Friday, February 10, 2012

Viedma to Valdes Peninsula – 325 miles (525km)

It took two days to reach the peninsula with an overnight stop in Las Grutas. The vista has changed. It is now all pampas with dry shrubs and thistle-like bushes. It is hot and windy. After an informative stop at the tourist office we had about 10 campgrounds to choose from but we wanted one close to the water. Although a “wild camp” was always an option we thought a campsite might offer more protection from the wind than the parking areas up on blustery cliffs. After checking out the two campgrounds closest to the water we chose Poder Judicial instead of Golfo Azul for the simple reason that Poder Judicial was less expensive. Winston needs a walk. It was low tide which meant it was quite a long walk to the sea, crossing a reef. Tom and Winston took off whilst I cleaned the RV. They returned about 90 minutes later looking exhausted. Winston was panting and Tom…well, if he could have panted he would have! The walk, the heat and the wind is just too much. We settled in for a simple chicken stir-fry dinner and called it a night. And what a night. The wind rose to a crescendo at about 2:30am and rocked the motorhome. It seemed to swirl and change directions every 30 minutes or so. In the morning, there was a fine layer of sand over everything. Yuck. Tom walked Winston while I cleaned up again and we were on our way. Just outside of Las Grutas was another meat-check point. We had cooked the last of our chicken last night so the only meat we had left was deli ham and salami and some bones for Winston. That was ok so we were on our way fairly quickly, passing scenery fairly similar to yesterday except the wind is not so strong and it is much cooler. A nice surprise was at Sierra Grande. At this point the gas prices drop significantly to “Patagonia” prices. For us it means about $1.50 less per gallon. I am not sure why the gas is so much cheaper in Patagonia but we are grateful. We are now at $3.67 a gallon. Yeah!! The turnoff to route 2 for the Valdes Peninsula is about 10 mile before Puerto Madryn and there are plenty of signs advertising the marine life and birds on the reserve. As soon as we were on route 2 we started seeing guanaco, a brown and white llama-like animal and plenty of sheep. We made a stop at the reserve’s information center where a lady explained to us in English how best to appreciate and get the most out of our stay on the peninsula. Since it is 7pm, she pointed to a point close to the one and only town, Puerto Piramides. “There is a sea lion colony there” she explained, “also the most amazing sunsets, which tonight is at 9:30pm.” From there she said we could go into town and camp. She also showed us a route for tomorrow which passes penguin and sea lion colonies and another where there are sea lions but also orcas (killer whales). She said that usually the Orcas come in March and April to feed but there have been sightings. The southern right whales that also mate and give birth here have already started their migration. We had spotted those off the coast in Uruguay and hoped to see them again but it was not too be. We went to the first point to see the sea lions. This is a “small” colony of a few hundred and they were spread out on both sides of the point. They were clearly audible, though not as clear as a family who were on the point with their extremely clearly audible screaming child. It seemed as though every time I moved to another area, they followed. We took photos and finally the family left, leaving only the blessed quiet except for the sounds of seabirds and the sea lions. We had left Winston in the RV as there were signs posted to respect the silence and not to take dogs down to the viewing platforms, wish they had the same for children! The sun was setting but we were tired. We went into the town and found the large parking area by the water designated for motorhomes. It is already much cooler and Tom wore a heavy shirt to walk Winston while I settled the RV and prepared a soup and sandwich meal. We are close to the water and again the wind is blowing. It will be a colder night but we have cliffs nearby so hopefully they will offer some protection through the night. We talk about seeing penguins and I am hoping to at least catch glimpses of orcas. We’ll see.

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