Penguins,Sea lions, Pampas, Rock Canyons and Wine
This section of the trip took us from one end of Argentina to the other. We spend almost 5 weeks doing it. From Ushuaia we drove up the east coast on highway 3, to small pueblos that Magellan and Darwin had visited. We visited Tombo provincial Park where the largest Colony of Magellanic Penguins is located. Then on to the Valdez Peninsula, where the Southern Sea lion Colony and Oracas, and Moras(a rabbit like creature) were found. From the Peninsula we drove across the hot Pampas to the center of the Argentina's wine Country, Mendoza. We visited some wineries and ate wonderful food.
We drove from Mendoza to Chile for a reconnaissance of the shipping possibilities in Valparaiso for 5 days. Found a couple of agents that would be able to help us. Then we stayed in Camping National Park which is the location of some of the last Chilean Palm trees,before we crossed back into Argentina.
Back to Argentina's Wine country, to San Juan and then to a sun scorched desert National Park, Ishigualasto. Much like the Badlands of Anza Borrego with all the colors and hoodoos. Then the road to Cafayata, another wine growing Valley, with some beautiful and colorful canyons. From Cafayetta to Cachi another little indigenous pueblo on a long stretch of gravel road through some more colorful and convoluted desert geology.
From Cachi we drove through a magnificent Cordon(tall Cactus) National Park high over a pass and down to Salta. We stayed a few days in Salta and visited a Pena restaurant with folklore dance and music. Finally we then drove from Salta to the Puna and Alta Plano of another crossing high in the Andes to Jama. Back down to Purnamarca, a pueblo with the 7 colored hill.
I of course birded along the way and kept up an average of one new bird a day.
Paco of course kept us always in suspense. In the Valdez Peninsula the battery died and we couldn't recharge it. Then after a new battery, the starter wouldn't work, while crossing the Pampas in Regina. Then while driving down from the 13,000+ feet pass the Voltage regulator gave it up and left me stranded for a couple of hours up a dirt road. We always seem to pull through these episodes. The starter was rebuilt in an hour and a half for $30.00. The Voltage regulator was rebuilt in 2 hours. The odometer, is no longer working. I had the air conditioner recharged. I had to unplug the drains for it because water was leaking from the ceiling on our clothes. I fixed that. After driving a ripio road that was quite muddy and wet we began squeaking quite badly. Found a mechanic that in an hour had all the joints regreased and good to go,for $10.00. It seems that we always seem to get through these little hurdles. I am constantly amazed at how capable the mechanics are here. I am also thankful that my Dad, bless his heart keeps praying everyday for our safety and safe return...
I have taken a section of my diary here just to give you an Idea of the kind of help we are getting here in Argentina.
2/22/2010-John and Sharon left us in the morning for their own journey. It was sad to see our traveling partners leave. We had decided the night before that they were going to go south and avoid the humid chaco of Northern Argentina. Bolivia, and Brazil both required visas, and the rainy season had a month left. Heat, humidity, and visas were definitely a problem but I think the climate at this time was the main factor for deciding our travel plans. Karla and I Still wanted to go to Iguazu Falls. I still wanted to go to the Pantanal in Brazil. Both places John and Sharon had been already and they had only some slight interest in doing them again. Karla wanted to go to Bolivia but the roads during the remainder of the rainy season were of some concern. Also of some concern was Paco, and understandably John and Sharon had waited for us many days while we were getting Paco repaired... So now we are on our own. Our travel plans now have to focus on just two rather than 4.. All in all it will be less stressful for all of us and giving us more time to do the things we like. Karla and I will now see more National parks, and possibly wild camp a bit more. We may take a bus to Iguazu rather than drive.. No plans and all day to do it. We do have an end time in mind, the first of May. This will be the time that we drop off Paco and stuff him into a container in Chile. At that time we will then travel by bus/?. If I can find a good price for lodging in the pantanal we may take this time to go there... That will be the beginning of their dry season.. a better time to see birds..
Now that we are on our own we had to take care of the non-functioning electrical system of our car. We decided to drive to Jujuy and find an Auto electrician and diagnose the problem.. The car started alright but the dash light indicated that the alternator wasn't charging the battery.. So we took off from Purnamarca down to Jujuy. Along the way the indicator light went of, meaning that charging was occurring. I was pleased and the light remained off for at least a half hour.. At that point we decided to go to the Laguna Yala provincial park... for lunch. This was to be a mechanically bad decision but it was beautiful and had some beautiful birds. This preserve was in what they call the Yanga forest of Argentina, it is tropical, and humid at about 5-6,000 feet. There are some special species of birds to see here, the a guan and a dipper, endemic to this area. In the course of the afternoon our battery died and we couldn't get Paco started.. The road into and out of Yala preserve was rippio, steep and wet.. When the engine died, I had no brakes, or power steering... yikes... We were on our way down, so I pulled off at a small little water station. I checked a couple of things and found that the battery was totally dead, the little green indicator on it was black, meaning dead.. So now what do I do in the middle of a Yangas, forest, 14 km from a place to fix it... The following story is true and typical of things that have happened to us this whole trip...
A young man was at the Water plant and I asked him if he had a telephone to call a taxi or a way to charge my dead battery... He said that he didn't have a phone, but he did have a family member or friend that lived just a couple of Km down the hill... He then told me that he would take the battery down the hill and try to charge the battery and then bring it back up..by bicycle. So I told him that it was too kind of him to offer and that was too much, he insisted. So I pulled the battery out of the car and helped him tie it up to the carrier on the back of his one speed bike. Mind you this is a steep rocky road, and he insisted that he would have no problem.. In a half hour he was back up with his friend/brother, in a car with my battery and jumper cables.. In ten minutes Paco was started and running, no turning him off or we would have no way to start him up again.. So down the hill we went, following the boys... when we got to the drivers house I took it out of gear and stopped to say thanks, and far well.. Paco died again.. so out came the jumper cables again, and we got going... this time we got all the way to the main highway and the battery/alternator gave out totally.. So here we are in the hinterland of Argentina, with Paco dead. As we gathered our thoughts and calmed down, we remembered a Campground just across the road and over a bridge from where we were. We checked it out and with a small push I could make it to the front parking lot of the campground on the Yala river, It was called El Refugio, the refuge.. and that it was.. We got a space in the shade and pushed Paco into it with the help of the caretaker... He told us that nothing was to be done to repair the car until 5:00pm at the earliest. So we had a nice cold coke and decided to leave the car in Camp and take the battery and alternator to an electrical shop in Jujuy...that would give me a couple of hours to pull out the parts to be repaired.. So when the time came we went back up to the office and the manager's wife, Alejandra, helped us get some information on where to go, from here husband, by phone, who spoke English. She called us a taxi and directions to a shop to fix both items.. Roman, was our taxi driver and he took us to Augilars electric shop, he explained to the shop manager the problem.. This was at 5;30pm, the manager said that the battery would be charged in an hour and a half, and also he would have the Alternator tested and fixed by 7:30pm. Ramon said that he would be back at the shop at that time and take us and our fixed parts back to the campground..So we walked into the town center and found a nice place for a quick dinner and walked back to the shop. The alternator was fixed, the voltage regulator was fried and the battery was charged... all for the about $58.00 US... can you believe this... Mr Aguilar said to bring the car in tomorrow for a final check if I wanted.. Ramon was there waiting to take us back to camp. By 9:00pm I had Paco all back together and running... All systems were OK and all the lights were normal. I was really relieved. I went and took a shower and bought a nice fresh cold beer. Karla and I had a nice toast to an interesting day on the road to Juyjuy.
It was humid and warm but we slept well.
This is what it has been like the whole trip. We are now on our own, John and Sharon are on their way to Montevideo and we are on our way to Iguazu fall, a place that I have dreamed of being able to visit for the last 40 some years...