Well it's very different here. From the plane the patchwork of agricultural Uruguay around the giant Plate delta gradually gives way to the brightest green bush networked with aquamarine meandering rivers, ox bow lakes and elliptical lagoons. It's another country that claims to be little Switzerland as it’s landlocked. Not a mountain in sight.
It takes all day to get to Buenos Aires - I arrive at my hotel at eight. I'm lucky. Some poor souls camped out in the baggage hall have been waiting five hours for their luggage as the handlers are on strike too. It seems it was a general transport strike in protest at the government's response ( or lack of it) to proposed tax cuts.
The view from the Pan American Highway, Route 1, wending its way slightly inland isn't very exciting. In essence Uruguay is three giant river deltas. Mostly agricultural, either flat or very gently undulating, sprinkled with silos and cattle. Think Essex livened up with the odd palm tree and eucalyptus. But the sky is blue and the buildings in the small towns are Wild West saloon style clay in vivid colours. Tangerine is a favourite.
I'm supposed to be on a group tour for two weeks, but there is only one other person in my group. He clearly has Aspergers and it's like travelling with a very self centred demanding child. I think he's also gay. Surely my luck has to improve at some point?
Another bus, another river border, more shuttle canoes. This time it’s the Caroni River and it’s a short trip across to St Laurent, in French Guiana. This was the French equivalent of Botany Bay, a receiving station for new inmates bound for the notoriously brutal penal colony.
It’s fascinating to see how each former colony reflects its different European imperial masters. This is a region of sugarcane and rice plantations and its low lying and so is threaded by drainage canals – and yes the odd windmill.
The roads are red soil, still unpaved and after much bumping a ferry is involved. It’s another long wait while the bus is perilously edged onto the ‘boat’ – it’s a contraption of wood planks with an engine attached. No roads, no scheduled planes. More ignominious weighing as we embark on light aeroplanes to reach the capital Georgetown.
We’re a motley crew and it’s described as a trip ‘which emphatically goes off the beaten track’- that’s a bit of an understatement, especially as pioneer means that this is the first time the company have run this trip. so anything can happen.
Then to Argentina El Calafate and an excursion to the colossal Perito Moreno glacier. Nearly 300 feet high, a land area the size of Buenos Aires and a mass of blue peaks like giant frozen penguins marching into the sea. (There are more real penguins, too).