I’ve already learned to love the national drunk, the caipirinha. A typical serving costs about 50 pence and is lethal. One is usually plenty. Kurt and Candida go one better than just getting drunk and participate in a mock wedding at one bar. The ring is a free gift.
From the tranquillity of the Everglades to the tranquillity of Easter island. The journey not so tranquil. Three flights. Rice and chicken three times. Around the World in 80 Days three times (not worth seeing the first time and, anyway, am doing it in 62!). Lose my tickets - all of them.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.