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jon and marion’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 10 Nov 2007

Location: Proviner to Rio Gallegos, Argentina

MapHi to you all
We made it back from our brief tour of the north. We didnt get anywhere near Calafate. The distances are huge!

We started out quite confidently, we went to the supermarket and got some supplies incase the shops in the little towns werent open or wouldnt take plastic. Had bread, cheese, and olives for lunch at Rio Olivia under the cliff of a huge mountain while it was snowing, it was pretty nice. We drove thru some stunning valleys and thru a couple of pretty gorges and the terrain gradually changed from mountains to prarie.

It became a country of huge skys and rolling plains with very few people, millions of sheep and almost as many Llamas (which are actually call Yamas here cause ¨"ll" equals "y", They are skittery animals that happily watched you pass by but as soon as the engine slowed they hopped the nearest fence and took off like a rocket!). Sheep ranching in this part of the world is done on a huge scale. One ranch is 1.7mil hectares with 1.2mil sheep and their shearing shed holds 5000 sheep. This guy has 15 houses for the workers and their families and his house is a mansion, it looks like a little village sitting in this vast prarie. One other estancia (ranch) had its own soccer was the only green patch on the whole plain.

We then came to the border crossing...this is where it all started to go down hill. The petrol station wouldnt take plastic so we had to use up our valuable store of argentian pesos. Then it got even more interesting. We had forgotten 1. it was an international border. 2. that you cant take food across international borders, and 3. we had no chilean currency! Needless to say we were pretty upset at loosing our horde of food and that we had no money to buy anymore food or accomodation for that matter! We had to make a choice to go on and trust our luck.

We made it to Proviner at about 9pm where the first 3 hostels wouldnt take plastic or our argentinian pesos and all the shops and the petrol station where shut. We found a hotel where the owner happily took almost all of our argentian pesos for bed and breakfast (i think we paid about 3 times the exchange rate but the temp outside was down to 1ºç so we paid). A good nites sleep and breaky under our belts and we were off to get some petrol....we thought! nope no take the credit card and only 40pesos left. The Bank wouldnt give us any money. We decided to trust our luck again and headed north to the ferry to try to get back into argentina.

We saw eagles and geese, more llamas, which we had now decided were just big rabits, and then some big chooks too...a sort of emu thou very pale in colour and not as big. We saw pink flamingos and oil rigs, and mile on endless mile of dirt road where the trucks do 30 to 40kms an hour and sometimes go even slower but the postie was fairly flying.

The terrain turned volcanic with fields made up of lava flows, reminding us of easter island and then suddenly the road would pass thru a vast area of pebbles running right down to the atlantic ocean and looking remarkably like sand dunes with about as much vegetation. The atlantic quitely announced itself with a splash of murky green and that was about it. Not the fanfare of the pacific thats for sure, not a wave to be seen in 3 days of travelling her coast.

We picked up a hitchiker. Alexander was heading north to glacier territory for the summer tourist season. He is a chef. We happily gave him a lift and in the end he secured us easy passage on the ferry (our luck held!!) We didnt have to pay and it looked like the fuel would hold out till Rio Gallegos. We left him on the road to
Peuto Arenas with much gratitude on both our behalves and scooted along at a rapid rate to the argentian border. Speed limist are optional even thou they are posted at either 80 or one goes that slow here. they all think they are racing car drivers and our small car shuddered to keep up and rocked and rolled as cars zoomed past us...I could see Jon muttering under his breath for the black beast to magically appear so he could give them a run for their money!!!

Rio Gallegos is a pretty awful town, sitting in the middle of a frozen, windy plain, with little to recommend it. We decided to give the cheap accomodation a flick here because there was water running down the walls and pooling on the floor. So we paid a bit more not to have the water feature, had an expensive dinner which belonged with the cheap accomodation and hi- tailed it out of the joint in the morning still not being able to exchange any argentinian pesos for chilean ones. Hmmm the ferry crossing came to mind and since we didnt think we would find another Alexander we were getting a bit worried...oh well something will work out.

We had another yummy lunch on the rim of Laguna Azul (a crater lake with the name of blue lagoon) and got caught in a brief snow storm. The water was an amazing blue, the same as it was in all the other crate lakes we had seen. Must have something to do with the minerals. We had dinner on the edge of Rio Grande, amongst the fishermen watching the storms go around us over the wide open plains.

The ferry crossings a pretty laid back affairs. Everyone lines up and waits, and waits and waits. The anticipation builds as the ferry docks. Who are they going to let on this time. The line of trucks, buses and cars are all equally long, all with schedules that have to be met, but the ferry master knows how many to take and it seems to be the luck of the draw. 2 hours later we were allowed on and Jon fronted up to the ticket office with his argentian pesos in chile and woohoo, they were happy to take them at the regular exchange rate.

We now had the hang of these border crossings. Step 1, get out and go inside to 3 different counters without a smile on your face. Step 2, get back in the car and drive anything from 1km to 25kms and then repeat steps 1 and 2. Then at the other end of the country repeat the whole process again. And when you turn around to go home, remember not to take any food with you and make sure you have the right currency and repeat all of the above steps again! Politics!!!

We made it back into argentia and had a nite in a wonderful cabin on a glacier made lake. The view was magnificent and it could have been the swiss alps given the overall feel of the place. we had our breaky overlooking the lake with the snow covered mountains as a back drop, and then tootled off back to it turns out a day early! But hey, it was an experience!

We head off to Antarctica tomoro and have spent the morning re-organising our packs and making sure we have enough memory cards and spare everything for our cameras. I had spent some of the time while jon was driving, perfecting my one handed typing in a moving vehicle (so this blog entry would make it to your before we left) whilst uploading photos and somehow hanging that is what travelling is all about!!!

keep well and happy guys and we will talk to you again in 20 days

love to you all
marion and jon