Day 112: December 4, 2007 Gallegos Cabo Virgenes

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2008

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 112: December 4, 2007 Río Gallegos and Cabo Virgenes

I got up at 6:30 and had the others going by 7:00. We packed and then went down to a nice continental breakfast. Our driver, Miguel, arrived at 8:00 so we placed our luggage in the depósito and piled in to a fairly new Volkswagen sedan. After picking up some pastries for lunch we were on our way to the penguin rookery at Cabo Virgenes, at the very southeastern corner of the continent where the Straits of Magellan meet the South Atlantic Ocean. The pinguinera is about 150 km from Río Gallegos, the last 130 of which are good gravel road. Along the way we saw all of the wildlife that Patagonia has to offer. Numerous rheas emerged from the brush and ran off, almost perfectly camouflaged. An occasional guanaco could be seen in the distance. Hundreds of kaikenes, the Patagonia geese, graced the sky as our speeding car roared past. We also saw a fox and several flocks of flamingoes.

After two hours, traveling with a strong tailwind, we arrived at the pinguinera. It was my third visit to the place. The others were in 1997 and 2001. A lone ranger manned the entrance. Miguel dropped us off at the trailhead and waited while we did the hour and a half loop. As always, the penguins were extremely entertaining, waddling about with little regard for our presence. We shot lots of fotos and Elena got some great video. Some of the birds nest right in the fenced-off pathway so we could look right in on the nesting mothers and their chicks. In all there are between 150,000-200,000 birds there.

We returned to the car and I had Miguel take us the last few kilometers to the corner of the continent. We went down to the water's edge which we shared with four penguins on the beach and another half dozen swimming just offshore.

We returned to Río Gallegos, stopping atthe beautiful Estáncia El Cóndor to get some gas. It is a >5,000 hectare establishment complete with school, church, store, etc. in a shallow valley that offers some protection from the fierce wind.

We continued toward Río Gallegos but took the turnoff to Punta Loyola. I wanted to show everyone the wreck of the Margory Glen, a ship that caught fire and then beached during a fierce storm in 1912. It is way up on the beach. The driver managed to get the car stuck in the sand. I sighed; I don't know how many times I've had to extract myself from this situation but it was clearly a first for the driver. I made the bad assumption that he knew what to do. He made all of the mistakes and then I took over. We jacked up one wheel and put a flat rock under it and wedged others in front of it. Then we did the same to the other. Then, with the four of us pushing we got it out.

We spent 20 minutes walking around the ship in the fierce wind. The girls were able to lean back into it without falling over. Once back in the vehicle, we sped the 35 km back to Río Gallegos where we picked up our luggage and moved to the Hotel Comercio a few blocks away. Our rooms were nice but very hot due to the heated floors. Shirl and I went to a nearby grocery and bought some gin and cheese to tide us over until dinner.

Everyone was tired so we had hamburgers in the hotel restaurant for dinner. Afterward, I finished my book and then went to bed. In spite of the noise from the street below, I went right to sleep.
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Where I stayed
Apart-Hotel Austral
Crystal Suites Hotel
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