23 Jan 2018

Boring Roads, Amazing Wild Life

7 days on and we have finally found a camp site that feels like a camp site rather than a refugee camp. The weather has continued to be hot, but now we have done 1800 miles the temperature has dropped a little and is cooler at night, when the wind blows it can be quite cool and in the last hour it has clouded over and is getting quite cold, I might have to put trousers on!

As we entered Patagonia the farm land gave way to grassland and that soon changed to scrub, it is very flat and the roads are dead straight for miles, so very boring driving, but we do get the odd armadillo scurrying across the road and there are quite a few Rhea (small ostrich) and Guanaco (similar to a Llama) grazing along the side of the road. The difference is that if you stop the Guanaco will just stand and look at you and wander slowly away if you get too close. The Rhea will set off at speeds of up to 30mph as soon as you slow down. There is a YouTube video of a Rhea chasing a cyclist and his mate filming it from behind, hilarious!

Patagonia is an area where a lot of dinosaur remains have been found (and are still being found) and there is a museum in Trelew with an amazing number of dinosaur skeletons from the size of a dog to the size of a church, after the museum we stayed in a run down camp site in what is supposed to be a Welsh village a few miles off route at Gaiman, but other than a few welsh flags dotted about it was pretty much the same as anywhere else and nobody speaks welsh or English.

We have now visited 2 wildlife parks, Reserva faunistica Peninsular Valdes and Punta Tombo, with Trelew and the Dinasaur Museum in between. We have around 1,000 miles still to go to get to Ushuaia at the bottom and a few more wild life parks to visit on the way, so prepare for lots moe Peguinos.

At last I can add to my collection of road signs
And no sooner had we seen the sign and Guanaco (Patagonian Llama) appeared.

Our first Magellanic Penguin

Elephant Seals, taken from quite a distance on full zoom so unfortunately not so clear. These are females as the males are 100's of miles out to sea fishing at this time of year and the males grow to 5 times the size of the females with more pronounced trunks.

A penguin on the cliff looking down at others on the beach, makes you wonder why they bother to waddle up a cliff,

Mother with 2 chicks pestering her for food, but she is doing her best to ignore them. Almost as big as she is they will soon lose their baby feathers and set off to sea to fish in a couple of weeks.

This little hairy armadillo was skittering about the car park looking for dropped food, not a bit scared of people

Sea Lions, the male (with the mane) with his harem of between 4 and 15 females

Sea Lions as far as the eye can see

This life size model is at the entrance of Trelew, its enormous, you can just see someone stood in front of it front legs

A dog size dinosaur in the museum

Camping in the Fire Station camp site at Gaidon, most of it was overgrown, but we managed to find a nice shady corner

A Rhea from the rear, we saw loads, but this was the nearest I could get with the camera, must try harder.

This was at the strart of the walk ways around the park

and no sooner had we seen the sign but one obligingly walked across in front of us
Makes it more difficult when they walk down the walk way

Especially when they stop to have a look round
Penguins everywhere

This one was really strutting his stuff

Penguins on the rocks

Penguins for miles around

16 Jan 2018

Back on Track in South America

We are now 30 miles from Patagonia and less than 200 from Penguins and Elephant Seals. 

Just before we set off a number of people asked if we were excited, at that time the honest answer was no! But now we are!

There is always apprehension about something going wrong on such a long journey but this time ours almost stopped at check-in at Heathrow when they asked if we had a visa for Argentina! Never needed one before, but this time we were going for 114 days and anything over 90 requires a visa. We explained we were crossing to Uruguay after 2 days and they asked for a confirmed reservation. In fact I had tried to book a ferry crossing with Colonia Express, but it transfers to another site to make the payment (in Spanish) and I could not work it out so planned to pay when I got there. The BA staff were very helpful and 2 Spanish speakers were drafted in to assist, but they could not work out how to pay either, so I changed ferry company and 15 minutes later we had a confirmed booking on the Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia and they let us through (just over an hour after arriving at check-in).

After that it was all plain sailing (well, flying), a film, a Tangerine Dream LP followed by the Nutcracker Suite whilst reading Game of Thrones, 30 minutes sleep and 2 more films later we were landing at Buenos Aires at 09.00 on Sunday morning. After being collected by our lift we rested in the appartment for a few hours and then went out for some lunch, a walk in the sun and a coupls of beers.

Monday was spent walkig round Buenos Aires, collecting our car insurance, changing money and obtaining a sim card for my phone (in order to avoid chasing wifi all the time), but I still can’t get on the internet with the damn thing! Followed by an amazing steak and a bottle of wine in our now favourite restaurant in Buenos Aires.

Tuesday we crossed to Uruguay where Sandra was waiting for us to take us to the cruiser, but it wouldn’t start, batteries were turning it over OK but would not fire up. Then her husband produced a monster starter booster which did the trick. I think the issue was that the diesel had evaporated and needed the extra boost to pull the fuel through and with a couple of coughs and a splutter she roared back into life. We were booked into a mechanics the following day so made arrangements to camp in his yard that night (after a visit to the supermarket) so we would be there first thing.

Wednesday, possibly our biggest issue to overcome was the steering pump, which had been leaking badly during the whole of the previous trip. I brought a repair kit with me and the mechanic had it re-built and ready to go by lunch time and we were on the road! We only did 60 miles to a site we have been to many times, that is usually empty, but now it is summer and we struggled to squeeze in, but people were very helpful and one even moved her car to give us more room.

Thursday, tired from travelling and walking round Buenos Aires in the heat we decided to rest for a few dayso, but was so hot we almost expired, so decided to move on the following day.

Friday started as hot as before, but just after we crossed back into Argentina there was a massive thunderstorm which cleared the air and cooled things down somewhat (it’s still nice and hot though).

So now, 5 days and 1,000 pretty boring miles we are finally approaching Patagonia. It might be 2 years later than it should have been, but we are finally headed for the bottom of South America and we really are back on track.

First night on the road we camped outside a steak restaurant (Parilla) on a motorway service station, we tried to stay in the truck park (as we have done in many places) but they wouldn't let us, so the restaurant manager let us stayin the car park.

Second night we took a slight diversion to find this camp site in a small mountain range.

At 350 meteres it was a bit cooler, and so pleasent we decided to stay a second day and really have a rest. The site was full of various groups of scouts and guides and this group came down to practice their english and find out where we had come from

Night 4 we came across this site on the river.

This afternoon we decided to stay at a beach site, but the cheapest site was £20 per night (we have not paid more than £6 so far this trip, and when we went to look at the beach this is what we found!

So we moved on and found this pleasent little spot behind a fuel station, complete with tables, BBQ and lights, we were first there but soon there was a motorcycle and a number of tents being put up.