The Argentinian Penguin trail!

Ushuaia – 12 January 2017

Kilometers since Montevideo: 5751km

We made it! To Ushuaia, the end of the world! This is our Southern-most point of the trip and from now on we will slowly drive up North again into Chile. But first a bit on what we did the last 2 weeks! The East coast of Argentina is in general very empty. Luckily there are a couple of great national parks and nature reserves along the coast which are excellent for wildlife watching. Especially penguins!

We made it to Valdes Peninsula the 31 of December. Officially camping is only allowed at the official campsite, but this one was overfull. So we decided to go to one of the semi-legal wild camps. We found a beautiful cliff above the sea totally for ourselves, very pretty! This is where we spend New Years Eve: beautiful sunset, champagne and falling stars as fireworks: not bad!

Valdes Peninsula is very big, so it took us one day to visit the three different lookouts. The first spot was at the East of the Peninsula, to visit the Magellanic Penguins. We were early and the first ones, catching the penguins and chicks sunbathing in the morning sun with no one else around! We also visited two points to have a look at the Sealions and Elephant Seals. Many were relaxing on the beach. We were not that lucky to see Orcas.. We also met a lot of Guanacos along the way; the sort of Lama most common in Argentina. And Peludos! Which are armadillos and really cute! We decided to stay two extra nights at our private cliff, including a very relaxing day in the sun. We knew it would get colder quick, so better enjoy it! We also had our first encounter with the strong winds Patagonia is famous for so we decided to camp all our nights in our car and not in the rooftent. We are really happy that this is possible!

After the Peninsula we went to the campsite in the town Puerto Madryn: nice to have a shower after 3 days of wildcamping! Here we met the German couple we met in Valdes as well and a Swiss family. Always nice to share stories! We used our day in Puerto Madryn to get Miles serviced. We found out there was a Land Rover mechanic in town, not something you find often in South America! Jorge was a real enthusiast and made sure the oil and filters were changed. Everything else he checked was fine :-). He also gave lots of tips for further along the way and has some contacts in Argentina and Chile of other Land Rover enthusiasts which we hopefully wont need but will be very handy in case we do… And everything in Spanish! Our Spanish is by far perfect but we come pretty far :-).

Then we drove to a beach further down South along the coast to spend the night. Later on the Swiss couple Irene and Simon joined us as well, but got  immediately stuck with their large truck! We tried to pull them out with our little Defender but that didn’t work. Luckily they had seen a grater some 10km before the beach. Ralph drove with Irene to ask the guy to help out and he did! We spend the evening cosy in their truck with lots of good Argentinian wine and good stories, and their offered us some of their Chile and Bolivia guidebooks.

Then we continued our journey down South. This area of Argentina is really empty. Its just hundreds of kilometers of straight roads and flat steppe, with very strong winds! So we tried to break up the long drives with visits of the national parks or interesting points along the way. We made a stop in Punta Tombo. This is where the largest colony of Magellanic penguins is; over 200.000 pairs are breeding here! It is a beautiful area with indeed many penguins. Unfortunately also pretty touristic… We also went to Cabo Dos Bahias. A reserve further south with lots of penguins as well, but not so many tourists. We stayed the night very close to the reserve entrance and were the first in the morning to enter. So it was just us two walking midst thousands of penguins who were making funny noises, where feeding their chicks and left in groups to the see for fishing. A really magical place and definitely our favourite in this part of Argentina!

Further down we visited a petrified forest. It was quite a detour: 50km of very bad gravel roads.. But these let to red and yellow colored mountains, a volcano in the background and very large petrified trees! A welcome change of scenery. Then we continued to visit Parque Monte Leon where we’ve seen again many penguins and sealions. Pumas roam in this area as well which we unfortunately did not encounter, but it was clear that many penguins were not that lucky… We stayed at the campsite in the park. Our first assigned place was right next to a typical Argentinian family camping: Very loud music from the car stereo and the Parilla (barbecue) on fire. We were up for a more quiet night so moved out a little further where we met a couple from Chicago who are on the road for 1,5 years (!) now and we had a cosy evening sharing wine and travel tips.

Then we had to cross an area where there is even less so we did some more driving. We drove into Chile to a town called Cerro Sombrero. This is a very small oil town, where mainly people life who work at the surrounding oil and gas facilities. We spend the night next to a hotel where we could use the very nice hot shower! Then we continued our way back into Argentina again towards Tierra del Fuego. Soon the landscape started to change! Hills, mountains, trees (lots of trees! So good to see them after no trees in most of Patagonia..) and pretty lakes. We spend the night at a pretty lake and then did the final bit to Ushuaia! Ushuaia is a pretty busy tourist town. This is the place where you can board a cruise to the Antarctic, and right now it’s the high season for this. It will set you down at least 5000 dollar per person so we decided that this does not really fit in our travel budget this time.. We spend a couple of days at the campsite in the Tierra del Fuego national park where we did some nice hikes and enjoyed the wind-free weather. We also did the hike to Lago Esmeralda. Beautiful scenery and pretty lightblue colored lake, but not recommended to do when its raining. It was 4,8km of mud which made it a pretty tricky walk! (Thanks for the tip Harald! ;-))

We will upload more photos when we find better Wifi!!

Now its time to slowly move up again into Chile!

Hasta luego!

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