Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Final days in our motorhome

Leaving Cafayate (Argentina) after a few days, we headed south. We had to return our rented motorhome, Vdos by 11 December 2017, so it was all go to get to Buenos Aires to do that.

Cloud across the road and surrounds
Out of Cafayate, we hit a long winding road with lots of potholes. It was uphill and the land was arid, but interesting. An hour or so into the trip, we spotted what looked like a thick cloud of smoke across the road.

As we got closer, we discovered it was a dense low cloud. It completely covered the road and surrounds. We slowed right down, afraid to hit one of the many animals that wander the roads in these parts.


River gorge-wet and winding road
We eventually emerged from the cloud and drove downhill for some time, arriving in Tafi del Valle, a lovely little town on a lake.

After lunch there, we drove onto another winding road, but this time, very verdant and green. It took us through a steep river gorge. There were more animals on this narrow winding gorge road, more cloud, and plenty of hairpin bends. The cloud had obviously dumped heavy rain here, and the road was greasy.

Road through the salt flats near Quilino
Arriving on the flatlands sometime after, we ended up on a dead straight road for many kilometres, which ran through some interesting salt flats. Talk about a land of contrasts – three different environments in as many hours.

After spending the night at a service station in Quilino, we finally reached the outskirts of Córdoba where we had planned to visit a few 17th century Jesuit mission stations (estancias). There are many in this area, but our particular interest was those with UNESCO status.

Two Jesús Maria City monuments
Spotting a sign directing us to Estancia Santa Catalina, we headed there, only to find that most of the journey would be on an unsealed road that was in very bad condition. After a recent scare on such a road, we quickly did a u-turn and returned to the main road.

Shortly afterwards, we arrived in the lovely town of Jesús Maria. Deciding to detour and drive through the town, we came across a Mission Information Centre.


Jesuit mission Estancia de Caroya (UNESCO)
A fortuitous detour - we could get to three of the four mission stations that we were most interested in from there. That meant we wouldn’t have to back-track from Córdoba to see them. With mission map in hand, we set off.

The first one, Estancia de Caroya, was right next door to the Mission Information Centre, and set in lovely park-like grounds. Walking in, we found a very old but attractive building set around a courtyard, that had some rooms restored and in use as a museum. 

Jesuit mission Estancia Santa Catalina (UNESCO)
After a wander around there, we headed back to Vdos and raced to the next mission before it closed for lunch.

It was the one we could not reach on the first try; Estancia Santa Catalina. We were told that the road from Jesús Maria was sealed, so we headed there. Unfortunately, the sealed road became another nasty bumpy unsealed road. However, we pressed on as it was obviously a road used by many locals if the passing traffic was anything to go by. 

Lunch place near Estancia Santa Catalina
We finally reached the mission – it was closed – well before the stated time.

But we looked around from the outside and liked seeing the beautiful baroque style church that fronted the mission buildings.

A little home/B&B/restaurant next door was open so we enjoyed a local-style lunch (no menu, just whatever was being prepared that day which was a huge steak milanese), before heading off again. Our next destination was Estancia Jesús Maria, back in the town of Jesús Maria.

Jesuit mission Estancia Jesús Maria (UNESCO)
It showed a very attractive structure, and in the style of most other missions we have seen, it was built around a central courtyard and flanked by an interesting church. It had also been turned into a museum.

Our mission to find missions almost done, we headed into the city of Córdoba to view the last of our four.

We drove into Córdoba city at siesta time, great - more parking spaces available as people go home for siesta. 


Jesuit mission Manzana Jesuitica chapel (UNESCO)
We found a car park but the parking ticket machine wasn't working. We left Vdos there anyway, and went to explore the city on foot.

We soon found Manzana Jesuitica, right in the heart of the old city. This large and impressive mission is still in use and includes a Church and its various residences and offices, the National University of Córdoba and its main Library, the National School of Monserrat, and a large chapel.

After that, we went in search of a place that could fix Leigh’s ‘new’ cellphone which went completely belly-up somewhere in the middle of Chile.


Jesuit mission Manzana Jesuitica (UNESCO)
Córdoba was the first big city where we thought we might find a place to get it fixed.

So, leaving the phone at a small shop that had a ‘no-fix-no-pay’ policy, we headed off to find a place to park for the night, as we had to return to collect the phone the next day.

There were no campgrounds open – that’s been the story almost right through the trip. Each one we tried in Córdoba said they would be open on 24th Dec, but it was only the 6th!

Córdoba leafy street
Eventually, we were way out in the suburbs of Córdoba, and found parking in the street beside a park with a river running through it. It was lovely. Very quiet and shady in the 38 degree heat.

Arriving back in the city the next day, we followed instructions to a recommended safe parking lot which was used by the police for their parking.
  
Leaving Vdos there, we walked down into the city centre.

Córdoba street 
We found a laundry and dropped off some washing, then we went to pick up the phone. Turns out to be not fixable (300 photos lost!). 

Then we went to explore more of this interesting city.

We found that we really liked Córdoba.

It’s an easy city to get around and there are lots of attractive and grand buildings.


Our last night in Córdoba in the police car park
There are many museums, churches, monuments, and green spaces, and huge shade trees everywhere. There is also a fabulous coffee/bar/restaurant scene.

After walking around for hours, we found our way back to the right place to pick up our laundry, then slogged up the last hill back to Vdos. We decided to stay in the police car park that night, feeling perfectly safe there.

After a good night's sleep we headed south out of Córdoba.

Rosario
On reaching the city of Rosaria, we did a quick drive through, finding it to be an attractive city on the banks of a large river.

They seemed to be doing up part of the river bank as it was being well used by lots of people. The old city was set on a hillside with narrow streets and some lovely old as well as modern buildings.

We decided not to stay there, but pushed on to get closer to Buenos Aires for the night. 

Chascumous camp-Vdos
Eventually, we found a YPF service station just off the freeway with a lovely grassed and shady area. We set up camp there for the night and despite road and some truck noise, it worked well.

The next morning we reached Buenos Aires and drove through to find a camp somewhere close to Motorhome Times to return Vdos.

We ended up going back to the camp in Chascumous that we used when we first picked up Vdos. The camp manager recognised us and was excited to have his two Kiwis back again.

Our stop there gave us a chance to pack up our gear, prepare Vdos for her return, and have some relaxing time before our next adventure.

We were sad to say goodbye to Vdos. She had been an easy van to drive and had taken us everywhere we had wanted to go, as well as a few places we didn't!

Motorhome Times depot-returning Vdos
We were very happy with her living space and her performance.

She had 139,768 km on her odometer when we picked her up. We travelled 13,196 km during the 2.5 months that we had her, so she’s sure got a few km on her.

We highly recommend Motorhome Times. They were easy to deal with, and Vdos must have been well maintained by them as we had absolutely no problems with her at all.

Overall, we a great time in Chile and Argentina. Both different, both colourful – Chile with its abundance of colourful foliage, and Argentina with its colourful soils. We found both places had their lovely and not so lovely cities and towns but across both, the people were lovely, friendly and warm.

This motorhome trip has been one of our hardest, largely due to the lack of, or closed campgrounds, and their poor condition, and the extremely cold weather down south. But would we do such a road trip again? You bet – it was a fabulous trip!

Next stop is Antarctica; but not in the motorhome....


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