Steaks, long treks & face to face with penguins

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
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Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Flag of Argentina  , Santa Cruz,
Monday, March 15, 2010

With the awesomeness of Iguazu falls over, it was time for us to head to Buenos Aires. It's a beautiful city commonly known as the Paris of South America. With plenty of old school European influenced neoclassical architecture and beautiful tree lined boulevards, Buenos Aires lives up to that reputation. The Portenos (as the locals are called because Buenos Aires is a port town) appear to be enjoying a revival in their city, well on its way to recovery after the devaluing of the peso in the 90s. We did a great city tour with Juan’s brother, watched a football match between two top flight teams (Independiente vs River Plate), ate a massive 800g steak and strolled around the beautiful neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. The Ricoleta cemetery is beautiful, with plenty of famous names and family mausoleums that go back for generations. The city is also home to a massive avenue, reported to be the widest avenue in the world. Widest in the world or not, it does make for a very pretty and picturesque place to look at. The rest of our time was spent doing a mix of touristy things (like tango shows, window shopping down Avenida Florida mall) and boring logistical things (like exchanging traveller’s cheques, getting haircuts and posting stuff back home). After spending a few days in Buenos Aires, it was time to farewell some members of our original group and welcome a few others for the next exciting leg.

The next major stop for us was at Puerto Madryn where we set up camp and made our way to the Valdez Peninsula to see some elephant seals, penguins and other wildlife. One of the cool things about the Dragoman overland trucks are the roof seats. They’re specially rigged hatches that open up on the front and back of the main cabin. When we’re not on highways, proper roads or travelling at speed , the hatches are opened and we can sit up there and get some sun. Going 80km/h in windy conditions and trying to drink a beer proved challenging but well worth the reward.

The back at the campsite that night, we got back to discover that some of our tents had been slashed while we were gone but fortunately, nothing was stolen. It was possibly the worst timing ever for damaged tents because that night, we had some of the windiest conditions ever. The equivalent of the Sahara blew into our tent that night and we were glad to be out of there in the morning.

We drove to Camarones where we set up camp in one of the most random campsites ever. Now for anyone who knows me, knows that I’m no expert on camping or the outdoors. I mean as soon as I head outdoors, I don’t touch anything for fear that it will sting/bite/kill me and I’m useless at identifying plants by name. BUT, I feel that I am qualified enough to comment on the basic rules for what makes a campsite.

1)      The site needs to be flat (already discussed in a previous blog post). It seems like a fairly obvious point but needs mentioning because the memo seems to have missed out South American campsites. Even slight differences in gradient will be exaggerated through 8 hours of sleep. You run the risk of either waking up outside your tent, suffering a severe blood rush to the head or lying on top of your tent buddy (lucky for me, Nic’s my tent buddy but imagine sharing with another guy and this becomes a real problem).

2)      Big rocks are extremely uncomfortable to sleep on. The less rocks the better, in fact just grow some grass please.

3)      Public toilets and bathrooms are pretty festy at the best of times so you can never have enough hooks to hang your clothes, towel and toiletries. If my clothes hit the ground, the next destination for them would probably be the campfire.

4)      Showers should drain towards the drain hole, not away. The last time I checked, South American bathrooms didn’t defy the universal laws of gravity.

Our campsite at Camarones met none of these criteria, and to make matters worse, it added gale force winds to the equation. Putting that aside, we went out on a trip to see some Magellenic penguins. They more than made up for any of the shortcomings of our campsite. The penguins had this habit of coming up to you and looking straight into your eyes. Then they’d wag their heads left and right, then they’d stop and continue staring at you. We took plenty of pictures until rain threatened to drown us. Any survivors left after the rain would be promptly finished off by the wind.

A few days later, we would make our way to El Chalten, known as the trekking capital of Argentina. The views and trekking didn’t disappoint. We had a spectacular day’s trekking (about 26km in total) with awesome weather and stupendous views. The highlight was a steep climb up to Tres Lagos which has a viewpoint of Mount FitzRoy. We filled our water bottles up at the lake with glacier water then started the trek back down. As you can see in our trip profile, it got pretty steep, pretty quickly and that put the hurt into the trek. Check out the trip profile here: http://www.mapability.com/southamerica2010/pdf/20100316.pdf

The rest of our time in El Chalten was spent eating waffles, drinking microbrewery beer and attending a free concert to listen to an old and much beloved Argentinian ska band. Los Authenticos Decadantes (the band) has a huge fan in our leader Juan so we went along to join the mosh pit and see how Argies have a good time. It was one of those random spontaneous nights that just happen and the memories put a smile on your face when you think about them later on.

Our next blog features a stunning glacier where we get to see large chunks of ice crashing down and I celebrate my birthday by seeing an avalanche. You won’t want to miss that one.
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Comments

allisonbrianne
allisonbrianne on

Great writing and stunning photos as always. Wow, you guys.

Soee on

Good stuff guys! I'm liking the focus on the food again. Looks like there is lots of it too ;) Oh, just a quick word on camping, the universal fix it all is duct tape. Col, you need to get a roll. It will fix 99% of all your problems!

Kylie on

GORGEOUS!
xxx

travellingtans
travellingtans on

Thanks for the comments guys. Glad you're liking the blog. I think we have some duct tape somewhere we got in the US. Have to dig it out and make use of it. :-)

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