show the slow but inevitable conversion of raw cow hide to a seat for a journey. Then I realised that the other side, the back-side of the problem might need depiction.  That’s a picture too far.
So for now it’s regret that I didn’t plan a new saddle sometime last year, calendula cream and the desire to find a cloud stuffed rainbow. 

"Three Men on Wheels" by Jerome K Jerome

No, I’d never heard of it either.  ‘Three Men in a Boat’ is well known and much loved, and this one is utterly delightful too.  The same protagonists (without the dog) head off into the Black Forest with a tandem and a single, and the tales are classic Jerome.  Written in 1890, my favourite passage is about the teaching of languages in English schools:
“In England we have a method that for obtaining the least possible result at the greatest possible expenditure of time and money is perhaps unequalled.  An English boy who had been through a good middle-class school in England can talk with a Frenchman, slowly and with difficulty, about female gardeners and aunts; conversation which, to a man possessed perhaps of neither, is liable to pall.  Possibly, if he be a bright exception, he may be able to tell the time or make a few guarded observations concerning the weather.  No doubt he could repeat a goodly number of irregular verbs by heart; only, as a matter of face, few foreigners care to listen to their own irregular verbs, recited by young Englishmen.”
How perfectly does that describe my own experience of learning French at school, and sadly, more recently, my experience of trying to learn Spanish.
The Navigator


A peaceful moment at a very nice gas station camping spot

One of the joys of this trip so far has been the reading material, which has occupied the time not taken up by cycling, camping and living.  The Kindles are a total joy – this from both of us.  Those of you who have seen our home will know that we love ‘real’ books, and there are rather more than you could shake a stick at in every spare corner of the place.  However, we are travelling in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, where reading material in English is not easy to come by.  That, and books are heavy to carry on the bike.

It does have to be recharged from time to time....

Being the ‘economical’ types that we are, we’ve been happily exploring the free e-books; there are thousands on the Kindle list, and hundreds of thousands more elsewhere.  Mostly these are ‘out of copyright’, generally pre-1926 publications, and we have found some gems.  I’ll review some of them as we go – maybe you’ll find them interesting too. 
The Navigator

Siesta Santa Rita

Yes, we know that siesta gets earlier in the day the further north that we go. All too often we’ve made  a habit of arriving in town moments after one o’clock, the point where bustle turns to torpid, lively to lethargy. When the still dead humid heat descends and the national flag outside the town’s police station hangs in the doldrums.
So arriving in Santa Rita at 11.36 am we had built up our hopes. The graphics on the atlas suggested a habitation of some import; it should have a panaderia and supermercado, and it does.  It also has the full gamut of peluqueria, carniceria, heladeria, funeria and even a  whiskeria.  Only they are all closed! Both the petrol stations are open but only to sell fuel, nothing from the kiosko or the minimercado.
Have we jumped time zones?  Got the clocks wrong?  I’m sure that daylight saving was two weeks ago.  Maybe it's Santa Rita’s day, but it's evangelical country and anyway the chapels are all closed. Strange and hungry. It’s going to be pasta and sauce with a side of salt tonight. Which is all fine and well, only been on the menu for the last three nights. I’d spent the last 40 kms dreaming on chorizos empanadas  and ice creams. (Note the plurals; that ‘s how life is lived these days.)
Siesta does start earlier. The working day is in full swing by 7.30 and dies at midday only reviving  when some of the heat has dissipated out of the walls and pavements , around 5.00, for another  two and a half hours of activity. I know all this because we checked all the ‘eria’ businesses’ doors.
Later on , on that same day and we are luxuriating and  ruminating; somewhat  hungrily, on the joy of such a quiet road. The average had been a couple of motos, a lorry and  several ox carts per hour.  Fast elevating  Ruta 2 into our top 10 all time greats. We’re sitting sheltering from the sun under a mimosa tree at a lookout over the Rio, when out of nowhere, a lady in flowing cotton prints and straw hat comes striding past. A lady on a mission, very determined with her ‘Census 2010’ bag slung over her shoulder.
It’s next day in El Soberbio, where we are over compensating on forage, to make amends for the famine of the previous day, when, in conversation, we learn that yesterday was a day of Biblical judgment. Everybody had to stay at home to be counted. Explains everything.

Gasolina for Cyclistas

Fast-acting indigestion!
 An early start to beat the heat , so we’re on the road before the shops are open. This is always a risk as we might not make another shop or service station before siesta starts. Going around a roundabout we both spy a man with a cloth covered wicker basket. In unison we both chime "chipas!".  Usually baked dough of manioc flour and cheese, which can be bought by the 100 grams. In our case it’s nearer to the half kilo. Only this  time he had a different version alongside the usual two bite ones.  First bite in reveals the absence of cheese, and in its place is beef dripping.  A lot of beef dripping! They're still fresh and warm so you just have to stop for an early second breakfast. Third bite and you realize if you could squeeze them you could oil both bike chains. Oh, those lovely big round fatty molecules working their evil wiles on the pleasure receptors! Fourth bite and I think i might check the nutritional information, only there’s no wrapper big enough to print the fat  content .  A' nanny state’-ment might be more appropriate.  The sensible quarter of your brain is telling you to slow down, you’re going to pay for it late;, the devil’s quarter says gratification is now! Six bites and one and a half chipas  have  gone down, settling down into the bottom of my stomach, my centre of gravity has  slipped a few degrees further south. Slow burning gasoline: fast acting indigestion. Pure dead brilliant!

Prospecting the Bordello

All land in Paraguay is privately owned, right up to the road margin. The first 80 kilometres out from Ciudad del Este proves this point, soya beans are sown right up the very edge of the tarmac. So our last refuge for wild camping is going to be in short supply. The petrol stations still have showers and clean toilets, so if push comes to shove we can ask for a space. To date we’ve never been refused.
However this run through southern Paraguay is heavily populated, towns come at nice regular intervals. Likewise motels and hotels.
We’ve covered a satisfactory distance for one day and so we decide to start prospecting for suitable accommodation. There’s a building coming up in front, it claims a motel status. We decide to give it a try. I ask the proprietor, who’s sorting and washing the white linen, if he’s open and how much for a double bedded room.  The answer is somewhat confusing: yes they were open and the rate was the equivalent of $3.  He is somewhat reticent but we put this down to loss in translation. The Navigator is invited to view the room; she comes out and her face say it all.The beds were round and the rates were probably for the hour!  I’d noted but not clocked the very private and individual parking lots, the total lack of any windows and the painted “heart” on the wall.   Could the term “motel” have a different meaning here?
A few more kilometers down the road and another Anglicized Germanically named establishment hoves into view. The Navigator makes a surreptitious inspection before ringing the bell.  This will be our third night in an hotel named Austria. As of early evening it looks reasonably legitimate, that and the beds are rectangular.

Flying Pigs

I've been giving some thought to these missives, waffles and diatribes. I’m concerned that they have a tendency to elongate into flights of fancy and streams of consciousness.  Sometimes the product of cycling over varying roads in differing sea states. From the near becalmed of southern Uruguay to the heavy 40 metre swells in northern Misiones. We sometimes need to use psychological stimuli, especially at the end of the day to help us over the last few hills, the last few kilometers to the campground. Word games like A to Z batted between us work well, but after you’ve used up Countries, Rivers and South American dictators there’s a need for a change.Creating collective nouns for illrelavencies like parillas and mate bombillas (I’ll return to these at some point, they’re totally synonymous to here). Then there are alliterations- If you have Berwickshire Bends what is the equivalent in the pronince of Misiones? The Navigator’s response was instantaneous:  ‘Misiones Mumps’ – it was the end of a long hot day.  These communications also squander away your useful megabytes and probably a good part of your employer’s time.  So I’ve come up with this novel idea.  What if I was to create a special site, where you could access these perambulations at your leisure?  I’m not sure what you would call this’ a travel diary, possibly a web log. Which will no doubt, if it were to catch on, be truncated to some inane diminutive? I’ll leave that to others.
We’ve been heading towards the Tres Fronteras, to cross over Paraguay and back into Argentina. If you check a map you will see just how complicated the national borders are in this small area and the logic of our route.  We leave the camp ground in Puerto Iguazu around 9 o’clock and moments later collect an exit stamp from Argentina.  Check duty free for the vastly over priced electrical goods.  Then by 9.30 we’re stamped into Brazil.  Fifteen kilometers later and we’re stamped out again.  Over the Rio Paraná and we collect stamp number four.  It’s only 10.15 am.  Others might be able to claim a similar record, what I know is, if we do this too often we’ll need new passports.
Tres Fronteras; where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, equals a smuggler’s paradise . We’ve heard all the ‘them over there’ stories; trafficking in women, drugs and counterfeit goods.
It’s the last that I think I might have acquired. Pigs are flying tonight. I’ve procured a second piece of electrical wizardry: a netbook that is joining the Kindle, all in one year.  A netbook that cost just under a couple of million guaranis; I’ll frame the receipt when we get back, but at somewhat less than the Argentine duty free joke shop.
So I won’t be bombarding  your in box, inflicting you with diatribes and waffle, burning useful  megabytes of your lives.
The blog site title is :  "The Long Commute”, and the address is:
Don’t expect any fancy graphics or pretty coloured clever bits.  Pictures will be next on the learning curve
Please come and join us there.