Driving 'The Beast' through South-America


By Isabelle Demaeght, April 16, 2019

We reached the Atlantic Ocean in Bahia Blanca where Adriaan bought a new toy for 'The Beast': 2 flexible solar panels. They will take care of charging our batteries in the future (when the sun shines). They can be installed up to 10 meters away from the car.

Solar panels

Next, we drove further along the coast and I had found us an idyllic place to sleep on the beach. We didn't manage to stay there for a whole night: at half past ten, the wind was so strong that we moved the car a few kilometers further on and then went (back) to sleep. A Landcruiser in the dark on muddy paths, with the tent unfolded and a screaming woman on the back holding the ladder was a real spectacle. Fortunately there was no camera crew along the road.

Thinking that engineers are also ingenious, the next day we arrived at the 'Camping los Ingenieros'. It was a collection of caravans, some of them in disrepair, between which we had to find a spot for the night. It was not super but the spot was right behind the dunes so we took our chairs and a drink to the beach. There were mainly fishermen. I found the sea very dirty and only made half an attempt to go swimming.

Engineers camping

Our first flat tire became a dangerous undertaking on a narrow emergency lane, but we still made it to Buenos Aires. I had found an apartment (with parking for tall cars) in the middle of the city. We liked it there and we had a busy schedule so we extended our stay by one day.

First flat tire

We visited a large part of the city on foot and found an interesting museum that explained the Argentine political history of the last 200 years. With our French boat-friends Yves and Philippe (and their counterparts Catherine and Nicky) we ate a tasty lunch.

Yves, Isabelle, Adriaan, Catherine, Nicky, Philippe

Tango lesson We really enjoyed a tango lesson on Saturday given by Lucia and Gerry. We were a bit uncomfortable but we had a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we found ourselves in a demonstration, which annually commemorates on March 24 to allow nunca mas (never again) such a regime as the junta that seized power in Argentina in 1976. With lots of drumming and even more enthusiasm, thousands of people (many indigenous) walked down the street. There were food stalls everywhere....

Nunca Mas

Tomb of Evita Peron Along with many others, we visited the Recoleta cemetery where Evita Peron lies. Her tomb is modest compared to others. Anyone who played an important role in Argentine history is buried here.

Three months ago we met Stefaan in southern Chile, a Belgian who lives near Buenos Aires, and we promised to look him up. We enjoyed a colorful evening at his local pub and an overnight stay in his beautiful home. He tried to explain to us a little more of the Argentine way of life. Thank you, Stefaan.

Isabelle and Stefaan

And so, after 5 months, we were back in Uruguay, in San Niconar (a place with thermal baths - see 7 episodes back). Just like in October, we enjoyed this place. Adriaan was able to try out the solar panels and was pleased with the positive result.

Via Uruguay we ended up in Brazil. By now we have adopted the habit of preparing the car for a border: no fruit or vegetables and no meat on board to prevent the spread of (any) diseases. But the Brazilians didn't even ask what vehicle we ended up with here. No registration, no check for liability insurance... We soon found an adorable, passionately well-groomed campground with a nice view and beautiful sunset.

First camping spot in Brazil

We visited a Toyota dealer in Porto Allegre, the first major city we reached on our way north, because Adriaan thought he heard something was wrong with the bearings. (And he didn't have a Brazilian Toyota friend in his address book yet, either.) It turns out it's the tires, which don't wear completely evenly. The front wheels have now been swapped with the rear wheels.

Later that day we went to inquire at a camper builder about the possibility of making a safe storage rack for the solar panels. First we received cake in celebration of their 25th anniversary. The warm family business then welcomed us by kindly inviting us to spend the night on their property. The second night, we even got one of their caravans (with an air conditioner) at our disposal because it was exceptionally hot these days. One of the workmen, together with Adriaan, has built a construction at the ceiling of the Toyota where the solar panels have their place. Christine (the oldest daughter who also speaks English) took us to a restaurant and told us about Brazilian customs, education, healthcare, etc.

Making a storage rack

We drove to the coast and from there north. In Torres, all the campsites were closed but we found a decent hotel. The next two days we were introduced to Brazilian culture. Everything was different from the countries we had already visited: the language (which we did not understand at first); the predominantly green landscape because of the humid climate; there were no siestas here; many people had a short lunch in the afternoon; small restaurants always offered more or less the same buffet for a small budget; people ate earlier in the evening than in more southern countries; they liked sweet or spicy food.

Luxury hotel

At the beach, we frowned. Every woman, regardless of age or body weight, walks around here in a thong! We were meanwhile initiated into drinking a tasty cocktail, the Brazilian Caipirinha. (Lime juice, sugar, ice cubes and Cachaça (a distillate made from fermented cane juice).)


Reunification A few months ago, my sister had decided to visit us in Brazil for a short vacation. In the end, we decided together that if anyone had to fly across the ocean anyway, we'd better turn the tables. When I come to Belgium for a few weeks, I can at the same time embrace my boys. The boys knew nothing and I had informed their friends and my family to set up some surprise scenes. The journey home was long but the Belgian "vacation" with the unannounced reunion (after 220 days) with children, relatives, patients and friends was one big emotion, a celebration. Between visits, I take care of the purchase of shortages, and arrange consultations with dental, eye and gynaecologist. It has become an overly busy schedule.

Meanwhile, Adriaan is waiting in the south of Brazil. At the end of April we continue our journey. We are so used to being a duo that it feels like a piece of me stayed behind.