We are enjoying the long flat,straight highway 3, South of Bahia Blanca. It has taken us 3 days to get to Puerto Deseado. Gas is much cheaper here in Patagonia, no taxes are added. Paco, is just clipping along at 65-70mph. This consumes a bit more gas but we are making time to get to the Caraterra Austral in Chile in season. 14 mpg is what we get driving and the incessant wind is also a big factor in gas consumption.
On the way to Las Grutus from Bahia Blanca,we stopped by El Condor, to take a look at the large Burrowing Parrot colony. Last year we visited it in May and this is like our November, so there were very few Parrots. This year we thought we would be there just at the end of the young fledgling. We were and there were a lot more parrots along the cliffs, but the wind and the high tide prevented us from walking along the beach to check it out. We were again at the end of season and most had left. So foiled again. It would have been nice to see what 35,000 Burrowing parrots would have looked like. But we have an idea.
South of Bahia Blanca we made it to Las Gurtas, a summer beach town with Grotto. Last year we visited this town and it was all but shut down. 15 campgrounds all but two closed. This year in season, all the campgrounds were full, and the town was a bussel. What a difference. We found an expensive campground with wonderful hot showers.(This campground last year was $10. this year it was$20) Its always nice to have a warm shower after a long day of driving in the wind, passing slow trucks, and looking for wild life along the stark countryside. We treated ourselves to a nice dinner out. Salmon with a delicious shrimp sauce.
The following day we had a very long day to get to Puerto Deseado. It was a warmer day in the 70s but the wind was consistently blowing. This is Patagonia, wind everyday, we felt for those travelers on motorcycles. I saw one bicyclist sprawled out for a rest as he traveled south. The wind is generally from the South west. 15-40mph mostly in the afternoons.. What a hassle. Well, we drove all day and into the night to make this destination. We almost ran out of gas once, because they were out of gas at the station we had planned to make... ewww. But we did have our trusty little 5 gallon spare full, just in case. We have not had to use it yet but this day was the closest we had come to. We made it to Comedor Rivadera with only a half gallon left... that was close. I fixed the odometer and that is a real blessing when we are cutting it so close.
Puerto Deseado is an important stop for us because of the wildlife preserves that are there. This is a desolate little place with constant wind. Darwin, Magellan, and Cavendish all used this port for a stop because of its high tides, and some protection from the Atlantic. It is an inlet that is salt water for 30miles back up the mouth of the river. Darwin found fossils, and enjoyed the many PENGUINS, found here. Yes, that was the draw. There is a colony of Rock hopper penguins out on one of the island off the coast that we had to see. (well, I had to see, Karla loves them too, but I am the birder) We drove almost 450 miles that day, a record for us. Arriving at night. I had read that Darwin Expeditions had an office, Restaurant just 1Km from a campground that had some wind protection. So when we finally pulled into town there it was. Open, we had a Hamburger, mine was what is called complete(a heart attack for sure) beef, ham, cheese, and a fried egg. Boy was it good. Karla the conscientious one had one without ham, cheese, and the egg. While we were having dinner, a man walked in that had the look of a guide, you know, tanned face, Patagonia jacket, jeans, and sandals. I went over and asked him if he knew about trips to Penguin island. We do live with a bit of luck, he said you are in luck in almost perfect English. They had a trip going tomorrow at 7:30 am and there was room for us. (I had read that there is a 5 person minimum, and we may have to wait a day or so for a trip to meet the minimum, Thanks Dad, keep up those prayers) Danial, our guide, also said that we could park next to the facility and camp. Boy did we come to the right place... After dinner we parked at around 11:30pm and had a bit of a hard time sleeping with the strong cold wind and the guys with loud cars driving up and down this main road into town.
Monday morning at the crack of dawn I woke up ready to go, like a little boy getting to go fishing with all the guys in the family. Danial had been up making lunches so we got into the restrooms. By 7:30 all had shown up and we were putting on life jackets and loading onto the boat. We had about 20 miles to go to get to the island. On the way we found some commerson dolphins, beautiful black and white design that was quite striking. We passed a south American tern colony with a gazillion birds, and a Magellanic Penguin colony on the point as we left the Ria (inlet) Deseado. Along the way we were told in English and Spanish what we were going to do and the days plan. Oh boy, we will get to get up close and personal to the Southern Sea Lion colony, Walk on the island through a huge Magellanic penguin colony (20,000), and then to a small colony(800) of Rock hopper penguins. We will spend about 4 hours on the island walking around and checking out other birds as we see them. Then before we would leave we would have lunch on the beach with about a 1,000 Magellanic penguins. The plan was set and that is just what we did. Karla and I were just thrilled to be able to just sit and enjoy the antics of both of the different colonies of penguins. Yes there were a bunch of other birds there that I had seen before as well as some North American migrants (buff breasted sandpipers, and Sanderlings.)
After lunch we returned to Puerto Deseado, but not before we found some other dolphins along the way. These guys knew exactly where to go to have some Peal Dolphins find us. We played with this pair for over 20 minutes. This is always quite fun. We were so enthralled that we never did get out the camera to try and get at least a shot of them. I think the Captain and Danial were having just as much fun as the dolphins. Into the inlet we ran into about 6 Commerson Dolphins and played with them for over 20 minutes. This time we did take about 20 photos, only two of them were great shots. These digital cameras are a bit slow, so anticipation is a learned trick. Back at port, we went to the ATM and got some money to pay for the trip. Boy are these people trusting. This gives you and idea of what it is like here in Argentina and why we feel so comfortable.
I wanted to rest and figure out what our next step was going to be, for Paco needed to get an oil change, (1 minor service that we put off in Rosario, in lew of getting other major stuff done) Another thing was to check the transmission again, it was slipping and I was feeling like we were in deep trouble. Well, after a beer and some 2lbs of peanuts, I felt better about the situation by reading through my trusty repair manual. There I discovered that the possible problem may be some adjustments to the throttle and the Kick down mechanism to the transmission. So with that calming me down a bit, we went to the wind protected campground and settled in. We planned on getting the oil changed in the morning and then off to Pierto Moreno. If we had time. After a good siesta, we walked to our favorite restaurant the Darwin and had, you guessed it, another Hamberguesa completo. The sunset over the Ria was striking like nothing else in the world. It seemed to last forever once it sat. We noticed this effect also in Norway a few summers ago. Walking back to the campground in the dark we were able to pick out the false southern cross and the real southern cross. Just absolutely a terrific day. I nice quiet sleep that night out of the wind and noise.