Pampas to Peninsula Valdez - big trip - diary - argentina - february 2003

A poor attempt at a parilla...

...better leave it to the experts

Keeping out of the wind

Sunday 16 - Wednesday 19 February

With the laptop fixed at last we left BsAs on a Sunday, leaving the tourists in the San Telmo market around the corner from the flat and taking route 3 south-westish into the Pampas. The landscape is largely featureless windswept grassland with just a few cows and the occasional metal windmill to break the monotony. The roads are smooth tarmac and in a straight line right to the horizon making for dull progress.

Our first night was spent at a town called Azul. There is a campsite, there seems to be one at every town here in Argentina. They all have big concrete fireplaces for each pitch so the tourists can cook their beloved 'parillas' (grilled beef). Each evening the campsites come alive with happy campers searching for firewood and tempting smells led us to try the same. Unfortunately it didn't turn out so well so we ended up having to give the steaks a quick fry to finish them off! T had a head-butting accident with a big tree and received a Gorbachev-like cut on his bonce, luckily the weather is pretty chilly so wearing a hat to hide it doesn't seem out of place.

Endless flat landscape and arrow straight roads

Head on bus

Windmills aplenty

Roadside shrines

Coastline at Puerto Piramide

Wright whale skeleton

More straight roads took us past Sierra Grande, small hills whose main significance is the start of the lower fuel prices which prevail in the south of the country. Diesel drops only about 15% but petrol is about 40% less.

Peninsula Valdez is famous for whale watching during the winter months and in the summer (although it doesn't feel like it), killer whales (orcas) slide onto the beach to pick off an unlucky baby seal or two. As it was late we camped in the only village on the peninsula, Puerto Piramides which consists of a big campsite and some closed touristy shops. A howling gale/sandstorm kept us awake most of the night and the day brought yet more incredible wind and rain showers.

Strong wind blows the water back in...

...and 'pushes the landy off the track'

Chilly Elephant seals chillin

More straight roads

Wind blows sand and whips the sea up

Sun comes out and it all looks a lot nicer

Driving with a tail wind to Punta Norte, the place for the blood and guts, we saw some llama-like deers and some strange black and white mini-deer things too. Arriving at the point at high tide (prime feeding time) there wasn't a trace of any orcas and all the cute baby seals were frolicking gaily in the water, safe as houses and much happier in the freezing, wet and blustery conditions than the watching humans. Continuing around the coast we turned into the raging wind and were often down to battling along in 3rd gear on the flat. The lighthouse at Punta Delgada was the windiest point - we could lean into the wind and not fall over. The ranger said it was too dangerous to go down the steps to the beach as we might get blown away, we think he was right.

Driving the last part with a huge side wind blowing rainwater back into the cab, we came across an english couple with their hire car stuck in some mud at the side of the road. A quick push soon had them going again. No problems if you have a landy unless T drives it too fast through a muddy rutted section and slides off into a water-filled ditch! A bit of low box soon had us squelching through the mud without getting our feet wet.

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