Tuesday, 28 January 2014

278 More Patagonia

One thing we forgot to put in the last post was an incident at the hotel in Bariloche. When we went out into the town, I realized we had forgotten the camera so nipped back to the hotel to collect it. As I got out of the lift I saw our room was open and I could hear the cleaners giggling away inside. I walked in to find 4 of them in there and 2 of them had our helmets on. They did not see me immediately so I shouted WAAAAA.....
They all collapsed with embarrassed laughter and one took the helmet off, hid her face in her hands and ran out. It was hilarious. They were so embarrassed but hysterical at the same time. Needless to say I did not help them get over the embarrassment too quick, I was having far too much fun myself. They soon got the message that I really did not mind all and we all laughed it off in the end.

Saturday 25th Jan 2013
Miles Today  513  Total  37,731
After a very uncomfortable night’s sleep in the car we set off for another long slog South. Patagonia is an unbelievably large expanse of very little but low mountains and scrub. What does surprise us is the volume of wildlife (not the variation). There are llamas absolutely everywhere. On top of that we have now come across whole families of Darwin’s Rhea’s. They are like small ostriches but for some reason they seen to gravitate to the only strip of tarmac for hundreds of miles around, much like the llamas really !
However we cannot grumble at the scenery, although bare it had a strange beauty of it own in its rawness. Our reason for coming here was to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. Sadly we arrived a bit late and on arrival at the National Park gates only had an hour before closing and with an entry fee of £12 each decided to wait till the next day and drove back 50km to the only town in the region, El Calafate. We found the second most crappy campsite in the known universe, picked a spot and went out for some food. After grub we went in search of a local bar, to mix it with the locals and found one on the lake shore. We spent £4 each on a local liquid that the barman said was beer but we suspect it was brewed from llamas poo. It was disgusting, even for us beer monsters. Then it was off to seat, by this I mean ‘bed’ but as we were sleeping in the car, it was ‘seat’.

Sunday 26th Jan 2013
Miles  Today 353 Total  38,084
The sun was our alarm this morning but it allowed us to get an early start for the glacier. We spotted this beast on a fence post on the way there. We think it is a Black Chested Buzzard Eagle but as you can see it is not black but it’s our best guess. It was however huge and around 2 feet tall.

It was then on to the park and glacier. The glacier is one of the few in the world that is not shrinking and at several places reaches the moraine lake formed from shrinkage after the last ice age. This is good because you can sit and watch chunks of it fall off into the lake. It is absolutely incredible to watch and as you do you can hear the ice cracking inside the glacier. The blue colours in the ice are amazing and I hope the photos below show it.

We decided to leave the park early to do some bird watching in El Calafate and as we were leaving the park we came across this beast.

An Andean Condor. Now it is not a good photo as these things are a long way off but this bird has a 10 foot wingspan and when we first saw it, it was just above us. It was like a WW2 bomber. We were just a bit chuffed.

Then it was down to the glacial lake for some bird watching.

A family of geese.

Flamingo bums.

An Andean Ibis.

A local Lapwing.

At around 3 we went for some lunch and then it was the start of the long haul North and back to a lonely Wallace. Now imagine this. Virtually all of our 1000 mile route was on Ruta 40 (road 40) except the last 20 miles to/from El Calafete. Karen set off and although I usually navigate, this time I took the opportunity to look at some of the photos on the lap top. After a while I became annoyed at the sun streaming straight through the window and realized we were going South. Not a good idea. We stopped and I figured out that we had missed the only turn off in the whole journey and had covered an extra 20 miles. What a pair of muppets. That added an extra 40 miles to our return trip. Just what we needed – not !

I did not tell Karen how far we had gone astray till it was over. The view from our 'extra' mountain.

Our target for the day was a place called Gobernador Gregores. It was a long haul but there is not too much choice around these parts for fuel etc. It was another 300 or so km and just under half was dirt road. It was going to be a long drive and end up in the dark thanks to our cock up missing the turn off.
(Karen) Good grief he does go on, it added about half an hour to the journey, and we would still have arrived in the dark!

These roads are real bone shakers and the car rattled like mad.

Imagine driving from London to Birmingham on this as a main road. It is in Argentina.

We arrived at Gregores just after complete darkness at around 11pm. We filled up with fuel, got some dry food and drinks and settled down for the night in the petrol station car park along with another 7 various vehicles doing the same thing.

Monday 27th Jan 2014
Miles Today 574  Total  38,658
The sun got us out of ‘seat’ again and after using the petrol stations services we set off again. It was only 7:30 am. What is happening to us ?
We then drove in the early morning sunshine to the next sign of habitation (aside from the odd house) 150 miles away. In this distance we only saw 14 other vehicles and this was Monday morning rush hour.

Vast openness.

Doesn't he blend in well.  He just sat there ready for his public.

We stopped for breakfast of dried bread wrapped around a few microns of ham and cheese. The birds got the lions share after we left, as is Karen’s want. This place had a fuel pump that was working today, unlike when we stopped here 2 days ago.   Life is not easy or to be taken for granted out here.
I think I have mentioned it before but the wind here is a serious issue. In the UK we usually associate wind with anti-cyclones and hence bad weather, rain etc. Here it is a part of life. The wind is constant, extremely strong and a general pain in the butt. We have had a few brief spells of strong breeze strength wind but most of the time it is approaching gale force. The odd thing is that it is virtually always from the same direction and this dictates the direction many of their buildings face out of the cities. I posted a picture of a motorcycle coming towards us in the last post and aside from it also being a Yamaha Super Tenere like Wallace, you can see the rider fighting with the wind. He will be doing this all day, every day he is in Patagonia. This place has a fearsome reputation among adventure bikers for this reason, which along with the dirt roads that gives Ruta 40 it’s notoriety.
Some of you may remember Nick Sanders, an English guy who we met in Monument Valley, USA. He did the trip 3 times, back to back from the bottom of Argentina to Alaska in 3 months. One word: ‘Nutter’ !

Again... lots of this.

One of the churches we passed on our dash through.

It was like this all the time.

As I write this, Karen and I are agreeing that given our circumstances and time restraints we did the best thing in hiring a car. I think had we done it on the bike, it would likely have terminated any future trips on the bike, but who knows ?
Some people may think we are wimps. DILLIGAF. Google it.
On part of the dirt road today, we came across this little fellow. We had seen larger ones in Florida but never managed to get a photo. This little guy is just so cute.

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