Sunday, 1 March 2015

0218 San Sebastian to Monte Leon NP

1st March 2015
Leaving Tierra del Fuego and too much wine !
Woke up at a reasonable hour, only to find Gary and Joan already almost packed up and ready to hit the road.  So they set off south while I had a leisurely breakfast before heading on up the road to the north.

Today was really a day of animals – Hundreds of them.  Fortunately many of them were still alive and grazing or running beside the road, but there were also unbelievable numbers of dead ones too.   As I headed towards the ferry to (sadly) leave Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, not only were there guanaco and rhea, but I also had a fox cross the road right in front of me, who then proceeded to trot along the fence line beside me for a while – There was a flock of sheep in that paddock, so I am not sure if he was headed towards them……

Then by 11 am I came to the ferry.  Had to wait half an hour, but then a full ferry arrived from the mainland, but there were only two trucks and half a dozen cars coming on with me to head north.  School holidays are over as of today in this part of the world, so I think many people are now back at home.   Once on the ferry, I celebrated by having a hot dog – But they don’t do them with the avocado and salsa down here, so not as good as further north ! 

This is the ferry that I thought was free – I certainly didn’t pay on the way south.  However, as we were all just getting ready to disembark, an official looking man came up to me and told me to go an pay – Much to the annoyance of the other cars lined up behind me who then couldn’t get off until I returned !  I had to go off into a remote office on the ship to pay – No wonder I hadn’t seen it last time ! On the ferries on the Carretera Austral, the man came round to the car to collect the fares, so I didn’t know you had to go and pay the fares in an office !  Anyway, all done, and got unloaded and back on the mainland.  Bit sad to leave T del F – Felt as though a large part of my trip was completed, so was feeling a bit deflated.  Never mind – Onward.

Back on the mainland, the numbers of animals on and beside the road increased even further – I could not believe how many there were.  The rhea in particular blend in so well with the scenery that you often do not see them until the last minute – Which would explain why there are so many dead ones on the road !  The fact that they tend to scatter in all directions when you approach, including across the road, is to a large extent the reason for their frequent demise.  Luckily they are more feathers than body, so they don’t cause too much damage – Even so, I did not want to hit one, so I usually slow down when passing them, which is more than can be said for many of the locals !

Later in the afternoon I finally saw some flamingos close up !  On Galapagos, and the several times I had seen them since, they were always MILES away in the distance, so you really could not see them too clearly.  But these ones today were right beside the road, and just in what was obviously a fast disappearing puddle of water beside the road !  These birds really do show up in the most unlikely places, and are certainly not just limited to the vast lakes of Africa as I was previously led to believe.

I had stopped for a late sandwich in a layby beside the road, and when I was just making it Robbie and Kristen from Newfoundland pulled in behind me !  I had last seen them in Ushuaia and they had left before me, so I had thought they were ahead of me, but it seems they had stopped to do some internet work, and I had overtaken them. We agreed to stop at a camp site just up the road in Monte Leon National Park, so they carried on while I finished my late lunch.
The registration for the park entrance is in fact in the old Estancia Monte Leon buildings – Yet another Estancia that is now abandoned.  Having registered,  it was then an 18 km drive towards the ocean down a dirt road – And in the evening sun, it was a stunning drive down through these valleys, with again lots of wildlife everywhere.  Also lots of signs for puma – There are apparently
quite a few roaming here, feasting on penguins and sea lions, and the Park Rangers both at the registration and also later down in the camp site came over to warn us not towander around on our own in the dark !  Ooooh !   Funnily they came over and particularly told the ladies that when they walked over to the toilet (all of 50 metres away), they should not go alone, and should also make sure they closed the toilet door before “taking a seat” !!   The mind boggles !

Arriving at the camp area there is a view overlooking Monte Leon Island – A vast bird reserve that was once the most exploited source of guano (for fertilizer) in Argentina.  There was also an old boiler there which was once used to extract the valuable oil obtained from sea lions which were killed in their thousands for this (then valuable) resource.   There are also a lot of cormorants of various types found here, and they, as well as other animals, feed on or use the abundant kelp in the ocean to help sustain their lifestyle here. 

It is a stunning coast line, and as you drop down to the camping area a large beach stretches out in front of you, running north up the coast.  On arrival in the camp site, there were the two French couples from Ushuaia !!  I thought they were heading in a different direction, so it was good to see them again, even though they were having a difficult time with their cars.  Xavier has a blown rear axle seal and can’t find a spare part, so is fighting an ongoing battle to keep going, which Joel had two problems today – He found cracks in his camper body which required the fabrication of metal supports to (hopefully) prevent it worsening, and he also managed to reverse into a local during the day, which cost him a few pesos !!  So they were in need of some camaraderie to help them forget their troubles – Which Robbie, Kristen, and I were happy to provide.

A local family were leaving after a lunch time barbecue, and came over and donated a whole and very large) barbecued chicken to Brigitte.  So that was supper taken care of !  Then everyone raided their “cellars” and came up with copious amounts of red wine – And we had a great evening (after the wind had died down), chatting away in Spanglish and having a great time.  The last photo shows 5 empty bottles of wine on the ground (the dustbin was too far away – Pumas, remember ?), and that didn’t take into account the whisky and other bottle that weren’t finished !   A fine night, and we staggered off to bed at about 11 pm – Not really caring about the presence of pumas at all !!

Pics here :-

1 comment:

  1. Puma?..............just a large pussy cat.
    Great pictures Giles. Safe trip north. J&S