We continued northerly to Trelew, originally a Welsh settlement. At the ATM we had some bad luck: the commission the bank wanted for withdrawing cash was 20% ! - I cancelled the transaction, yet via my cellphone I got notification that my bank account was debited. In all of our 18 months travel this was the only such occurrence. Trelew had an important paleontological museum displaying fossil bones of the largest dinosaur, that ever lived. We decided to visit Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio. As we entered we met other South African overlanders Johann and Marianne Ter Verloren van Themaat from Pretoria. We enjoyed the visit together, had a good look at their vehicle, exchanged travel information and then unfortunately departed in opposite directions. As they were still southbound, we continued northwards to Gaiman, another Welsh settlement where pastries and tea can be had. As we left Trelew we passed a replica of the Titanosaurus - gigantic! Rawson was our next stop, right on the coast with a nice beach promenade, and we camped in Playa Union on Camping Issys – a well-run site. The RP6 to Ninfas was a rough gravel road, in the beginning a lot of rubbish strewn. Then we returned to the RP1 via the RP5 and stopped at Puerto Madryn. The wind increased and prevented us from much sightseeing along the coast and we sought shelter on the ACA Camping, being a little calmer due to rows of bushes that had been planted defining the camping sites, but we still had to prepare our supper inside the car to the drifting sand. At 9pm the wind disappeared and stayed down for the night – such a relief. Puerto Madryn was a midsized city that benefits from tourism during the season of the breeding Southern Right whales and was founded when the first Welsh settlers arrived in 1865 in the sheltered Nuevo Golfo bay between Valdés and Punta Ninfas. Proceeding towards Valdés we kept on the coastal road and stopped at a few of the outlook points. During the whale season this must be fantastic as some of the spots lend themselves to very close observation of the animals ( August-September). Once we entered the Peninsula Valdés park we spent some time at the information centre, then tackled the 77km to Punta Norte and stayed there until late afternoon observing the Sea Lions, Black-capped Night Herons, Cuis Chico (like a rock hyrax/dassie) and the larger Hairy Armadillo (Peluda). Since there is no camping at Punta Norte we turned back past Puerto Pyramides and turned towards Playa Villarino, where we had been told that wild camping is possible. It turned out to be true and we encountered many Argentinian campers with their converted busses and tents, most of them fishermen enjoying the holidays. Next morning we took a round trip to Caleta Valdés, then on to Punta Cantor where we saw some Sea Elephants (we first mistook them for grey rocks -then they started moving). Males can reach a weight of an impressive 4000kg, females are much smaller at 800kg and the Cachorros ( babies) are born at 44kg approx. Since Orcas had been spotted in the area the previous day, we drove up to Punta Norte again, hopeful to see them in action catching baby Sea Lion. However, we were about 3-4 weeks too early – the adult Sea Lions still prevented the pups from entering the water and there were still pups being born. Best time to visit is early March to the Orcas in action. This night we spent on the camping site Punta Pyramides – a little touristic town with good food and reasonable camping sites. At Isla de los Pajaros we met an Orca researcher, Roberto Antonio Raffa who can be contacted on Facebook and it may be worth finding out when the best season for the Orcas is if you intend to visit. As we departed, we saw this beautiful Armadillo with its orange colouring . This post covers 5th – 9th February 2018
While in Puerto Deseado the railway museum could be of interest as it gives insight into the importance of the railway in the early development of Patagonia. In Puerto Deseado we found shelter on Autocamping inside the small Cañon Geminez (close to town), unfortunately with half functioning and dirty ablutions. We immediately booked a boat trip to the penguin island to see Rockhopper penguins the next day. The boat trip with Darwin Expeditiones with captain/owner Ricardo and guide Roxanne was worth doing, especially as they provided ample time to photograph the beautiful black and white Commerson’s dolphins (Toninas Overas) that we encountered on the way. We also had sufficient time on the island with the Rockhopper and Magellanic penguins near the lighthouse. The Brown Skuas were aggressive when we passed their nesting sites, other birds included Imperial-, Rock- and Red-legged cormorants, Flying Steamer Ducks, South American Terns, Snowy sheathbills and Dolphin Gulls(Leucophaeus scoresbii), sometime erroneously called red-billed gull. On our way we passed colonies of Sea Lions. This time round we tried the Camping Municipal and spent the evening chatting to Paul from the Netherlands, our neighbour. The passing truck traffic can spoil a quiet night on this site, otherwise ok. Our route then took us past the town of Fitzroy, Caleta Olivia to Rada Tilly, a town with highrise holiday buildings on the coast and a dusty camping ground further back, where we stayed for the night – odd times to shower namely 9-11 pm and 9-11am – why? When we passed the city of Comodoro Rivadavia we could not resist shopping when we realized that the local Jumbo Supermercado was very well stocked – we assume it is to keep the many expatriates happy that work here for the oil and gas industry. We followed Ruta 3 for a while and then turned off on RP28 to reach Bahia Bustamante where Estancia Bustamante with it Reserva de Aves is a quiet place to stop and to explore. The owners allowed us to camp free of charge although they had accommodation and a restaurant. For a special fee of US$70 we participated next day in their 3 hr boat cruise to the various islands to see many different birds and Sea Lion. As we circled the various islands of Bahia Bustamante, we had wonderful views of Sea Lions and could observe their constant rivalry to keep their harems together. In between we had sightings of Southern Giant Petrels (also named Antarctic Giant Petrel) , Dolphin gulls, cormorants and shags. Owners Mattias Sorano and wife Astrid farm here in the third generation – Mattias’ grandfather started harvesting and processing kelp for export. In recent years they even imported kelp from South Africa and Namibia as overharvesting has reduced the kelp on their coast and it can only be harvested by divers now. After taking a shower (arranged with the manager in the restaurant), we proceeded along the RP1, turned off before Camerones to reach Reserva Natural Turistica Cabo dos Bahias, where there was another Pingüinera and Loberia, all developed with walkways and penguins nesting around but the Sea Lions were far off on Isla Moreno -not worth photographing. Our further route took us into sleepy Camerones that used to be important in the days of wool exports – now it dwindled into insignificance after the harbor of Comodoro Rivadavia was extended. Most buildings were built of corrugated iron, the grocery shop dating back to 1901. Drawing money from the ATM here was impossible - empty. We also met the bus "Natasha" of young french entrepreneurs of La Brigade that are pioneering a roving hostal idea - a sort of jump on,jump off travel idea for young travelers - will it be successful? Up the RP1 we decided to stop at the beach Playa Isla Escondida – a few other campers also enjoying this stretch of coast. Despite a thunderstorm during the night we enjoyed this part of the coast, the beach mainly consists of colourful pebbles. As the weekend had passed the beach became deserted and quiet and only one other camper remained approx. 500m away. We realised, that no matter how remote you are, there is always somebody watching you... This post covers 29th Jan to 4th Feb 2018
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. 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. 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. 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. Only a single vehicle passed us all day and via the R49 we arrived late afternoon at “Monumento Nacional y Reserva Nacional Bosques Petrificados”. We were still welcomed by the rangers and were surprised that no entry fees were charged at this park. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. As we left the farm, we came across some more Armadillos and Crested Tinamou. 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. In the afternoon we reached Punta Buque where we could observe many Magellanic Penguins and Patagonian Maras that look similar to rabbits . This post covers 24th – 28th January 2018. 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. 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. 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. Along the way we spotted some
By now we had two goals: visiting the only colony of King Penguins and reaching Ushuaia for New Year. As we drove southward the wind increased and it grew colder by the minute, light rain set in that sounded like hail hitting the vehicle. Around us nothing……really nothing. Flat country-side for miles on end, no trees, no hills, no estancias. We started wondering whether tonight would be the night where we had to sleep inside the vehicle without opening the rooftop tent.