After the small town of San Martinho, where very little was happening other than their giant burgers, our next target was far off on the other side of the state, close to the Atlantic coast. Southern Brazil, especially the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, have some spectacularly rugged regions.

Before we reached those however, we took a couple of days to rest and recharge in the “reading capital of Brazil“, an important regional city, Passo Fundo. Marina had been very productive on Couchsurfing in recent times- so once again we had a comfortable home to stay in. This time our host would be Caio. An expert churrasco chef, manager of a car wrecking company, and all round great guy. The three of us spent the first night catching up on the important news from Westeros – the season finale of Game of Thrones had just come out. Last time we’d watched it had been in the hostel back in Asunción!

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Hi Caio!

We rested, we washed our clothes, we sorted out some paperwork for the car. Exciting stuff! With Caio’s work at the Auto Demolidora, he’s a handy man around cars. And not shy of driving. In the past 2 years he’d taken a road trip down the coast of Uruguay, in an old banger (A Ford Belina) he fixed up on the way, and a much more ambitious journey: All the way to Ushuaia and back. That’s what we’re planning, so he was a font of useful information, especially when it comes to avoiding corrupt cops in Argentina. Before he waved us off towards the Canyons, he took us out to see the shop. Breaking cars is big business!

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We hope our car doesn’t end up like this

Handy Tip: In Argentina, every car must be equipped with:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • TWO reflective triangles
  • Carta Verde
  • Towing cable/towing bar
  • First aid kit
  • A white sheet (to cover a corpse at an accident). It’s not legally required but often demanded by cops there to solicit bribes.
  • If you have a van, pickup truck or “work vehicle” you also require a sticker at the back with a “110” or “90” speed limit, even if your vehicle doesn’t have a speed limiter installed.
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Canyon Monte Negro

Our first views of those spectacular canyons came at the top of Canyon Monte Negro.

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We’d chosen our accommodation based on their tempting offer of horse trekking through the valleys, and called to confirm. All good. Turns out the staff were either lying or incompetent, since they were completely booked out when we arrived, after 6 hours in the car. Slightly disappointing. Still, we made the best of it, enjoyed the views, and visited the highest point in Rio Grande do Sul, just up the road from the campsite. The contrast between the 1,400m plains behind us, and the green tree-filled cliffs below was immediate, and very striking.

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The big group who’d booked the place out were annual visitors from an equestrian club in Porto Alegre – real Gaúchos! Even the 12-year old scouts in their group carried huge knives. They’d come well stocked with big bottles of cheap wine, and were happy to share!

The following morning was a total writeoff, of course.

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Next stop, one of the twistiest roads in Brazil, and a martial arts academy.

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Prices

  • Bag of laundry in Passo Fundo: R$37.50 / €10
  • A giant pizza in Passo Fundo: R$50 / €14
  • One night’s camping at Aparados da Serra: R$40 / €11 per person
  • Entrance to Canyon Monte Negro: Free!
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