So after the briefest of stops in Buenos Aires I met up with my crew for the start of Patagonia Experience, we headed out early on the 29th of march, we had a long day of travelling out of the city and heading south, stopping for lunch at a service station, and heading on to our first camp site, which was not the most idyllic, right off main highway beside big station stop for other truckers! It was noisy, fairly dodgy looking but it had toilet facilities, so we set up our tents and our guide Alahandro got our supper started, the master truck being equipped with a full kitchen as well as comfy seats! seating around chatting and eventually to bed, a fitful night's sleep followed, with an early start the next day.
Our itinerary followed a similar pattern till we got to Puerto Madryn well within Patagonia region, most people complain about the monotany of the long hours with little to see and less to do, but for me I loved it!! The scenery became more sparce of trees, the horizon expanded out to infinity, low shrub lands decorated a complete wilderness void of any single habitations, the lone highway being the only evidence of the presence of modernity in this region. We would occasionally come into a large city and as quickly the landscape would return to its lonely nature.
On board our truck being a small group of seven at the end of season we had space to move around, for entertainment, there was the extensive library of travel books on board, music, writing in diary, for me I was glad to have brought my painting. Then the very satisfying activity of watching a beautiful landscape continually change in minute detail right outside your window!! Wildlife is as sparce as landmarks and foliage here, there is a local species of ostrich, armadillo's, a family member of the peruvian llamba, and grey fox, there used to be alot of tawny puma's but they have been hunted to near extinction now by farmers protecting their flocks of sheep.
Our guide Alahandro, usually sits up with our driver we see them playing away with drums, tamborines and singing away good'o they enjoy the drive as much as us! He sometimes comes back with us, talks about the landscape , wildlife, culture events happening and our plans for the day, but mainly he lets us be to enjoy the journey. and for me, this is what I love, the sheer expansion of the beautiful sky I get to stare at everyday from the first tints of fiery red on an early morning horizon, to the turqouise sky splattered with an endless cloudy designs, to the setting of another day to the velvet sky aglow with countless stars and an eery moon! With little else to block your view the sky can't help but demand your attention, after the cooped up glimpses I've had in Paris, I feel like I'm feasting to my hearts delight here!
In Puerto Madryn, we stay in a proper camp its very beautiful here, we stay two nights and are very happy to have a day to do alternative activities, stretch the legs (you do miss the bit of exercise)! that is until we hear our alternative activity is a day trip ON A BUS!!!! out to the local peninsula, so we switch from our truck to our bus and have another day of driving, this day however is broken with short walks out to see a penguin colony where we see the last of the small penguins here shedding their old feathers, and waiting impatiently by the shore for their new coats before they head north to warmer waters, we sadly missed the mating and baby penguin season! but we were right up close beside them, lovely photos, incidently they can't swim before they get their new feathers as the combination of the two coats would drown them, too heavy in the water! We go from their to the sea lion and elephant lion colony, again being end of season most of the elephant lions have already left with the young, only two remain, but also are many sea lions, so its quiet the view to take in, here we have a few hours as we wait for nearby Orca Whales to come in at high tide for feeding, they've been known to come right in on a high wave and snatch a sea lion right off the beach, they are sadly not that daring today, but we do see them not too far out come up for air and venture close to the sea lions, but no closer!
After this stop we continue on further south, we now feel the change in climate more, no more tropical heat here, the cooler change in seasons is felt in the strong winds and cloudier aspect in the sky! I could ramble on many more pages describing the scenery here, but I'll skip ahead to our interesting boarder crossing if you see on the map to get to the southern most city in the world you have to cross into Chile and back out again, with a long stretch of 'no-man's land' in between! We go through different boarder checks the interesting thing here is that we pass by a certain city which is having a memorial of 30 years since the Argentinian War against Britain over The Falkland Islands, the current government for popularity had been promoting some hostility toward foreigners around this event, so veering on the side of caution we detoured slightly and chose a different camp site that night! We passed without incident, and encountered nothing but friendly hospitality everywhere we went!
We cross onto the last stretch of land via a (thankfully short) ferry, and the last road is very rough you feel you're heading toward the end, the scenery suddenly changes, I see small trees dare sticking their heads out to brave the strong winds,, this continues, small hills grow to large mountain range until we driving through forest covered valley's and high peaks a complete change, I almost forgot how much I loved trees, but I do miss my big skies!! we make our way in Ushuaia a very big city streched out along the coast and surrounded my snow capped mountains, we head stright for our campsite and set up tents, there is also a hostel here, we eat indoors - the first time in days! But then the rain comes, and sleeping outdoor you feel the cold right to the bones, the next day I switch to a bed dorm in the hostel! The next day we get a transfer bus right to the end of the Panoramic Highway photo opp we've literally driven to the END OF THE ROAD!!!! over 2,000km from Buenos Aires!! We trek around the park full of green and black lagoons, lakes and other hikes, seeing the leaves fall in April is something else though, but weather wise, lots of rain, bit of sun, much like home!!
Today, the group went on out on a boat cruise to the Beagle Channel its the main activity to do here, but I gladly passed, as the rain and strong winds were ideal conditions for me to have a miserable time on a boat! when i saw everyone come back off the boat wet, frozen, cold I knew I made the right decision! I instead walked around town with our guide, very interesting guy, helping me with getting gear for the big challenge ahead... THe W Walk in Torres del Paine, it's our next stop huge big reserve, with the circuit walk taking up to 7days hike we're doing a big section of it the W part in 3 days, which will be a hard 11-12 hours hiking a day covering about 20 km, its's going to make The Mourne wall challenge look like a walk in the park, as i'll have severe winds, probably snow to battle with as well, we've to carry our gear with us!! scary as hell but very exciting to see if I can pass this challenge! also not to be missed will be my first glacier sighting Glacier Grey, can't wait, exciting times ahead!!
Ok, hope that wasn't too boring to read, I'm sorry still no sign of photos, stupid computer here from the 80's, might have better luck tomorrow, my last day in Ushuaia then a long, long day's drive to Torres del Paine, straight into our intense 3day hike!
When i've recovered from that i'll report back on how I managed if I actually was able to finish it all, most people do the W over 5 days, we're going to try n do it in 3 and half! wish me luck, take care, my love to all
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