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Rio Gallegos 18.3.15. (Forgot our Anniversary)

March 18, 2015

Arroyo Guanaco. West of Rio Grande. 15th March.

It was sad pulling out of Ushuaia and start heading north last night. There have been been good times and the cruise was the cream on the cake. The weather has been cold as expected and the winds always there or hanging around. But March seems to be a good time to visit: the Argentinians have finished their two month holidays, the winds have eased off and the winter has not yet fully arrived.

I have posted a couple of extra photos from the cruise. Dora, the Brazilian lady, had the most eye catching manicured hands with cobalt blue painted nails and rings on her fingers. She seemed to change the rings every day. Emilhio, our waiter was a pearl. His English was limited but good enough to translate to Dora and Jose if we wanted to ask them something. That was until Caroline, the Pennsylvanian, told  a couple of  slightly bawdy jokes and Joan in her inimatable way, tried to explain to the Brazilians the crux of the joke. She floundered and turned to Emilhio to help. Unfortunately Emilhio, by the expression on his face, thought she was propositioning him. Incredulity might be the word. We all burst out in laughter as he did when he realized there was a misunderstanding in what she was getting at.

Giles, the Gold Coast man we met a week or two back, told us of a colony of king penguins on the eastern side of the Magellan Straits but in Chile. It means a slight detour but he said the border crossing on this route is hardly used and is manned by only a couple of officials. So here we are, on the way to the border alongside Arroyo Guanaco. Arroyo means creek. Not long after arriving we witnessed a car flip over 500 metres from us. He had been travelling fast on this pot holed stretch of gravel and must have lost control and went off the road ending on his bonnet. Two cars were following and stopped to assist. I walked up to see if I could help but they said no one was hurt and all was OK. They intimated he had been drinking. The gravel roads here have very soft shoulders falling away for a metre or two to drains. If your car starts to go over any correction must be made gradually otherwise you will flip.

The arroyo has been dammed at the road culvert causing a beautiful area of wetland full of water birds including a couple of flamingos.  The land has changed from the mountainous south to  rolling country devoid of any trees but covered in a short brownish grass.

16th March. 60 kms south of Cerro Sombrero.

A very windy day. It has only started to ease off as as darkness sets in. The border crossing was quote an event. The country leading up to the border is exceptionally beautiful. Such isolation and emptiness. We can see why Patagonia affected Darwin so much. I know we will remember it for many years. At the Argentinian border there were more than a couple of blokes in the office though I think most of them were only in there to keep warm. Formalities were quick and we were soon on our way to the Chilean side. The surprise was we had to ford a quite wide river, Rio Bela Vista, to get to Chile. No signs where to cross, just a case of follow the tracks leading in and aim for the other side. It wasn’t too deep, though I don’t thinnk a sedan would’ve managed. On to the Chilean side which consisted of a group of huts with little to tell us where to go to or what to do. That was until a lady appeared and trid to explain to us that the officers weren’t there yet. No problems, we brewed a coffee while waiting and chatted to the security bloke while having it. A friendly lot. They were complaining of the cold, it appears it was zero degrees last night, but we didn’t feel it at all. Putting things into perspective, the temps experienced here have been no worse than the New England areea in winter. It’s just the chill factor of the wind that is the difference. The main reason for this diversion was to see a colony of king penguins along this coast. They are uually found in the most remotest areas or Antarctica. There was a problem though as we didn’t have the entry fee for two people in Chilean pesos though they would take Argentinian pesos but the cost would total US$50! Now that is a rip off. Joan, bless her soul insisted I go, she would be happpy to look at the snaps. They were impressive especially the big bundles of fluff that are the chicks. But they were 50 metres away, binoculars were essential to see them and all the explanatory signs were in Spanish only. Very different to Argentinia who are really pushing tourism.

17th March. On the Rio Gallegos near the city of the same name.Joan learnt a lesson today: hold onto your Afghani scarf that Emma gave you in 100kph winds if you don’t want to see it sailing over the 15 metre high Anonima super mercado building and getting caught on the far corner tantalisingly waving to you from the great height. It happened so quickly. It was around her neck and we had a very short walk from the bakkie to the building but long enough for nature to show its playfulness.

The wind never let up last night and today it has intensified causing power lines to fall and major hold ups on the highway. A bloke who tried to catch the scarf said the wind was at least the speed mentioned and that this is a regular occurrence during the summer months. It really saps your strength and the cross winds play havoc driving.

It’s been just one of those days; a cold windy night, bad driving conditions, wasting time going to a camp site in Rio Gallegos that doesn’t accept vehicles, an hour hold up 3kms from this campsite due to problems further along the road. Yet there are always things to make like breezing through the Chilean/Argentian borders in ten minutes, having an unexpectedly nice coffee while waiting for the ferry to cross the Straits of Magellan and to top it off, to have a skunk visit us while eating tea in front of the fire. We should have taken more notice of signs way back saying what to do if they spray their odour at you. It didn’t happpen though so we can add another animal to our sightings. The wind has dropped as well making it a very pleasant evening

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From → Patagonia 2015

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