Day 155: January 17, 2008 Puerto San Julián

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
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Trip End Mar 01, 2008


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 155: January 17, 2008 Puerto San Julián

I got up at 8:00 and went to breakfast after showering. The woman at the hotel, Claudia, told me that she had arranged for a guy named Ariel to take me on the 30-km driving tour loop along the north shore of the bay to the Atlantic coast at 10:00. I would then transfer to an apartment at his Hostal Angeles because the Hotel Ocean was booked by a tour group. I told her about the ATM problem and the walked down to the Banco de Santa Cruz but the machines were still down. The bank didn't open until 10:00 so I put it off until later, figuring that would be all right with Claudia.

Ariel showed up at about 10:25. The sky was overcast and it was sprinkling as we started out. We drove past the penguin island, which can be reached on foot during low spring tides. A few kilometers farther on, we came to the first wave-cut cliffs. I got out and walked along them. The strata are loaded with fossils, the most notable of which are giant oysters, up to 25 cm in diameter. A partial jaw bone of a mammalian ungulate was an exotic find in with all of the invertebrate shells. I left it for a vertebrate paleontologist to rediscover. More likely, it will be consumed by the ocean.

It started raining harder. I was surprised at how dark the strata were because Darwin described the "white cliffs of San Julián Bay" in "Voyage of the Beagle". We drove through the ruins of a Swift meat-packing plant that operated from 1902 until the early 1960's. Ariel said that when they closed, the management just packed their suitcases and left. The plant employed 200 people. Its sudden closing was a major blow to the local economy. Within days, the plant was stripped of almost all objects that could be carried. The roofless buildings and rusting heavy machinery are still there as is the small boat that ferried packed meat out to ships in the harbor.

I walked down to the next beach in a light drizzle. Sea cliff erosion and collapse was beautifully evident. The rocks were covered with mussels exposed by the low tide. I came to a small sea cave but the sea weed-covered rocks there were too slippery for me to descend to the beach to access it. It was only a couple of meters down but I wasn't sure I could get back up!

When I turned around to head back, I was amazed to see a brilliant blue, crystal clear sky. I was bathed in sunshine within a minute as the clearing rapidly spread out of the bay to the ocean.

I got back to the car and we drove on. When we got our first glimpse of the next cliffs, at Cabo Curioso, I knew it had to be where the Beagle had anchored. Overlying the dark strata we had been seeing are brilliant white airfall tuffs. I walked along the base of the cliffs. These have definite possibilities for magnetostratigraphy. From the top of the next cliffs, at Segundo Cabo, I could see the same white cliffs far in the distance to the south, on the other side of San Julián. Turning around, the Atlantic coastline stretched far to the north. The incremental steps of the Patagonian steppes were clearly visible, each step representing a short uplift pulse that brought a perfectly flat seafloor out of the sea to form a new meseta level. After this happens, the ocean starts to eat away at the new land and recycle the sediments onto a new ocean floor to start the process over again.

Our final stop was at the loboría where, from the clifftop, we looked down on a family of lobos marinos. Literally translated, that's sea wolves but we call them sea lions. I keep reminding myself that just a week ago I was seeing many similar sights in the Galápagos Islands. There were also numerous black-necked cormorants. Many juveniles were practicing that flying thing, their wings fluttering furiously compared to the to the motions of their experienced parents.

We returned to Ruta 3 and were soon back in town. The trip was well worth the 100 pesos I paid. We picked up two of my bags and left the third as a hostage until I paid my bill. Ariel took me to my new digs, on Colon, an apartment with a small kitchen and beds for five.

I walked to the bank and was finally able to use an ATM. Then I continued, for a total of about 12 blocks, to the bus station to buy a ticket to Comodoro Rivadavia tomorrow. It was about 3:00 when the momento argentino struck. Six companies have buses that go to Comodoro but only one had an open window. I went to buy a ticket but the woman said she couldn't sell me one because her computer system was down. I went to the terminal cafeteria and ordered a hamburger, forgetting that all hamburgers come with a fried egg on them as well as ham and cheese. Eggs have been giving me stomach problems since I was in Guatemala in 2006 but I tried a couple in the Galápagos with no ill effects so I decided to test this one in spite of the fact that it was being served at a place called the Terminal Cafeteria. Surprisingly, it looks like I can eat eggs again! I went back to the ticket offices but now all were closed. I decided to go to the Hotel Ocean to pay my bill. The sign at the desk said, "Single 130 pesos" but the afternoon clerk charged me 170 pesos because there were two beds in my room and therefore it was a double. I tried to argue with the girl at the desk but she was adamant that this is how all hotels work. It's too bad. I liked the place but now I probably won't go back-except to pick up my hostage bag before I leave. Maybe the extra 80 pesos is ransom.

I stopped by a fone place and called Bank of America. Their website is locking me out so I can't pay my bill. They explained how to get around it so I'll try that next time I log on. While I was there, I called Liz and my parents but just got answering machines. I checked my email. While I was doing that, Liz called me on my cell fone. It was such a treat to hear her voice. She'll be arriving in three weeks!

By then it was 5:00 and siesta was over so I went back to the bus terminal. Everything was still dark. Since there was a supermarket next door, I went in and bought a sandwich and wine for dinner. I walked along the back streets the 1.2 km back to my hotel. I hadn't really explored them. The town is built on a peninsula that juts out into the bay so water is at the end of every street except for those heading NW. There is no development on the other side of the bay anywhere, just flat, barren, pristine Patagonia.

Back at my room, I wrote for quite awhile before going to the internet place a few blocks away to upload fotos and a blog entry. Then, I went to Andesmar.com and bought a bus ticket for tomorrow at 1:15. Returning to my room at 11:15, I ate my sandwich and drank some wine, while watching TV, before going to bed.
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