Argentina 13: Bosque Petrificados and the Penguins of Punta Buque

  Via the RP101 we reached Bajo Caracoles, a bad piece of ripio (gravel) road, then eastwards on the RP79, a very quiet and remote road passing between, what looked like, many abandoned haziendas.
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Hazienda seemed abandoned
There seemed to be very little hunting in this area as the herds of guanacos and Rhea were less skittish and much larger than anywhere else we had been to.
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A flock of lesser Rhea - the birds are about half the size of an African Ostrich
Just before turning onto the RP12, our vehicle developed a problem – every time we tried to brake, the vehicle shuddered and a grinding noise was to be heard. We had no option but to turn back and slowly make our way back southwards to Gobernador Gregores again, a detour of about 200km. This town developed as a town supporting agriculture in this area.
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Monument celebrating Patagonian sheepfarming
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Early tractor
We slowly managed to get back with no braking, just shifting gears. In the town we inquired and were directed to the mechanic shop “ Taller Sergio Soto” where we were lucky to find Sergio, who diagnosed the problem within 5 minutes (we had lost a bolt holding the disc pad assembly) and he found us a replacement in town within 30 minutes. An hour later we were on our way again. Including a spare bolt the damage was P 300 or about R200 – a very fair price to solve our quandary. For the coming night we decided to stay in town, spoil ourselves eating out and retired at Camping Municipal for P 200 (R 130). Next morning we again left via the bad R25, then reached the RP12 and enjoyed the wildlife and colourful mountains along this remote road. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-5 Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-6 Only a single vehicle passed us all day and via the R49 we arrived late afternoon at “Monumento Nacional y Reserva  Nacional Bosques Petrificados”. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-7 Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-8 We were still welcomed by the rangers and were surprised that no entry fees were charged at this park. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-9 After a short guided tour of the museum we followed the trail along the petrified tree trunks, some up to 30m long and 2.5m is diameter -an impressive sight. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-10 The many fossils are testimony that Lago Grande used to be a large lake with enormous trees and dinosaurs until the fateful eruption of nearby Volcano Madre y Higa that blew over the Pre-Araucaria trees 150 million years ago. Nothing remained standing with the estimated 300km/hr pyroclastic wind, and ash then covered the entire area which led to the petrification through rain.
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Up to 30m long petrified trunks of the Pre-araucaria trees
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Volcano Madre y Higa in the background
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Well camouflaged and adapted
Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-14 This park had no camping facility, the rangers also ensured that we did not camp wild anywhere close – this is to minimize the risk of souvenir pieces being carried away. Outside the park the camping site on a hazienda, La Palomo ,was also closed so we veered off the road along the track under a large powerline and hid behind a hill for the windy night.
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Wild camp along powerline near Bosque Petrificados
When we reached Puerto San Julián along the main Ruta 3, the YPF Service station would not accept any credit cards – solo effectivo (cash)! In town the service station did not have any diesel – we should come back in an hour’s time, they were awaiting delivery. In town we had to ask our way through to find the only ATM accepting foreign credit cards. All this arranged, we decided to stay on Camping Municipal, where we met English-speaking Jeanette Carolina Walker working at reception – she had studied 3 years at Wits University in Johannesburg and her father farmed on an hazienda along the route we intended travelling from here. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-17 The Camino Costanera along the coast proved to be a good choice, scenic and with a lot of birds. Along this stretch camping is permitted along the Sandstone cliffs and pebble beaches.
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Red-legged cormorant
At La Loberia viewpoint we took time to observe a colony of Sea Lions and flocks of cormorants and skuas. Although we were now in the middle of the holiday season, the number of visitors along this stretch were very few. Towards afternoon we stopped at the furthest point of Playa Grande and spent the night camping near the beach below.
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Extraordinary pebble beaches of Patagonia
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Wild camping on Playa Grande
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Miniature windmills on the Patagonian plains to cope with the high winds
Along RP47 in a westerly direction we passed Estancia Las Manatiales and stayed for a coffee and had a chat with Carlos Walker where he confirmed that farming in this area was tough. It was a family farm where he already had grown up. This year they were in a drought, but he also bottled water on a different farm and supplied it in the area, branded Agua Nao Victoria, to supplement income.
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Las Manatiales - the Walker family farm
Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-24 Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-25 As we left the farm, we came across some more Armadillos and Crested Tinamou.  
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Hairy Armadillo on the Patagonian plains
We never really managed to count the bands to decide whether this was a 6 or 7 banded Armadillo. Apparently only the bands which can bend are counted - kind of tough to determine that on a photo.
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Armadillos have strong digging tools
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Crested Tinamou blend in with the vegetation
In the afternoon we reached Punta Buque where we could observe many Magellanic Penguins and European hare (Lepus europaeus), or brown hare.
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Lighthouse at Punta Buque
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Discussion about strange visitor from Africa
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Nowhere to hide - European hare (Lepus europaeus)
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Magellanic Penguins
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Why can't we fly?
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Adults returning to feed the young
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Nesting hole - chick and adult shelter from wind, sun and rain
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Hurry up, the rain is coming.
The night we spent on Estancia El Amencer, with basic camping site. The  Telhuelche indian owners also own the area close to the lighthouse at Punta Buque, where we saw many people camping illegally, due to the road to the lighthouse being a public one. The area is actually private and archeologically sensitive. Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-38 The farm owners have their own little museum in their house, proudly displaying the stone and bone tools found in this area of their ancestors.Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-39 Argentina 13- Bosque Petrificados and Punta Buque-40 From this farm there is a backroad to Tellier to reach Puerto Deseado. Along the way we saw some red foxes strung up at the gates – a grizzly reminder  that they still get exterminated, together with the few remaining Puma, that are considered vermin by the sheep farmers.
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Zorro Colorado - Red Foxes not welcomed by sheep farmers
Along the way we spotted some Patagonian Maras that look similar to rabbits .
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The near-threatened Patagonian Mara
This post covers 24th – 28th January 2018

Argentina 12: Park Perito Moreno, Cherries of Los Antiguos & Cueva de los Manos

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Wide open spaces.
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Blown away
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Wild Horses of Patagonia
Argentina 12 PN Moreno to Cueva de Manos-7 At Los Horquetas we turned off towards P.N. Perito Moreno along a 90km ripio road in bad condition. The park is a smaller, lesser frequented park on Lago Burmeister with a camping site tucked away in a small forest and well sheltered.
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Parque Nacional Perito Moreno
There are trails, a bird hide and horse rides are possible. Although we were hoping to see Huemul deer, a ranger indicated that it may be extinct in Argentina and only possible to see in Chile. What a pity, we had already completed our travels in Chile.
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Sheltered camping on Lago Burmeister
Along Lago Burmeister we had such a strong wind that photographing with tripod was impossible – at the same times the winds produced interesting lenticular cloud formations.
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Lago Burmeister in P.N.Perito Moreno
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Buff-necked Ibis
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Relaxing park rangers at P.N.Perito Moreno
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Museum in the Park
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Bird Hide and Black-necked Swans
Argentina 12 PN Moreno to Cueva de Manos-24 On the return journey from the park we discovered some Armadillos and were amazed how they managed to dig themselves half way into the ground so that it is impossible to extract them by hand.
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Armadillo
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Armadillo closeup
Argentina 12 PN Moreno to Cueva de Manos-4 Back on Ruta 40 we carried on northerly and reached Bajo Caracoles – this area is flat and the low shrub gives it colour. The town had a total of only 15 inhabitants and the fuel pumps were decorated by passing motor cyclists. Travelers can have lunch here at the small hotel – but we did not spot a shop.
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Fuel pumps at Bajo Caracoles
  Following the gravel RN 103 we got to Lago Ghio late afternoon and found ourselves a spot overlooking this blue lake – virtually no traffic here whatsoever – and spent a quiet albeit windy night.
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On Lago Ghio
We were not far from the border post Paso Rodolfo Roballes once we got on the Ruta 41 in the direction of Los Antiguos. We can recommend this trip along Ruta 41 – a very scenic and remote road with interesting rock formations and peaks.
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Along Ruta 41
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Colourful rock formations long Ruta 41
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Peaks on the Chilenian side a long Ruta 41
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Along Ruta 41
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Along Ruta 41
After 102km we reached Los Antiguos. The town that had its annual cherry festival the week before. This area was dry and windy - yet it produced the best cherries in Argentina. Early farmers had planted large poplar trees around every plot, effectively breaking the wind completely , so the cold climate with plenty of water from Lago Buenos Aires makes it ideal to grow the fruit.
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Los Antiguous - the town of Cherries
We managed to eat 5 kg of cherries in 2 days – our stomachs complained a little, but they were just super delicious and at Peso 60-70 per kg a steal! We camped at Camping Circulo Policial – a site that belonged to the police union of the area, a plot all framed by tall trees and hence no wind.
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Camping Circulo Policial
Next morning we tried to get our tires inflated – no service station had air. We found this quite often in South America so it is wise to always have a small compressor on hand. At least in this town the ATMs accepted foreign cards again and we stocked up on some much needed cash. From here we travelled south on Ruta 40 as we were keen to visit the Cueva de los Manos next, the paintings of hands by nomadic indigenous inhabitants, situated along the Rio Pinturas. As we traveled southwards, Willi, the Austrian we had met at New Year in Ushuaia, stopped us to inquire whether diesel was available in this area, as further south he could get none and would have had to wait for 3 days. Supply in this area of Patagonia seems to be erratic at times and we appreciated our 200 liter tank and reach of around 1300km.   Soon we took a gravel backroad shortcut towards the Cuevas and drove up a track into the Cañon Caracoles to find a spot for the night. There was nobody around besides some wild horses and guanacos and we found ourselves parking just off the track enjoying the sunset that turned the canyon into a canvass of different colours as the sun set – accentuated by the stark white-crusted river bed.
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Wild camping in the Cañon Caracoles
As the wind was picking up, we attached our shade-net on the side of the vehicle and again it proved to be a good solution to reduce the very strong gusts that were prevailing through the night.
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Park Offices at Cuevas de los Manos
At 10am next morning we reached the Cueva de los Manos on time to participate in the first guided tour along the sheer cliffs of the canyon. Although we had seen some of the painted hands near Cerro Castillo previously, these here were far more abundant and impressive including painting of some animals.
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Hands at Cuevas de los Manos
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Rock paintings at Cuevas de los Manos
As this region only sees about 20mm per year, the paintings kept well. The predominant colours are red (iron), white (clay), black (manganese), green (copper) and yellow (natrojarosite) mixed with urine and fat.
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Animal rock paintings at Cuevas de los Manos
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Protective fences and gangways at Cuevas de los Manos
As in other parts of the world, high fences had to be erected to protect them against vandalism making it difficult to photograph them close up.
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Rio Pinturas
  This covers 18th to 23rd January 2018

Argentina 11: Glaciar Perito Moreno, El Chaltén and Mount Fitzroy

Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-1 The road from the Argentinian border was gravel, fields of flowers everywhere as we entered the country. We passed through Esperanza and El Cerrito, then we were back on Ruta 40 and finally reached Calafate via Ruta 11 and found a camping spot at El Ovejero, close to town. The information centre and museum was close - so we headed there first. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-4 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-5 Both Perito moreno and Darwin had a major influence on the history of Patagonia. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-6 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-7 The wind blew like mad, very gusty, nevertheless we found a spot among trees in the back of the camping site which made the night bearable. In the morning we researched the activities that we could do around Glaciar Perito Moreno. The town is neat and well organized, evidently a tourist hotspot as many travelers want to see the glaciar. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-8 Outside town is the Glaciarium – an informative stopover to learn more about ice, snow and glaciars. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-9 According to the local weather prediction we would have a splendid day ahead of us.....we were rock-certain about this. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-10   El Calafate is situated on Lago Argentino, and we spent time observing birds and people along the costanera. Early next morning we departed to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and were lucky to see some Condors very close before finally reaching the glaciar. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-12 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-13Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-14 It is about an hours drive to get to the park. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-11   Being early was a bonus – not many visitors yet and we could stroll the long catwalks which run very close to the face of Perito Moreno. This glaciar grows at a rate of around 2.2m per day, resulting in regular calving along its approx. 3 km long face. It is the only growing glaciar ( all other are receeding) – however its total mass is also shrinking. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-15 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-16 The face of the glaciar is 70m high. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-17
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Glaciar face is 70m high
We spent many hours here in beautiful weather and decided to return the next day as this was still covered by the entrance fee, including a nights camping, although the camping site Lago Roca was approximately 30 minute drive in the direction of town. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-24 If the ranger here sign off the ticket, one can enter the park at the glaciar a second time. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-20   Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-19 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-21  
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Calving at Perito Moreno
Despite the change in weather we enjoyed the time and camped again in El Calafate. Wind and rained loomed dark in the sky. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-23 We passed Lago Viedma with its drifting ice bergs and its glaciar in the background before finally reaching El Chaltén. On arrival the clouds were low and we could not see much of the splendor. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-2 After getting information on trails at the information center manned by knowledgeable rangers and mountain guides we found a spot on camping El Relincho – the wind pumping, the air as cold as ice. The previous night 9 tents were damaged by the fierce winds. Tail-end into the gale we hoped for the best. The camping site was filled to capacity, pretty noisy, but we had a reasonable night’s rest. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-3 The next day was less rainy and we drove to Desierto, walked a little and decided to camp at Bonanza along the Rio Toro – pretty sheltered among a cluster of trees. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-26 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-27 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-28 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-29 As the weather had cleared next morning we drove to the viewpoint outside town to enjoy the panoramic view of Mount Fitzroy. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-30 Our subsequent trail to the viewpoint Torres was a beautiful trek worth doing – if the weather permits, one could walk right down onto the glaciar. Along the way we observed some Magellanic Woodpeckers feeding their chick as well as a number of Condors circling the peaks. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-31 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-32
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Feeding Magellanic Woodpecker
Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-34 On El Relincho we camped again and stood with our back into the wind – however, during this night the gusts intensified to such an extent, that we feared our rooftop tent would finally tear – it sounded like gunshots every time it blowed up and then contracted again. At 4am we decided to close the tent and tried to sleep on the front seats – not the most comfortable night and icy cold with rain starting again in the morning – another normal day in Patagonia. The weather prognosis predicted more rain and miserable conditions and we decided to leave – we would have liked to remain around these mountains for longer. Outside town some Condors bid us farewell. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-35 As we continued past Lago Viedma the wind intensified - nevertheless some intrepid cyclist battle it out. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-36 We realised that we needed to find a sheltered place for the night. In Tres Lagos we visited the local campsite Confiseria le Camping and a Belgian family with 3 kids travelling since 7 months assured us, that they have had a quiet night's camping among the cherry trees below the offices. We joined them in the camping area and, after putting up our shade-net on the side of the vehicle, held by flexible ties, we had a reasonably comfortable night. The bonus were ripe cherries on the trees we could pick and eat fresh. In the evening we could sit inside the heated communal dining room. However, the showers were a misconstruction – water flowed out of the door in place of into the drains and we wondered who got away with such shoddy workmanship - the entire place was continuously flooded.
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Lago Cardiel
From here we took direction towards Lago Cardiel, a turquoise lake and popular amongst anglers, we were told. Nobody anywhere, completely desolate and we drove around, past Cerro El Puntudo. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-38 Here we made a gruesome find: a poisoned guanaco was set out to kill Puma and Red Foxes – however 3 Condors and 6 birds of prey died at the spot ( a ranger in the next reserve told us it is still a common occurrence and they do not know how to curb it as there are no laws that prevent this type of action). Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-39 Close to the water’s edge at Bahia Griego we found a place to camp and could observe a multitude of birds and flamingos as well as scrub hares. We did not see another person around the entire lake – so peaceful and remote. Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-40 Argentina Perito Moreno to Fitzroy-41 We wondered how the holes got into some of the seeds on this bush -was it ants like on the whistling acacia in east Africa? When we arrived in Gobernador Gregores we had to wait until the truck with diesel arrived. We also could not withdraw any money at any of the two ATMs in the town – here foreign cards did not work. This was confirmed by the information office. We realized that this area is really remote and rural, yet, at a later occasion, we had to return here as we lost a bolt on the front disc brakes, when we were pleasantly surprised by the service rendered. Please note that in this town all shops close for Siesta and only open again at 5pm.
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Wide open spaces - Patagonia
This post covers 9th to 17th January 2018

Chile 12: Punta Arenas and back to Torres del Paine

  Overlanders touring in South America know that, when crossing the border into Chile, the unexpected can happen. Some vehicles pass easily, others are subjected to a search – mainly for fresh produce. Taking the small border post Bella Vista after a public holiday should  have been quick and easy. It was not. The customs official subjected our vehicle to an extremely thorough search, even after we had voluntarily surrendered half a pineapple that we could not eat, as we were filled to capacity (the fruit was then deposited into an underground rubbish container in our presence). While it started sleeting this good official climbed into the vehicle, searched all over, found eggs in the fridge, which we said were cooked. This was not good enough -he made us open an egg in the vehicle in his presence – luckily it was hard boiled, otherwise we would have had a mess. With him, standing by, was his young son on holiday – we assume dad had to demonstrate to him how good a customs official he really was! After this short ordeal we proceeded via Russfin passing the derelict machinery from the gold rush, passed Cameron and ended up at our gaucho hut with its graffiti in order to have some shelter from the wind. The batteries disconnected, we spent a quiet, but cold and very windy night after the sun set at 22:30. After an early start, a quick breakfast we were ready to go just when the rain set in again. On days like this Karin really appreciated the fact that our cruiser had heated seats – within 15 minutes you felt comfortable and warm while the Tierra del Fuego harsh windswept landscape flew past. At Bahia Azul we again used the ferry which crosses every 20-30 minutes. Along the way saw some typical wild horses and the road remained virtually straight. Arriving back in Punta Arenas we immediately drove to Toyota in the Zona Franca ( close to Navimag port) to see whether a vehicle service could be arranged – after their customary siesta, at 15:00 they could accommodate us. So we drove to find Callegos Batterias in the hope to find replacements. Since the one good battery is a 145Ahr, we needed to replace both with the only available choice – a set of Turkish batteries. It is not quite what we would have intuitively selected, especially as they are identical, which meant some cable needed to be extended to fit them in. On the positive side the pair cost R 2978 – about half of what we had previously spent in Peru on Panasonics which had only lasted a year. Toyota serviced the vehicle in the afternoon, but while adjusting the handbrake cable at the rear, the thread snapped off. We needed to be back next morning for it to be brazed as no spares were available for our model. Luckily we got again accommodated at Hostel Aventure Austral where friendly Teresa checked us in. This gave us a chance to explore the city of Punta Arenas on foot and we took supper in a seafood restaurant – shrimps and Merluza. In the habour a luxury liner from Hurtigruten casted off – we never knew that they were also going into the Antarctic regions.   Just as we got ready to drive down to Toyota, Karin picked up a dental problem. With our knowledge of Spanish, how would we find a suitable dentist in a city we did not know? Toyota (here pronounced Toshota) came to the rescue! The friendly Venezuelan service assistant had a friend that is a dentista and Karin left by taxi to see Dra Pamela Eliana Luizaga de Munoz while I waited for Toyota to attend to the brake problem. By siesta time all was done – Toyota cost R 2624 for the service, R 1231 for repairing handbrake, checking brakes, rotating tyres and replacing some lightbulbs whereas Karin’s treatment was reasonably priced as well. We left Punta Arenas with the a good feeling –  things can be sorted out at this southernmost city of Chile. As we got closer to Puerto Natales again, the landscape metamorphosed from flat to hilly and the Andes mountains became visible again. With this change also the flora underwent significant changes. For the night we ended again at Camping Güinos with Francisca and her husband and we got our laundry done for P6000 for 6kg loads. Will we ever get used to the icy cold and wet conditions? Fortunately we could sit inside and share the communal kitchen with a number of backpackers and cyclists before creeping into our warm down sleeping bags which we had specially custom made in South Africa by Makoti Down Products – a manufacturer from Uitenhage we can recommend, their products proved robust and warm and they can manufacture to size.   Before we departed to the Torres del Paine we restocked provisions, as in the park no shops are available and we shall proceed from there back into Argentina. Since gas cycliders from our portable gas stove cost approx. 1/3 of what they cost in Argentina, we stocked up and then drove to the little town of Villa Serano just before the entrance to the park, drove through town past the last house with its red roof and carried on a track toward the mountains until we found a lonely wild camping spot on the bank of the clear Rio Serano that runs from within the Torres del Paine park. Of interest were the cleansing stations for anglers - Chile tries to prevent the spread of Didymo, a type of thin grass that cloggs the rivers. All equiment and angling boots/trousers need to dipped before and after the activity. The only noises we heard during this quiet night were some cows, sheep and horses grazing close to where we found shelter. Before we entered the park the next morning we prepaid Camping Serano for the coming night and then drove in. At the Mirador del Condor we hiked up the mountain for 1 hour, enjoying the splendid views. On the way we saw the rare Porcelain Orchid as well as Guanacos and Andean hares. Next we visited Mirador Grey and walked to see the Grey Glaciar – rain made the walk a wet one and we spent some time hiding under bushes at the Mirador and waited for the rain to pass and were rewarded with a glimpse of the glaciar and some drifting ice. Back at camping Serano we appreciated their shelters to cook in and then it got late after Sven and Iris also arrived and the red wine flowed liberally.   We had to skip the hot shower the next morning as the generator, required to pump water, had not been started yet. We decided to leave early as it promised to be a beautiful day, but this might only last minutes here. Luckily for us we could do a Panorama or two with all mountain peaks exposed except Cerro Paine Grande, the highest with 3050m. This was followed by a walk past Salto Grande, the waterfall up to the Cuernos lookout, a worthwhile point to see the glaciar as well as Condors on the way. From our vantage point we could see an excellent example of an Aréte (Grat in German), that was formed through two glaciars running down two valleys, leaving this knife-edged aréte in it wake. For the night we met Sven and Iris again on camping Pehoé, another site with shelters and warm showers and we enjoyed another supper in good company.   After a short trip to Lago Azul we decided to leave via the northern entrance toward Cerro Castillo. The border is at Cerro Castillo . Here we enjoyed a coffee and cake at the restaurant on the border and met Julia and Markus again, the Photonomads from Austria, we had originally met at the museum in Ushuaia. Leaving Chile at this border post certainly was a lot less stress than entering at Bella Vista a few days ago. This post covers 2nd to 8th January 2018

Argentina 10: To the End of the World – Ushuaia

  On the RN3 going South we made good headway , this road being the main connection to Tierra del Fuego and ends in Ushuaia. Turning off at Tolhuin we stopped at the Union Bakery – known for a good coffee and cake. Down the road was Camping Hain owned and run by Andres. First we thought we ended at the wrong place, part being an outdoor playground for kids, the entire camping site being built from recycled material and imaginary theme structures everywhere.   A helicopter, wigwams,  a viewing platform built from driftwood and scrap metal and plastic, a wooden cooking shelter with greetings from all the travelers that have visited. (The word Hain describes the lodge that the Indians used to build for their ceremonies and normally only men were allowed in). However, the showers were hot and ablutions were better than average. Here we met two overlanders with most unusual transport – two 3-wheeler model Apes of the Italian Piaggio manufacturer. They are delivery bikes converted completely with miniature kitchen and sleeping quarter. Ricardo Suter and Richard from Germany were also on their way to Ushuaia and the evening passed quickly with a lot of interesting tales. At 11:00 it was still light when we crept in and at 3am it got light again and it seemed the sun wanted to already rise. We had a good view over Lago Fagnano from our tent, a night without cloud cover, yet not many stars were visible (it never really got pitch dark). The morning was cold and windy and as we continued south the rain set in and we passed the two 3-wheelers that slow down to 20km when it goes steep uphill, their engines being around 200cc. Then RN3 before Ushuaia passes through some of the Andes, a scenic road all the way with a lot of indigenous forests and lakes. As we reached Ushuaia ( Fin del Mundo – End of the World) we looked around and had to negotiate a few roads under construction – the town is growing at a rapid pace. Down in the harbour a number of luxury vessels were moored, leaving from here into Antarctica. In town itself no camping could be found so we decided to drive west into Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. Entry not cheap at P350 pP ( being approx. R320 pP), however it allowed us to camp free for two nights in a beautiful forested area. The park can also be reached via a small train, which many day visitors make use of. The Alakush visitor and Information centre was worth of visit, giving interesting facts and information about fauna, flora and the indigenous Alakush that inhabited this region. We selected the open campsite on the shores of Laguna Verde and camped next to a German motorbiker, Hubertus from Berlin. As the weather remained cold, windy and rainy we set up our awning and tent and Hubertus was very happy to spend some time with us rather than remaining in his one-man tent that many bikers travel with. Over the next day Sven and Iris with their double storey Sprinter joined, as well as Willy Wabnegg with his older red Mercedes truck. We decided to stay and did short day hikes down to the Beagle Channel to observe some birds. During the night it had snowed, all peaks covered – yet it was at 4degrees relatively warm, as Hubertus was here for the third time, previously he always had snow right down to the camping site at this time of year. Despite this weather we got plagued by Mozzies and needed to spray to have a quiet night’s sleep. After two cold nights we could not start our Landcruiser – starter batteries were flat (the vehicle has two in parallel), it was the second time we had a defective battery ( we had bought an expensive set of Panasonic batteries in Arequipa in Peru exactly one year before). In the end the park rangers and the local police assisted to get us going again so that we could move back into town to celebrate New Year’s Eve. En-route out of the park we also visited the other possible camping site Rio Pipo – also a nice spot. Then we made a turn at the southernmost Post Office in the world to send off a postcard to our little granddaughters. In Ushuaia we visited the old prison – one of the old penal colonies that were established to banish murderers as well as political adversaries. Today it is a museum and gave us insight into the very harsh living conditions that prevailed. The Indians used canoes made of bark for fishing, which was exclusively done by the women, while the men did the hunting. Baby girls were taken into the icy cold water from an early age to make them used to the cold conditions. In the evening fires were lit to warm up and dry - the fires seen by the first seafarers who then called this area Tierra del Fuego - the land of fires. Prison conditions were harsh and hardly anybody managed to escape alive. The first prisoners had to build the penal colony as well as ensure a regular supply of wood to the early inhabitants – back breaking work in icy cold conditions – how much can a human body endure? Part of the museum complex is also the maritime as well as an art museum – a worthwhile visit while in Ushuaia. Works of the local artist Alejandro Abt appealed to us shown in the current exhibition. There is open Wifi at the museum complex – useable but not very fast.   Before we proceeded down to the promenade area to find a place to celebrate New Years Eve, we went to the café Tante Sara and spoiled ourselves with a decadent cappuccino and cheesecake -wonderful.   When we finally got down past the promenade, Sven, Iris and Willi already had parked their vehicles, we closed the ring and soon we had built a cosy and wind-sheltered ring of vehicles, tarpaulins draped to close the gaps to stop the wind. Soon the two 3-wheelers Ric and Richi with their Apes-Piaggios joined in the fun as well as Thomas and Karin from  Germany that also had booked a hotel room. Soon the Glühwein started flowing generously, the meat was on the coals and we huddled together celebrating the new year with a few bottles of champagne and a fireworks display across town. Although Sven and Iris as well as Rick and Richi had booked hotel rooms, nobody left and we celebrated until late and after a short night sleep, prepared a scrumptious breakfast. Although we blocked off half of the road with our camp the police came by, ensured all was fine and nobody chased us – it seemed like overlanders were a familiar sight gathering here at year’s end.   Before heading north again, we drove leisurely along the Camino Playa Larga parallel to the Beagle Channel until it ended and enjoyed the sight of Ushuaia from a different angle. Then we drove north via the RN3 until Camping Hain, where we decided to spend the night with a welcome hot shower which we had none to enjoy while in Ushuaia. During the afternoon it got overcast and rain set in – suddenly a knock on our window and Werner and Pia Rechsteiner from Basel invited us for supper in their large overlander vehicle truck. What a pleasure to sit in a vehicle with heating inside – so cosy and it made us wonder what is actually the ideal vehicle to travel in.   Since we disconnected one of the batteries and charged the other overnight, we did not battle to get started again but knew that we will need to drive back to Punta Arenas to find replacements. As we had to cross the border back into Chile, we gave away all the remaining fresh produce and departed. Before Rio Grande we turned off onto the “b” via Cauchicol to the small border post at Bella Vista, a scenic back road. This border post is only open during summer due to the Rio de la Turba. The stretch of road is ripio, a lot of corrugations on the Argentinan side. Snow on the peaks, impressive clouds and open spaces. Exiting Argentina was quick, we were the only vehicle crossing.   Entering Chile was not so smooth……     This post covers 29th December 2017 to 2nd January 2018