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marge & ian’s Travel Diary

Monday, 02 Jan 2006

Location: *Ruta 40 Trip - PATAGONIA*, Argentina

Map*Ruta 40 Trip - PATAGONIA* (02/01/06 - 06/01/06)

DAY 1 - RIO MAYO

Authored by Ian "Gaunaco" Francis

OK - After lovely scambled eggs on toast in the hotel we boarded the minibus. We were last on after Elisabeth (American,) Anne-Sophie (French - but I never worked this out for 24 hours because her Spanish was so good,) Lewis and Marisco (The Dutchies,) Christian (a sort of Argentinian German mixture;) Paul and Helen (the reason we were going on the road to knowhere in the first place !!!!) I mention all these people as any one of them may pop up in the story of the next few days. Also, they all have access to this site and will be disappointed if they don't get a mention. Oh, I nearly forgot MARTIIIIIN, our Argentian guide and driver (a sort of hippie looking bloke, long hair, beard but marginally better hygene.)

I sloped off in El Bolson while the others did "shopping by committee" for 10 people which took 1.5 hours to buy 2 carrots, a loaf of bread and 64 beers and 24 bottles of wine. It gets so complicated when people have different tastes so I though I would leave our representation on the committee to Marge. I knew she would use her excellent "diplomatic" skills to represent Buxton. I am not sure if I was missed.

We set of on a long journey (700 Km), on mainly paved roads. Had the odd snooze while quietlly hoping that Martin was not doing the same. Paul had a Spanish phrase book called "Spanish for Sick Minded". He did not really need it but I had great amusement reading out phrases (in my best Spanish lingo) like "It´s my first time, I am a virgin" "Do you have a condom?" and "Don't worry I will do it myself". All very useful for a newly wed !!

To cut a long journey short, we arrived at Hotel which I think had been last updated when England and Argentina had our little squabble. I cannot see how this ever happened by the way because the Argentians are such lovely people. Bad leadership I guess by both sides !!

Dinner was laid on by the hotel owners in very large hall with nobody else but our party. We were invited into the back to see a "whole lamb" roasting spread legged on the fire (photo to follow.) We had some vino tinto (red wine) with our huge pieces of lamb (just lamb, no veg, this is how the locals eat meat.) I was eating my last leg when I noticed the table was getting bigger and bigger. Suddenly, the plastic legs on my chair buckled (like a white plastic garden chair in UK) and I was on my arse unable to get up because my legs were also gone. After sitting there with the others laughing at me for a couple of minutes I manage to get up and swap chairs. The others sloped off to bed, leaving the 4 Brits to hold the fort. Got another of bottle of wine out the bus and carried on drinking. I was chatting to Marge when suddenly the legs on her chair buckled and it shot off 6 feet beind her on the slippy floor. One second I was talking to her, the next she was going down with flailing arms. Minutes later, the next victim of the flying "Bambi" chairs was Paul when his chair beat Marge's chairs distance by about on other 3 feet. We were just about to retire when the hotel owner came over. Nice bloke but spoke almost no English. However, Paul and I spoke the language of "futbol". After Paul showed him his Maradonna "Hand of God" flip cards the guy was suitably impressed and gave us a free bottle of wine...bed would have to wait for a while. It was a crappy room anyway...who cares.

DAY 2 - ESTANCIA LOS TOLDES

What does "Estancia" mean ? I think literally it means "Station" e.g. cattle station. However, they are basically big f--k off ranches. Just one can be the size of Yorkshire on it's own!! I hope you found this information of interest.

We got up and drove off into 'real Patagonia.' This means the most beautiful vistas as far as the eye can see all carved by the glaciers during the ice age and enhanced by the rivers until the present. We felt so remote from civilization ! and we were. The roads we were travelling on were now gravel (translated to grubble in Marge speak) Most of you have been to Marges mum's farm at our wedding, remember the gravel drive ? Well imagine travelling over 800 Km on a road a little wider than that !!! Me being a hypocondriac, I could not help thinking "What if I had a heart attack out here, I would be brown bread".

Eventually we arrived at the Estancia. After lunch we went back to the dorm and I had my first encounter ! An encounter with a Guanaco!!! In England we call them Llama. Marge told you that we saw some in the zoo. Anyway, these two where friendly, like the farmer's pets really (except he would probably eat them in the winter.) I decided to get close to one and we sort of nuzzled out heads together. Then it happen ! The Guanaco sort of kissed me and breathed on me at the same time. It was really really bad breath. Not surpising really as Marge said she had seen it licking its mates arse earlier. Anyway, despite there being no tongues involved I was now known as a Guanaco kisser. It is a stigma that will be hard to lose.

So why did we go to the Estancia in the first place ? It is not far from a place called "Cuevos de Manos" (Cave of Hands.) After a short trek down some really steep terrain into a really deep and wide canyon (where we saw our first Condor circling above.) we climbed up the other side up to the caves. Now these gaves are special as they have wall paintings created by the indigenous indians over a period of 9,000 to 16,000 years ago. The paintings were mainly of hands and yes you guessed it .....Guanacos. The hands were the most amazing because they were made as follows...imagine putting your hand on a wall and then getting a can of spray paint and spraying on and around your hand. When you remove your hand you are left with a hand shape where the paint could not reach. Of course the indians did not have cans of spray paint so used local mud mixtures as paint and hollow wood made into straws to spray the paint. There were loads of these hands (picture to follow.) Anyway, the story goes that the indians were put in the cells for vandalism !!

Like a bunch of hobbits on our way to Mordor we trekked back to the bus hungry and ready for fodder. After a nice dinner and some vino tinto we were at a loose end at what to do for the rest of the evening. In the corner of the room was an antique table soccer game made of cast iron. The players were all still in tact but we had only one problem ....no ball. Now Paul "lateral thinking" Young (yes, Paul Young) had an idea..."we need a ball why don't I take the ball out of my deodorant bottle ?" Problem solved..atleast until Paul got upset at losing to Chistian and myself (Argentina Germany England United FC) in a 7-6 thriller and he threw the ball on the floor and it smashed.

Time for a little Argentine ingenuity. Christian went and asked the farmer if he had any balls ...he had 7.

Anyway, Marge stayed up drinking with Paul while I rested my bones. On the way back to the dorms the stars where so clear in the sky.

DAY 3 - ESTANCIA MENELIK

Set off early to travel to the Perito Moreno National Park (Mr Moreno is one of the fathers of Argentina responsible for reserving many of the national parks - he looks a little like Napoleon in the picture.) This particular national park only has 1000 visitors a year, slightly more that Buxton, and host some spectacular scenery. Snow covered mountains and azur blue lakes that looked more like the Caribbean than what you would expect in Argentina. The place was totally deserted except for us ten peple. That night in the Estancia we had "Pasta Mingella" to eat. It was a stange blend of mushy overcooked pasta, tuna, sweetcorn and mayo which made it look like sick. Being hungry we ate it but there was plently left because even the family dog would not eat it. The dog needed to go on a diet anyway!

DAY 4 - EL CALAFATE (OUR DESTINATION)

This was basically a travelling day and the only real event of the day was meeting ´Boz´. I hope that I gave a good description of the poor roads in Patagonia earlier....now imagine them in the RAIN.....now imaging travelling along them on a motorbike.....laden with tents, luggage etc....on your OWN ! This is what Boz was doing! Boz is a Scottish bloke that we met at a remote service station who was travelling through South America on his BMW trail bike. The morning that we met him he had already fallen off the bike 2x and was pretty down. Anyway, if you are interested to hear more about the adventures of Boz (including a little picture of us and how we helped lift his spirits) you can find them on his webpage www.theadventuresofboz.blogspot.c- om give it a try as it´s good read and makes what we are doing seem like a walk in the Pavillion Gardens.

Anyway, we eventually arrived in our hostel in Calafete. A nice place with a population of around 17,000 (grown from 5,000 due to tourism in the last 5 years, so visit before it´s spoilt!) It was nice to be in a place where we would have the same bed for more than one night. Get some washing done, as my undies were illegal! (that was Ian by the way not me). Went our for our farewell meal with our friends from the tour. Had good intentions of getting to bed early ready for the next day when we would be visiting the Glacier. Nearly made it all the way back to the Hostel but unfortunatley "The Grouse" pub caught our attention, which was situated on the last corner before home. We just had to go in for a nightcap. Got to bed at 3.00am.

06/01/06
MORENO GLACIER

What can I say, THE most spectacular thing that we have seen so far. A huge blue glacier flowing into a lake, with huge chunks breaking off at regular intervals and crashing into the lake. You could hear the glacier "creaking" as it moved. (This bits for Tina) : Its one of the most dynamic glaciers in the world i.e. moves a lot each year. Its 60 metres tall and from its tip to the snow field that feeds it is around 20k. Thats the boring bit over, just have a look at the pictures when we post them. They really don´t do it justice, it was a truly amazing and almost magical place.