Monday, 2 March 2015

0219 Monte Leon NP to Puerto San Julian

2nd March 2015
Penguins. Pumas, and Sea Lions
Surprisingly we all woke up reasonably early.  Robbie reckons a puma took a chicken bone he had carefully put on the tire of his car, but as he has no photographic evidence, we reckon it was only a fox !

The French had already explored the penguin and sea lion colonies yesterday, so they headed off north, which Robbie and Kristen and I set off to explore these colonies.  The penguins were a 2 km hike down a path, with lots of “What to do if you see a puma” signs (Wave your arms and “shot strong”, apparently !), and we had a pleasant walk down there, only to
find ourselves at the top of a cliff, with the penguins about 200 metres below us, on the beach.  No access – All part of the conservation programme for this large colony of some 50,000 animals, but after being able to walk amongst them last week in Ushuaia, it was a bit of an anti climax having to peer at them from afar, especially for Robbie and Kristen who hadn’t seen the ones in Ushuaia.  That
was until we suddenly realised that there were three actually hiding under the boards of the hide up on top of the cliff top, right under our feet !  Our enjoyment was a little tempered when we realised that one of the three was quite severely injured, with a lot of blood – He had obviously had a run in with a puma or a fox or something, and had crawled into the safer space under the hut to escape while he (hopefully) healed. 

From up on the cliff top you can clearly see the enormous quantities of seaweed / kelp in the water that provides such an important resource for all these animals – Indeed is a large part of the reason they are here in the first place.  Robbie and Kristen had to take a photo a small stuffed animal which they photograph everywhere as part of an ongoing educational story for children, and after that, we headed back to the cars.

Robbie and Kristen then headed back to the main road and north, while I went and checked out the sea lions just down the road – And that turned out to be a bit disappointing too – I reckon there were about 6 on the rocks, and they were about 300 metres away – I could hardly tell they were sea lions !  Still, that’s nature for you, and to make up for it, the location on the cliff edge (where the sea lions were supposed to be !) really was stunning – The wind was howling again by now (fortunately it dies down at night), but the view over the cliffs down to the sea was amazing, with all the kelp in the water clearly visible again.  I also checked out the Guano Island again and there were more birds on there that yesterday, and they were all grouped in a big central circle on the top of the island – An amazing sight.

After that I set off back through the Park to the main road, and continued my way slowly north. It was about 2.30 pm by the time I got to the main road, so I didn’t plan on going too far before stopping again, and this time hoping for a proper camp site with showers etc after a couple of nights in the bush !  Lots of guanaco and rhea beside the road still, and I passed by a great view over the Grand Bajo (Basin) of San Julian, where the land dropped away and you could see for miles.  This is a BIG country, and after 3 days of driving north, I am still only about level with El Chalten over on the west coast, and Mt Fitz Roy where I was a couple of weeks ago.  There is so much wildlife and marine life all the way up this east coast, of which I was totally unaware until talking to other Overlanders over the past few weeks. Unfortunately it involves getting off the main road and down to the coast via dirt roads, but so far it has been fascinating.  As I head north I am told to expect not only more penguin and sea lion colonies, but also pods of Orcas that feed on those poor unfortunates, as well as other wild life. So I am looking forward to it.

By 6 pm I made it to Puerto San Julian, and turned into town to look for a camp site that was in my iOverlander site.  Found it down by the harbour of this small fishing port, had a hot shower, and turned in after my supper.  I will go and explore the town in the morning – Apparently there are large sea lion colonies on the coast just north of town.  There are also more penguin and dolphin areas on island off the coast, but that requires boats and tours, which are not on the agenda at the moment !  So tomorrow it will be on up the coast, looking for (hopefully) more sea lions !


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