The Chileans said Argentina would be ugly, and the were right. Not all the Chileans obviously, I didn’t do a survey. Some locals on one of the many ferries on the Careterra described Chile-Patagonia as stunning, Argie-Patagonia though was muy feo. Our first tastes of the country, after crossing through the backdoor tiny border-crossing of Roballos, was about 800km of scrubland. Scrubland with ridiculous wind. I didn’t think it was possible, but if you amble away from Route 3, the main highway up the country, it’s even more windy. I didn’t want to take a pee out in the open because I didn’t want to get my glasses wet.
Since reaching the end of the world in Ushuaia and then turning up the coast, the description of Argie-Patagonia pretty much sums up the first half of the 3000km journey towards Buenos Aires. Ugly with border crossings, but punctured by penguins (sightings of them, they’re not trying to have a go at the wheels). Despite Ushuaia being in Argentina, to get north, you have to cross back into Chile, and then back again into Argentina. I’ve only been here a few weeks and Izzy and I have entered Argentina three times already.
The King Penguin colony is on the Chilean side, and I timed my visit perfectly for the visitor centre to be closed. I still got it. How the lass running the centre spotted my tears through the driving rain I’m unsure, but she opened up the office and I was allowed within shouting distance. Very, very happy boy. Further up the coast, and back in Argentina, the tourist-neglected national park of Monte Leon gave me a vast Magellan Penguin colony all to myself. This time, getting about a foot away. Yes, I know, I had the same query: how many little Magellan penguins, all feathery and cute from malting, can fit inside a backpack? Three is the answer, but Ewe wasn’t happy about it.
A curious incident on the way to the colony, though. For the entire trip I have heard rumours of pumas in almost every national park we’ve visited. I was desperate to see one: I’d even gone so far as giving my uncle the special ‘puma attracting nightlight’ when he camped in his tent. Nothing! Yet on the way to the colony, there are large signs telling you NOT to walk alone as pumas inhabit the area. Now . . . how much did I really want to see a puma? I looked at the brochure handed out by the tourist info: they did look big. There is a heading that says ‘what to do if you see a puma’. Surprisingly, shitting yourself wasn’t an option. Fortunately my trousers, I didn’t see one.
I have missed out on some key fauna: no condor; no guemals (wild-deer); no whales. And yet I have seen flamingos, rhea, countless guanaco’s (wannabe llamas sometimes disguising themselves as guemals to get me excited); dogs by the million; foxes; a jackal; sealions; last night a Patagonian skunk, which was pretty cool; and today a spider dancing between truck tires on the freeway. And how do you spot such a spider? When it’s the size of your hand. Surprised he didn’t just bench press the lorry out of the way.
Despite rocketing up the coast on my own, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. It’s gradually getting warmer, and after being pummelled by Chilean roads, bitumen is very welcome indeed. When bored of comfortable driving, I’ve headed off over to local gravel roads on occasion, finding gems like Cabo Raso. I had no idea what I’d encounter but chanced the place would have some kind of food I could pay for with cash money. Turns out they did! However, Cabo Raso was, a first for me, a one-man town. That’s right, one person lives there. And Eduardo actually lives 60km away, so it’s a no-man town, but he happened to run the place and knock up a steaky-feast for me too, albeit with a starter of olives and cured meats. I hate both, but since it was just me and him in town, I wolfed them down purely on the basis that I didn’t want to wake up dead, halving an already pretty bleak populace for poor Cabo Raso.
A propos of nothing, I need some new glasses. These ones smell funny. Overlanding: it’s not all glamour.
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here