Christmas, Heat and weird Currency…

We succeeded! We admired the king penguins in all their glory and saw lots of other wildlife during the 2 days we raced around fire island in our dinky toy. The island was crowded with beavers who have built huge dams everywhere, so many that it even becomes an environmental problem, because all the water is blocked.  On December 21, the longest day, we covered quite a few miles and drove until 2 a.m. (when it was still twilight). We reached a lake where we spent the night in the car, too tired to put up our tent. In the morning at 4 o’clock we could watch a beautiful sunrise from the car, where we were protected from the strong wind that constantly blows all over the island.

From this lake we drove further south to another beautiful lake where we couldn’t go any further (for various reasons; broken petrol meter, so no idea how much petrol was left/ a very, very bad dirt road/ and a road you could only use with military permission). So we stopped to cook a delicious Italian meal at the lake and enjoy the views. The following night we napped in the car again. Actually, a car sleeps quite well, if you compare it with our very thin mattresses in the tent… but compared to the bed that we had the next night; nothing can beat that!

Actually, a car sleeps quite well

We had returned the car without any problems,although it was not in the best condition (it was covered with dirt and with a squeaking V-belt). But all we got was ‘No problem!’ You hear that so often here:). We continued to Rio Gallegos, from where we flew to Buenos Aires on Christmas Eve. Also an experience in itself because we had about as many crew on board as there were passengers; the plane was so empty.

We did not expect such a warm Christmas; with thick layers of clothes we arrived in Buenos Aires from Patagonia and we were welcomed by an intense heat, which ‘embraced us’ at 10 pm with 32 degrees! So we walked through the city in our thermal shirts, until we arrived at the hostel, dripping wet. Another ‘nice’ surprise was that they celebrate Christmas Eve here just as extensively as New Year’s Eve, with just as much fireworks and booze…During Christmas day we went out very early in the morning, but we still had to get used to the heat (40 degrees) and the high humidity. We had a sort of Christmas brunch and had a delicious meal; nice bbq’d meat and the famous wine from Mendoza tasted equally good. In the evening, after a day in this oven, we had the feeling that we had been dehumidified, there was no moisture left in us 😛

On Boxing Day, which they don’t celebrate here, we converted our first dollars into Argentine Pesos. A tip if you ever go to Argentina: don’t take money from the ATM because you really are a thief of your own wallet. Due to the poor financial position of the Argentine government (read: towering debts, bankruptcy) they have fixed the exchange rate of the peso. At the moment, 1 US$ is officially worth 6.5 ARS (Argentine Pesos). But because everyone here is in love with the dollar, the rate on the black market, the unofficial so-called “BlueDollar rate”, is 1 US$ = 9.99 ARS (there is even a website with the course of the unofficial Dollar Blue rate,

So now all we had to do was find a dodgy figure on Florida Street, (the place to be for money exchange, where, unfortunately, counterfeit pesos are also in circulation), who wanted to exchange our dollars. Because it was completely new to us, we first watched from the sidelines until we saw a number of Chinese bite…we did what the Chinese are good at; imitating 😉 So we followed 3 Chinese tourists at an appropriate distance and watched them change in a tatty office, after which we negotiated ourselves as we were led inside. We have double checked the Argentinian bills and they all have been spent, so we made a ‘profit’ of 50 euros 😉 Not bad travelling around like this.

Yesterday we took a short boat ride from Buenos Aires to Uruguay, where we will camp for a few days in a very nice village (Colonia) and can relax a bit before heading back home. Tomorrow is our last day of travelling this amazing continent and we will fly back to the Netherlands at 11 p.m. (via Madrid and Brussels, so it will take a while..).

See you soon and have a very happy new year!!!

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