Buenos Aires to El Calafate
ARRIVAL DATE :
26th JULY 2009
We finally reach our destination - Peninsula Valdes, well, almost - we actually never went onto the peninsula.
Instead we find ourselves living on a nearby beach for weeks - in dire risk of serious whiplash injuries from watching whales play within 50 feet of our truck, beside ourselves whether to point the camera left, right or straight on!!! At night we lie in bed lulled to sleep by the sound of the whales calling to each other, sometimes so loudly that, you imagine they are going to knock on your door! It forever amazes us to glance out of our open door to see dozens of whales, weighing more than 30 tonnes each, measuring at least 35 feet each and capable of speeds of 40 -60 km’s! These bus sized beauties belly roll, fin flap, jump, feed and, after a hard days play, tail wiggle to cool down. The youngsters even tag a ride on the backs and bellies of the adults, at times they are entirely out of the water! Seals and pods of dolphins regularly appear and we saw a couple of penguins. August is the best month to be here, the sea appears to’ boil’ some days there are so many whales by the shoreline, by mid September we see less and less whales, previous travellers have arrived in October to find none. No photograph can do justice to these magnificent creatures.
On the road again - yahoo!
Feeding female Belly rolling fun Tail slapping youngster
We spent a couple of days in the city catching up with a travel friend we haven’t seen since India then drove north to Tigre - a small riverside town. In Buenos Aires the weather was cold at night but warm in the day - in Tigre it is always cold and damp thanks to the river side setting. Our water tank developed a leak and we were forced to stay an extra 4 days to sort various issues out, luckily the campsite had 5 dogs, 7 puppies and a chicken who thought it was a dog- our days were never dull!
We finally escaped the city and started our journey south. The landscape was tedious - ruler straight roads cut through endless miles of flat ranch land and, unlike Kyrgyzstan, the gauchos are grim unsmiling souls. We entertained ourselves by watching wildlife, stopping to watch nandu being chased by cattle and coypu playing in the road side water pools.
Argentina is such an easy place to travel - every town has a municipal area that allows overnight parking, usually with BBQ and toilet facilities - sometimes even swimming and sports areas. The Argentineans are very similar to the Pakistani’s - sometimes reserved but incredibly friendly if you make the first move.
We stopped at a very nice town called Tandil, where everyone seemed to be obsessed with keeping fit, our campsite had a husky that would put her head on your shoulder and ‘talk’ to you to get a cuddle. We had spoken about getting a dog now we have the truck but there really is no need - everywhere we stop we have a dog for company and to share our meal. We always knew our grooming glove would be appreciated!
Next we moved onto the coast and were delighted to find ourselves completely surrounded by thousands of green parrots -around 70,000 nest on the cliffs near a town called Viedma. We follow the coast camping on beaches where shocking red flamingoes feed in the shallow waters, we watch whales swim by and chat to locals who spend their spare time fishing - a national obsession.
It’s great to be travelling again.
We drove out to Punta Ninfas, an isolated point on the coast, in search of Elephant and Lion seals and Orcas' - the seals were there in small numbers only but the Orcas' stayed away. October would be the perfect month to come here. Four hours after we left Ninfas the Orcas' arrived - for 3 days they entertained our friends! ####!!!
On Orca watch at Punta Ninfas
Our next stop is Trelew and a visit to the rather ordinary dinosaur museum, we leave and drive to Gaiman - a village with a strong Welsh heritage, we know we have arrived when a 4 year old gives us the finger - definitely a sign of British genes! Other travellers complain of “brain death” on Route 3, so we avoid it and take the lovely back roads all the way to Puerto Visser following the coastline, spending some time in Cabo dos Bahia park. Lady luck is on us again when we stumble upon Bahia Bustamante, a ranch with some fabulous sights, not only do they have a private bird reserve, penguin colony, sea lion colony, petrified forest, horse riding, crystal clear sea waters, a mineral water source, an algae farm but possibly the nicest couple in Argentina! Mattias and Astrid are a wonderful couple who go out of their way to ensure your every wish is met. You will leave a piece of your heart in Bustamante. www.bahiabustamante.com
We tear ourselves away and arrive in horrid Comodoro Rivadavia - we quickly shop for food then leave for Rada Tilly. Sticking with our cunning plan of avoiding Route 3 we decide to take Route 12 to the Monumento Bosques Petrificados - we never did find the start of Route 12 and ending up driving through Pico’s rubbish dumping area to get onto what looked like a road - don’t ask!! Anyway, the ‘road’ was being re-graded, the winds were storm force and we spent hours driving through what felt like a sand blasting tunnel - it was hell. Desperate to find shelter we stopped by a tiny ‘hill’ and hunkered down for the night. The next day was gorgeous with blue skies and no wind and although our journey onto Route 49 may have been a little bumpy, it was a beautiful way to enter the National park.
Next stop was a beach on circuit curioso near Puerto San Julian - we experienced our first heavy rain since arriving in South America and our usual 25 degree temperatures disappeared. In the morning there was fresh snow on the hills as we sat watching commerson dolphins fish on the incoming tide and penguins hitching a ride on the outgoing tide - a great experience and a beautiful stretch of coastline where you could easily spend a week beach hopping. We push ourselves to leave as we want to spend a week in Monte Leon National Park looking for pumas. The park was lovely and within minutes of parking Dave had found puma prints - he was very excited! The next day we took a walk down to the penguin colony and followed puma prints the entire way - some 4 days old others less than a day old. We were laughing that we were going to get to the beach to discover a puma having a penguin asado (BBQ), we weren’t so wrong, half eaten penguins littered the colony! Unfortunately camping on the beach in Monte Leon is only permitted between November and April and the thought of having to drive a 46km round trip to the estancia every night was too much - we left after 2 nights.
With unexpected time to spare on our visa we drive west to El Calafate to visit the fabulous Glaciar Moreno - our plan is to beat the mad summer tourist rush. It was lovely to see hills and trees again after such a long time and the glaciar was stunning. Being allowed to park overnight, overlooking the glaciar was a big, big bonus - we lay in bed listening to large ice pinnacles falling and hitting the water with loud splashes - fab.
Elephant seal at Ninfas - they weigh up to 3,000 kg
A friend for dinner in Gaiman
How many parrots can you fit on a tree?
Guanaco and fox + hairy armadillo in Cabo Dos Bahias
Superb boat and trekking sights in Bahia Bustamante
MONUMENTO BOSQUES PETRIFIED FOREST -
now that’s a big stone log!
MORENO GLACIAR - fabulous overnight stay with views.
MONTE LEON NATIONAL PARK - bring out your wild side and pppppick up a penguin - YUMMY.
Another day, another plan - we decide to drive into Chile to beat the summer rush at Torres Del Paine. We get a special treat of some un-seasonal heavy snow before arriving at the remote border crossing of Cancha Cerrera, where we had to waken the customs officer to get stamped out - he was still in his bed!