Wifi, Sea lions, deserted beaches and Patagonian grouse
The wonderful thing about doing a trip like this in your own car is that you can do and go what you want when you want. And today was just one of those days. In the camp site office they had told me I could drive up a coastal track and see sea lions – So that’s what I did ! But I had a leisurely morning, reading a rather good detective novel I had found on my kindle (how would I ever live without that wonderful invention !) until I just had to get moving. I then found that the wifi in the office was really strong, probably the best and fastest I have seen in weeks, or even months, so I parked outside the office and caught up with posting my blog. And only when I had finished did I eventually set off to see if I could find some sea lions - I think it was about noon !!
Absolutely NO signs directing you to any sea lions, so I used my Maps.me mapping to find a coastal track, and then tried to find the real thing. Naturally they were doing roadworks at the junction where I wanted to turn right, so I had to invent my own detour around all sorts of dirt lanes through industrial buildings, and just hope I was on the right track (pun intended !) As the track got narrower, and there were repeated forks (again with no sign posts) I kept waiting for someone to tell me I wasn’t allowed there, or it was private property – But as I saw not a soul, I plodded on.
Then I came to some deserted and collapsing buildings – What was this ? Then a bit further down the road, an enormous crumbling and roofless factory of some kind. Down by the water’s edge, a derelict boat, still on what remained of rails and blocks. And pumps of some kind – And little dollys like in a coal mines that run on rails. What was this place ? And when ?
I carried on round the coast, and found enormous empty beaches, and rock formations eroded into weird shapes due to the horizontal layering. Camp sites with football pitches and volleyball courts – Totally deserted. And places to camp on the beach everywhere.
Then I started to see a few signs, many of which were rusty. “Circuito Touristico” – Well, that one was fairly obvious. “Playa Pigafetta” is obviously a beach, while “Loberia” had me stumped – The nearest the dictionary got was “Lobera”, which apparently means “Hill where a wolf lives”. So I plodded on, not knowing what I would see next – Horses just standing behind small bushes, sheltering from the winds. Even an eagle behind a bush doing the same. Then we climbed a little, over a headland, and after few more deserted bays and beaches, I found a derelict lighthouse! It even had derelict solar panels flapping in the wind !! Each time I saw a turning or a track, I took it, hoping to find some sea lions. Nothing. Nada.
I came to a headland where I could see the large sections of cliff that had collapsed ono the beach below, undermined by the sea – Obviously not a safe place to lie on the beaches ! Maybe that is why they are deserted ? At one bay there was a large shallow area of water, and the wind was so strong it was blowing patterns on the surface of the water. I had to turn inland for a little bit, and 3 small birds came out of the scrub onto the track and were running as fast as their little legs would carry them. I nearly ran over them a couple of times but they would not fly away, so I started to wonder if they were tiny rhea chicks. Suddenly one took off and with much flapping of wings it flew only a couple of feet of the ground for about 50 feet, then landed. A bit like a grouse or a ptarmigan. Patagonian grouse ?
More beaches and more headlands – One with metal posts and “Danger” warnings, but no actual fence to stop you falling over – Or being blown over ! I crept very close to the edge until I could see the beach below, hoping the cliff here was firm, and lo and behold – SEA LIONS !! Only about 10 or so, but I was obviously getting warm !! I then went up to the end of that headland, and saw lots of cormorants flying in the wind – one way they went backwards, and if they turned round and went with the wind they quickly disappeared into the distance. Why so many cormorants ? Were they nesting on the beach ? I carefully crept closer to the edge of the cliff, wishing for a sky hook to tie myself on to, and finally got a look onto the rocks below – More sea lions ! Lots of them. At last, I had found my sea lions.
And what a sight – All laying around dozing – Except for one. And he really gives new meaning to the word lion in sea lion. I have never seen a sea lion with a mane before – His head was enormous, and his mane stood out in a lighter colour. He was magnificent and truly worthy of the “Leo” name (says me !!). And he was restless, flopping around over the rocks, disturbing everyone as he moved around, eventually somehow getting all the way down to the bottom without actually falling ! By the time I left he was looking as if he wanted to climb back up to the top and do it all again. But what a magnificent beast – Seeing him (and not too far away) made up for the poor sightings of the last few days. Sea lions – Tick !!
After the sea lion parade, I went further round and found a big deserted beach with a bank above it, providing at least a little shelter from the wind, so I went down to make a sandwich. There was actually some kind of rickety “structure” there which also helped make it possible to make a sandwich without it blowing away (although I did lose one piece of cheese which blew off across the beach for some lucky sea gull !)
I then drove right up to the end of the beach to check to see if there were any more sea lions there – No, so I did a 3 point turn at the dead end in order to get back off the beach – But I should have done a 5 or even a 7 point turn. I tried to drive over the deep beach pebbles, and Troopy quickly sank into them. Whoopsadaisy. No one around here to help if I get bogged ! Hmmm. Haven’t really had to use 4 WD low range on the entire trip – Hope it works ! Locked the front hubs, engaged the low ratio, said a quick prayer or two – And stalled it ! Oh dear oh dear ! Try again, and this time Troopy leaped out of the hole she had dug as if to say “C’mon, give me something really hard to do !”. And I breathed a big sigh of relief.
From there, it was back into Puerto San Julian. It was now about 4 pm, so I decided I would stay another night in the camp site in town, do some wifi, and head north in the morning. I wandered around town for a while, found a mock-up of an old ship on the water front called “New Victory” which was supposed to be a kind of interactive museum – But closed at 3 pm ! So it was back to the camp site.
After a while, I saw a motorbike pull in, and half an hour later the guy came over and introduced himself – Brian, from Alaska !! He is on his way home now, after almost 4 years on the road. So we shared a bottle of wine and I cooked some sausages and we sat around and discussed the world until about 11 pm, by which time we both needed to turn in !
A great day exploring, I saw my sea lions, and a pleasant evening chatting with Brian. Life is good.