Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monumento Parque Bosque Petrificado (Petrified Forest) - Almost

Route 3 is interesting only in as much that it travels inland through the high steppe dry, arid desert type climate with low shrubs and sparse vegetation and then drops into coastal regions where the vegetation is more lush and green. Through the steppe areas we see estancias that have herds of sheep, herds of wild guanaco, a variety of hawks and prey birds and flocks of Choique (the Lesser Rhea) which mass along the side of the busy road sometimes unfortunately, to their demise. These are a flightless bird rather like an emu and there are plenty of them. We had seen their larger cousins – the Greater Rhea – when we were in Brazil. We are also seeing lots of oil wells, some operational and some not. Argentina is almost self sufficient in oil and now we know where it comes from. The coastal regions have, of course, a vast variety of sea life and mammals. Nevertheless, route 3 involves driving hundreds of miles with unchanging scenery. We are also getting gas at every station we come to. In the town of Fitz Roy, the first station we went to have no gas but the second did. As Tom was getting the petrol, I noticed they had Wi-Fi advertised and got out the computers. Yes! Although we knew it would set us back an hour or so, we decide to Skype family, post blogs and check banking and emails. I am behind on sending emails to friends but will catch up in Ushuaia. We do speak to Tom’s sister who brings us up to date on family matters and we tentatively set up a Skype at the weekend so Tom’s mom can be there and we are able to speak with Danny and leave a message for Nicole (our children). At least the family knows we are alive and well. As we turn off the main highway onto the gravel road to the reserve, it is already 5pm and the reserve closes at 7. The road is rough and arduous but about half way at about 25km marker, there is an estancia advertising camping so we decide to pull in and spend the night and go onto the park in the morning. The ranch is deserted except for one man who is the caretaker of the property. Carlos shows us an area to park. There is a kitchen with cooking facilities and tables for eating and bathrooms with hot water showers. As we chat with him and he shows us the rest of the ranch, Winston is in seventh heaven. There is a sheep dog here which is very friendly and also pleased with canine companionship. The two dogs become buddies immediately and are soon tearing around the ranch, playing and tussling with one another. It was just what Winston needed. As we go back to the RV to prepare dinner, we see that the newly plugged tire had gone flat. Whether from the plug coming loose or from a rock on the road, we don’t know. Eating a dinner of cheese fondue with French bread and sausages, Tom tries to decide whether to change the tire tonight or wait until morning. Why wait? As I clean and wash dishes he gets the spare from the back and sets to work. He also goes on the roof as we have scraped a few trees getting in and out of cramped camping places and puts some silicone seal around some of the areas. Good thing as we wake up the next morning to heavy rain. “Sure glad I changed that tire last night” was the first thing Tom said when he woke up. “Thought the same thing” I added sipping coffee. Tom went back to sleep. When he woke again it was still raining. We talk about our latest problem and decide to cut our losses. It makes no sense to keep driving on the gravel road for another 50 km round trip without a spare tire and no way to communicate if anything goes wrong. We are going to get back to the main road and go to Puerto San Julian, the next major town and try to get the tire repaired again and find a campground for the night. It turns out that Puerto San Julian is quite a nice beach town and the municipal campgrounds are clean and very well maintained with tall shrubs to act as buffers against the wind, electricity, water and internet. Tomorrow is my birthday, yes we all have one and tomorrow is mine. Since there is internet to talk with friends and family, we will stay here for two nights before making out final push to Ushuaia.

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