27.02.2013 - 03.03.2013
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27th February - This morning we got up early to head off at 7am. This was before breakfast so Lola had left us a breakfast package to take with us. Before leaving the Valdes Peninsula we had one last stop to make. The rangers had told us about an area with several varieties of birds that were particularly active around 8am; it was on the way out of the park so we headed for Isla de los Pajaros.
We were actually a bit disappointed as we could not see many birds. There were some flamingos but they were quite a way off.
We then had a 515km journey ahead of us today. We were heading further south in Argentina to a place called Bahia Bustamante. So we first headed back to Puerto Madryn, and then on to Rawson. We didn’t’ have a map for Rawson so got lost finding our way around. There wasn’t much there but we stopped for diesel and a coffee before heading on our way. Bahia Bustamante was a further 250km south.
Not far from Rawson, the road heads up on to a steppe which becomes an unending distance between towns and petrol stations. In one spot you are surrounded by scrub and you could be in the outback at home. So we continued to drive along the National Route No. 3 until we arrived at the 1674km sign post, we then turned left onto a gravel road and drove for 40km. The road was not too bad, it was a bit slippery in places, and there was a lot of water on the side of the road so it had obviously been raining quite a bit in the last few days. We arrived at a junction in front of the sea. After turning right we came to Bahia Bustamante. It is a private sheep station in Patagonia which is about 210,000 acres. We arrived just before 3pm and were met by Matias Soriano one of the grandsons of the original owner. We were straight in to things, there was a jeep trip to the Petrified Forest about to leave so we dumped our belongings and set off with the group. We drove for an hour in the bush before disembarking from the jeep and then walked around this amazing Petrified Forest. Shane was quite tired from driving but was revitalised when he saw the forest. It is 65 million years old, it is hard to imagine. The fossilised trees were all different colours from the various minerals in the earth. Whilst returning to base Shane saw his first skunk, he said it looked just like Pepe La Pew.
Bahia Bustamante sits right on a peaceful bay. There are whitewashed houses with bright red picnic tables that line a rough dirt road along the beach. The houses back a bit were built 60 years ago for the farmhands and their families, there are now new houses only a few steps from the beach that were added more recently for guests. So upon our return from the forest we settled into our lovely little house right on the beach.
Whilst we were staying here all our meals were included. We ate in the communal dining room, which was a white washed building lined with pictures of Bahia Bustamante in the 1950s. It was really interesting looking back at the history.
28th February – It was still an overcast morning, but this morning we went by jeep a few kilometres away from the hostel to the peninsula.
It was a bit strange seeing sheep running on the beach.
We were dropped off for a lovely walk to the tip. We stopped along the way to see the 25 million year old oyster beds.
There was quite a bit of bird life and the scenery was lovely. We then returned just in time for lunch.
We had a couple of spare hours after lunch to wander around the area before we sat down for a lecture on the marine life in the area. It was a bit depressing as they showed figures on the decline in marine life in this region over the last 20 years, which is mainly due to all the fishing boats 250km off shore in International Waters. They are fishing in the same area where the animals go to eat and a lot are also killed accidently because of the nets and lines. We then headed off by jeep to an inlet where we were to take a boat trip out into the bay. When we arrived the boat was sitting in mud and we were wondering how on earth we were going to head out. However within 20 minutes the tide had come through the inlet and the boat was floating ready for us to board. We headed out into the bay where there were several islands which had birds such as flightless steamer ducks
We were able to get really close to the sea lions that were very curious and followed the boat.
The pups were once again on the beach learning to swim. It was almost like they were in little kindy classes.
The weather had stayed fine for the day so that was a bonus. We returned for dinner to find out that we were having Asado which means "barbecue”. They cook it much different to us. They splay the sheep where as we would put it whole on a spit.
1st March – This morning we awoke and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful morning. We headed out by jeep for a walk to another part of the property where there was a canyon near the coast. We did a walk to both areas, the scenery was lovely. Before heading back to base Mariana showed us an area where the natives had once lived, there were remnants of axe heads and sharp tools that had been carved from petrified wood. It was very interesting.
Before lunch Shane decided that he was going to have a swim despite the weather. So he braved the thigh high seaweed and rocks just to have a swim.
After lunch we headed out for another excursion, this time to Penguin Island.
When the tide is out you can walk across to the island and visit the Magallenic Penguin colony. They were making a real ruckus. Most of the penguins were out at sea fishing but there were some babies waiting around for meal time.
2nd March – This morning after breakfast we headed out to the Cape. It was another fun jeep trip and we got to see some more wildlife along the way. This included:
The Southern Crested Caracara
The Mara – This is a relatively large rodent. It is also known as the Patagonian hare. It is herbivorous. They are quite active and ran away whenever we saw them.
Upon arrival we took a walk out to the cape where there were a couple of sea lions frolicking in the sea and there was a cormorant colony. Whilst we were sitting there a baby grey fox came hunting for food. He got really close to us and stayed for ages.
You can see how close I was from this picture Shane took.
There were some lovely clear rock pools that you can swim in but unfortunately it was too cold today so we didn’t venture in. They did look inviting though.
Shane took a stroll after lunch along one of the dirt tracks to see if he could find another skunk. He was unsuccessful.
At 5pm we had a history walk around the little village. Tibor told us that Lorenzo Soriano, arrived in 1952 in search of seaweed. He manufactured hair gel and needed Agar Agar to make his products. Imports had ceased so he left Buenos Aires to explore this area that someone had told him about. The shoreline was covered for miles with seaweed. This led to the world’s first seaweed farm, with 500 workers, houses for them and their families, a school for their children, and a thriving business. In 1968, he was doing so well he bought the two adjoining sheep farms, amassing over 200,000 acres. Seaweed harvesting and sheep farming still remain the primary sources of income for Bahia Bustamante.
We then headed for one more boat trip out to see the penguins and sea lions. It is not often that you can sit in a boat and sip Malbec wine and eat Empanadas whilst watching penguins go about their daily business. It was lovely listening to all the sounds the various birds and sea lions were making. We watched a lovely sun set and returned to base for dinner.
We also took a couple of time lapsed shots so you could see the different levels in the channel.
So when we arrived for the boat trip this is what we saw.
When we arrived back after dark the channel was full.
3rd March – This morning we had breakfast and farewelled Bahia Bustamante. It had been a very relaxing place to visit. We jumped in our car and headed off back along the 40km of dirt road back to Route 3. We had a couple of rest stops along the way but made it to Trelew at 12.30. We drove straight through and headed on to a little place called Gaiman. It is only about 11 km west of Trelew. The town was founded in 1874 by settlers from Wales. Some people in the region have conserved the use of the Welsh language alongside Spanish. There are quite a few tea houses in the area. We visited Te Ty Caerddyd where back in 1995 Lady Diana Spencer made a visit.
They had lovely gardens including this large tea pot.
Whilst in Gaiman we decided to have a tea service which included sandwiches and lots of lovely cakes.
We then returned to Trelew where we dropped off our hire car. That was another part of our trip that has come to an end. We arrived at our accomodation for the night. It was a lovely little place called Casa de Paula hotel. It was very spacious. Tomorrow we head off by plane back to Buenos Aires and on to Ushuaia.