We have been working our way down the east side of the South American continent, pretty much following the main route to Ushuaia, veering off for a few days here and there. We camped along rivers, on beaches and twice even in a turn out with high enough walls to protect us from the incessant winds of Patagonia. It is still early spring here and there are few tourists at the famous spots like the Valdes Peninsula. This place is famous for the orcas that sometimes beach themselves for a short time to catch a succulent sea lion pup for dinner. Well, we drove there and never saw that, just a few snoring sea lions on the beach. We saw our first penguins, the are nesting right now. At night we camped on a bluff overlooking the bay, a great spot, quite a few right whales were just hanging out right in front of us. But then the wind got stronger and stronger and after we went to bed I could not sleep for hours because the wind was shaking the camper. It was really loud and we used ear plugs, but every time I dozed off I dreamt that we would blow off the edge of the cliff, or that I was dragging anchor with our boat. The next morning I made Günter promise to never camp that close to the edge of a cliff ever again.
As we kept driving south we have enjoyed watching penguins and sea lions near our campsites and the winds are not that strong anymore. The coastal roads are breathtaking and worth the extra time it takes to drive them since they are not paved. There are many places to wild camp for the night and each one has its special charm. Some days the pampa is endless and mostly flat, other days it is hilly, with lakes and ponds, flamingos and ducks. We have seen countless guanacos and many rheas. Today we are at a campground in Puerto San Julian, it is a treat to get the laundry done, take long hot showers and find wifi. So I am catching up on some emails and then we will be off again, still headed to Tierra del Fuego. This town is a little dreary, but it has an interesting history. Magellan found this bay in 1520 and waited out the winter here. (He is famous for being the first to circumnavigate the world – his boat anyway.) The thousands of Magellan penguins up and down the coast here were named after him.
Lots of rheas share the pampa with the guanacos and sheep. Each female lays 20 to 40 or more eggs, amazing. The male incubates them. The male will use a decoy system and place some eggs outside the nest and sacrifice these to predators, so that they won’t attempt to get inside the nest. The male may use another subordinate male to incubate his eggs, while he looks for another female to start a second nest. The chicks hatch within 36 hours of each other. The females, meanwhile, may move on and mate with other males.
The Magellan penguins and sea elephants on the Peninsula Valdes are used to visitors and go about their business without being disturbed by us.
Here our camping spot, there was not a grain of sand anywhere, the cliff was swept clean by strong winds that blow almost all the time.