NEW www.unurban.no

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Fri, April 13, 2012 22:29:02

Hi! During the long hours of waiting for the Ro-Ro vessel, we've re-designed our www.unurban.no. It was way over-due for an update, and we hope that these small modifications will allow us to post more info a bit more frequently than we have so far. And, yes, we did put in some google ads. Sorry about. Will be removed if it has no practical "effect".

From Lungile Lodge in Port Elizabeth, our home the last week.

We have also just started printing our own t-shirts, but there is no pressure.... :-) Still no book available from the unURBAN adventures.

Most of the news sections on the front page is updated from our blogs, and the pictures are uploaded from our photostream on Flickr. This could have the effect that it will take a few minutes before everything is updated on the front page after we have published it on the blogs or on Flickr. The idea is that we can update our web site without having to program html. We'll see if it works.... And I don't have a Mac so if Mac users see something funny, please let me know.

(the link to the Argentina - South Africa shipping post will be updated as soon as the boat docks)

Now, CHECK IT OUT!!! www.unurban.no


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Waiting waiting waiting in Argentina

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Fri, March 30, 2012 06:26:33

Almost there!!
I hope. According to plan and booking, the Patrol should be on its way to South Africa in a couple of days time. However, seing is believing. Still, to be fair with hardworking shipping agents (and companies), I'm sure they do their best, and for us overlanders it IS important to remember that this is not a ferry service. And in most cases they are more or less on time, and everything is goes according to plan. In our case it was unfortunate that the UK - Argentina relations was slightly more heated than normal, and that this partucular vessel sailed under British flag. I'll file it under bad luck for now. The vessel arriving in a couple of days is sailing under Panama flag (yes, I checked!), so hopefully this will be arriving without trouble.
Malin is still in Norway, and here the other day she mentioned that my last blog sounded a little negative. Well, yes, I was... But when the frustration was out, I discovered that hanging out for three weeks in Argentina wasn't really that bad.

As the car is a little overdue for a service, I didn't want to put in any long distance driving, and I also wanted to get through with some administrative and web issues that I have been thinking about for a while. More about web-things later. I found myself a nice and quiet camp ground in the village of Paranacito, and settled in for a while at Camping Top Malo. Two weeks to be exact. First few days I didn't really do anything but reading and enjoying some of the treats of Argentina. BBQ, red wine, cheese and salames. Not bad at all, actually...

Summer is coming to an end in the southern emisphere, and the campgrounds and not very crowded other than in weekends. My campground host invited me to a sightseeing trip on the river running past the village. It would be a couple of hours to get out onto the huge Rio Uruguay. The camping hosts are also fishing guides, and arrange fishing trips on the rivers in the area.

well. Amazon river from the coast of Brazil to Peru...? Hmm... I'll have to think more about that.

Well, the waiting is almost over, and in a couple of days I will be loading the Patrol in Port Zarate. I hope...

More soon!

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Uruguay and shipping pain..

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Wed, March 14, 2012 04:03:10

Hello again!

This post will basically be about the PAIN related to organizing shipping of a vehicle. Why the he## should this be so expensive, complicated, and time consuming??? The title of this post says “Uruguay”, and the reason is that my first plan was shipping in a container from Montevideo in Uruguay to Cape Town in South Africa. The reason for referring to this as “first” plan and not “the” plan will be explained in detail.

We arrived in Buenos Aires just in time for Malin’s flight home to Norway. I dropped her off at the airport around 4 in the afternoon, and drove into town to see if I could get on a ferry across to Uruguay. I knew there would be one at 5 pm, one at 7 pm, and then one at 9-something. Arrived too late for the 5 o’clock departure as I hit rush hours, and the next departures were fully booked. That meant I had to look for a place to camp, and that pretty quick as it was getting late. Buenos Aires is a huge city, and moving around takes a lot of time. I had found some coordinates for a camp called L’Hirondelle some 30 kilometers north of town close to Tigre. An hour later as I eventually got closer to my waypoint, I started to have my doubts. Where I was driving was definitely not the nicer parts of Buenos Aires, and I felt I got some pretty nasty looks from the local residents. I still kept driving, and suddenly the road was blocked by a big sign saying “private property”, not very far from where the coordinates would take me. F###!! I turned around and got the hell out of there. It was now dark, and I didn’t really know what to do. The only other place I knew about was a nice, expensive hotel in the city center, or 150 kilometers out of town the way I came in.

On my way out of the barrio where I was looking for the campground, I started to hear some disturbing metallic grinding noises from the left front wheel. This made me quite nervous. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in an earlier post, but a couple of days before we left for Antarctica I noticed an oil leak from my left front knuckle house. A seal in the front axle needs to be replaced, so differential oil is leaking out through the axle. The reason is worn bearings that are due for a change. The plan was to do this in South Africa as parts are more available and prices are better than in South America. I was debating with myself for a while if I would have to deal with this before Africa or if I should just give it a try and drive for Montevideo and shipping, and count on the bearings and seal to hold up for another couple of thousand kilometers. Well, we took off and hoped it would last until Montevideo, after all it IS a Patrol… :-)

So, to make a long, quite stressful evening, into a shorty story, I gave in and went for the nice hotel. Not a good day for my overlander-image, and I was quite worried that the oil from the diff had taken out the grease from the wheel bearings and ruined the bearing and hub. Next morning, in the hotel’s parking lot, I had a look at where the grinding noise came from. It wasn’t the bearing, but a worn out brake pad. The Patrol’s brakes have a small metal bar that will hit the disc when there is about a millimeter pad left, and this makes a terrible sound. Phew. I got on the ferry to Uruguay the same morning. Leaving a huge busy modern city…

…arriving in the small quiet town of Colonia in Uruguay. I needed a break after all the driving the last week (and that evening in Buenos Aires), so I checked into a guesthouse in the town center. I was also planning to finalize the last few details of the shipping to Africa, so a few days in a guesthouse with good internet was just what I needed. I thought…

So, back to this “first” plan. I had been in touch with a couple of shipping agents in Montevideo, and had a few date of vessel departures to choose from. The idea was to drive the car into a 20 foot container. If I remove the roof top tent, and strap this to the rear bumper or put it on the hood, I should just clear the 2,28 meter high door. However, after emailing back and forth with some shipping agents, I learned that containers leaving Montevideo for Cape Town had three transshipments, and an estimated shipping time of 46 days!! In addition you have a couple of days in each end loading, unloading, and paperwork, AND there is in most cases a few days of delays! We were suddenly looking at almost TWO MONTHS between South America and South Africa. I couldn’t really make sense of this as I repeatedly would find sailing schedules online with vessels supposedly corresponding that would take about 20 days to Cape Town?!?! Another thing that started to become an issue was the price. In the beginning we were told that we would be looking at about 3000 USD for shipping a container from MVD to Cape Town, but as we started digging into the matter, we learned that the total would be more like 4000 USD with all the port fees, custom fees, and container handling. Maybe even more. We decided to try to look for alternatives.

While figuring all this out, which takes a surprisingly large amount of time, I did some sightseeing around the coast of Uruguay.

I went to take a look at Montevideo, and even drove by the container port to see what it looked like. This could have been my final destination in South America.

The city of Montevideo.

Further east is Puente del Este, “the Ibiza of South America” and where the rich and famous go to play. Beautiful beaches, but crowded and touristy. Not a very unURBAN place…

Bridge in Puente del Este

Found a more quiet beach further west on my way back to Colonia where I stayed for a couple of nights. Just outside the smaller town of Piriapolis.

By the time I got back to Colonia, we had a new plan for shipping across the Atlantic. A ro-ro (roll on – roll off) vessel was leaving Zarate in Argentina, a small port up the river north of Buenos Aires a few days later. We were suddenly back in the shipping game, and at least a 1000 USD saved. And from where I was in Uruguay, it was only a couple of hundred kilometers away.

I was told to show up at least two days before to sort out the paperwork. Talking with customs I got a nice surprise. There was NO paperwork to take care of?!?!? I was told to hand in my temporary vehicle permit (that you get at the border when entering the country) when driving in to the port for loading, and that would be it! Excellent! Could it be this easy?

Not really. But it wasn't the customs fault. The ship was supposed to be here on 3rd of March, 10 days ago, and I was supposed to be on my way to Africa by now. Shipping just sucks sometimes. The vessel scheduled to arrive at Zarate sails under British flag, and it turned out that the union operating the port will not deal with British vessels, believe it or not… UK and Argentina do have a history (read about the Falkland War on wikipedia), but I hadn’t expected this. And I really expected that the people operating these vessels would know such things. The vessel was anchored up outside Montevideo for three days, and for a little while it looked like they could go to port in Montevideo, and that I would be able to load there. Fortunately (or I’m just starting to learn...), I didn’t abruptly drive to Montevideo when that option came up. The next day it turned out that the port did not have space for the cargo, and it ended up with the vessel sailing back north to Brazil and out of reach for me. To Rio Grande in Brazil it would be 1300 kilometers, two borders, new custom policies to deal with, and a new port with regulations and fees for loading. All to be sorted out in less than 36 hours. Wise men have said that you should choose your battles carefully, so I stayed in Zarate. In the time of writing, the next available ro-ro vessel leaves for South Africa on the 1st April. That is three weeks from now, and one hell of a delay! So, not really sure what to do at the moment, but will keep looking for alternatives. Mental note to self: remember to check the flag the next vessel is sailing under.....

Not giving up on Africa yet!

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Patagonia and Ruta 3

ArgentinaPosted by Malin Wed, March 07, 2012 11:55:28

When we were back in Punta Arenas and our contract with ALE ended our main goal was to get up to Buenos Aires or Montevideo to get the Patrol shipped over to South Africa. Travelling north we started with a detour to the northwest to Torres del Paine National Park. The weather did not cooperate so there were no towers to be seen.

We did not feel that we had the time to wait around for better weather so we crossed into Argentina.

Driving on the eastern side of Patagonia is pretty monotone and boring. Especially when the surroundings mostly looks like this.

The most exciting we saw one day was the valley around Rio Santa Cruz.

When we made it all the way east we hit Ruta 3, the paved road running all the way up to Buenos Aires, it got even more boring, but at least we could cover good distance on this road. Every now and then we had to get of Ruta 3 just to break up the monotone drive. At Cabo dos Bahias we did find some wildlife with a colony of 9000 breading pairs of Magellan penguins and their chicks.

Espen got a new friend.

Penguins are really cute and they look pretty innocent, but they do have some serious fights.

The further north we drove the warmer it got. After three months in Antarctica + 38 degrees Celsius is hot…, but it was great to wear shorts and T-shirts again.

A beach is the perfect lunch stop.

Evening stroll along the beach at low tide in Balneario El Cóndor.

Ten days and 3200 km from Punta Arenas we arrived in Buenos Aires airport where I, Malin, boarded a plane to go home to Norway for a few weeks to visit family and friends, bring all the winter clothing to Norway and pick up the Carnet de Passage (the car’s passport) that we need in Africa. Espen will work on shipping the Patrol to Africa and then we will meet up on a (for us) new continent to continue our travel.

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Tierra del Fuego - the last leg??

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Mon, November 14, 2011 05:37:41

We arrived at the ferry port late in the evening. It was still daylight as we were now at almost 53 degrees south, and we wanted to cross the Strait of Magellan before setting up camp for the night. The trip across the strait with the ferry takes about half an hour, and we drove onto Tierra del Fuego at about 9:30 in the evening. Finally, we were on our last leg of our journey across the Americas, almost 18 months after “starting” our trip from Prudhoe Bay.
We found a place off the main road to camp just a few kilometers south of the ferry port. Normally we don’t like to bush camp too close the road, but in Patagonia we feel very safe, and during the night maybe three – four – five cars passes us. Many travellers coming north from Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego have been telling us about the fierce wind that is ALWAYS present, but funny enough, even if it was windy during the day, it was calm at night. Early next morning we continued south along the east coast towards the Argentinean border. You may wonder why I decided to put in more than just one picture of sheep in this post..? Well, that seem to be the main business at Tierra del Fuego. There are sheep everywhere!

We got to the border early afternoon, and the crossing was smooth. Like most Chile – Argentina crossings. Read about these on unURBAN.no

As we drive further south on Tierra del Fuego, the road turns more and more west. This side of the island has more mountains and forest. We had heard that the best bakery on the island was in Tolhuin, and we made sure to stop and stock up on bread and pastries. We asked around for camping, and we were told to drive down to the Lago Fagnani a kilometer or two out of town.
We expected a “normal”, boring camp ground, but that was not so. Camping Hain is definitely different, but a fantastic place to stay for a day or two. There was a nice shed with tables and benches, and a huge fireplace with as much firewood you could burn. 20 meters away was a brand new mast with long range WiFi. Probably the best bandwidth we’d had in Argentina…

The tip of America was close. The next morning we got in the car and headed towards Ushuaia. It should be about an hour and a half drive to get there. We were quite exited, but it was still a little quiet in the car as we got closer. And finally, we saw the big signpost at the city limit: Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world. We had made it to Ushuaia!

We could probably have stopped here and still claimed to have driven to the tip of the Americas, but he##, the road kept going south… Actually, it took off from the main road even a few kilometers before we got to Ushuaia. So to really see how far south we could drive, we turned back and went south!

The road go east from Ushuaia, and slightly to the south. On the way down we drove past the oldest estancia on Tierra del Fuego, Haberton. Today they only have tourists on the old farm, but we stopped for lunch and got a tour “in English” just for the two of us.

The road go east along The Beagle Canal. Notice the weather and the calm sea. We were incredible lucky with the weather.

So if you really want to look what the end of the road on the American continent looks like, 45 kilometers after Estancia Haberton, we found it. It ends at a house belonging to the Argentinean Navy, and it looks like a weather station or something. We heard people in the house, but nobody came out to say hi.

We wondered if they got a lot of overlanders down here to look for the end of the road…. The house sits on top of a little hill just up from the beach. We turned around and went back down the hill and drove down on the sand. We stayed here for a while taking in the moment and popped a bottle of Champagne! (no, we didn’t finish it. don’t drink and drive…)

And that my dear friends, was, in 2009 when we planned the whole thing, supposed to be the end of unURBAN Adventures. However, as we have touched in on a few times, letting go of the life you know in and out could possibly change way more than you could imagine when you started. Malin had actually worked there before, but I didn’t really think I could. Well, the next leg on our adventure will unfortunately be without the Patrol, but we are actually getting on a plane and continue south…

More soon. Very soon!


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