. After one night there in not a good campsite, we went to the Atlantic coastal area - the playground of the wealthy Buenos Aires population. The one campsite at Monte Hermosa, that we thought sounded perfect, was just not open, and the others were all closed as well. So we drove on, and eventually came to a campsite further down the coast, called "The Enchanted Forest"... We weren't expecting very much, with a name like that, but it was better than expected i.e adequate! But it poured buckets during the night and we had to pack up in the rain. (All my washing, and Andy, got wet again!) So we set off again happily with our meats, but then hit a roadblock into the Patagonia region where they are very fussy about what goes in to Patagonia. They took all our apples, tomatoes and red peppers, but kindly told us to eat the salami quickly as there would be another roadblock in the next 100kms! Well, we had to resort to hiding it, Botswana style, and luckily it wasn't found at the next 2 roadblocks! It is such a pleasure to have a meal of salami, prosciutto, olives, cheese, and a nice baguette...From there we went south again to Viedma, a lovely little town on the Rio Negro. It is the gateway to Patagonia, and across the river from the town of Carmen de Patagones (loved the name - it almost sounds like something from the opera Carmen!). No camping there so we stayed in a little hotel on the plaza, and had a nice time walking around the town in the evening. Eating places only open at about 8:30 so we just had a cup of hot chocolate and a cheese toast - business hours here are so strange to us! We were too tired to wait for the restaurants to open. These little towns have such a buzz... Lots of youngsters meeting up in the plaza, shops open, young children playing on their skateboards, toddlers running around, and people just walking. Everything comes to life in the evening. From Viedma we then went to Puerto Madryn which is located on a very pretty bay. This area, near the Península Valdès, was founded by Welsh immigrants in 1865
. These little towns in the area still host annual eisteddfods and there are lots of little places offering typical Welsh teas! We found a lovely campsite close to the sea in Puerto Madryn and spent 2 nights there. The first night we only set up camp at 9:30pm as we had the oil changed in the car, and the wheels balanced. We could only start this process at 4:00 as the garage places only open then! A long day.... But it was a good job done... Something that has interested me in South America in general are the roadside memorials to people who have died in traffic accidents. These memorials are built beside the roads. In Argentina these are always in red, with red flags. (The red seems to have a lucky significance, as new cars also have red ribbons hanging on the back!) These memorial "crypts" seem to have things in them that the deceased obviously liked.... T-shirts, bottles of wine/beer/hubcaps/soccer memorabilia, and one even had a TV...! Can't work out why some of them have big piles of empty plastic water bottles? Don't think that google could enlighten me...!We went on to the Península Valdès the next day to hopefully see the orcas beach themselves in their efforts to catch a sea lion. Punte Norte on the peninsula, is one of two known places where this phenomenon occurs, and tourists from all over the world gather every day at high tide to see it. We heard that the orcas had made an appearance the day before... Everyone sets up camera tripods and deck chairs and sit for an hour or two before high tide and a little after
. There is such an air of expectancy, and it was gorgeous just waiting with the crowds at the sea, in the sun, with the sea lions happily sunning themselves in front of us. But it wasn't our lucky day unfortunately. Little armadillo-like animals, called pichis were scurrying around the dunes, looking for scraps of food, and lots of vultures and big brown seagulls and other marine birds fluttered and hovered over us. The Peninsula has a thin isthmus and then it opens out into a bleak flat expanse. Lots of llama type animals called guanacos, rheas and of course lots of marine animals and birds. Whale watching is a big tourist drawcard here... Southern Rights! After a lovely day on the Peninsula we then got as far as Trelew and had to stay in another hotel in the centre of town as there was again no camping that we could find.So now, from being in South America's lowest point (the salt flats on the Valdes Peninsula are 42m below sea level!) we are now in the Andes again. Feeling cold.....!Our route, to making our way to Chile, was an east/west route right across Argentina. We weren't anticipating very much on our 8 hour trip, but were just over-awed by the beauty of the countryside. Very much like the Karoo! But the mountains have been shaped into towering edifices that almost sometimes look like forts or castle walls. Some were even in a turret shape, and others were like sculptures on pedestals. And the colours - ranging from white to red to turquoise were spectacular.We are now in a beautiful part of the country - the Lake District, near Esquel. We are at one of the many national parks in the area, called Parque National Los Alerces. This is has wonderful fishing in the many lakes, and offers treks into the mountains to see the glaciers and waterfalls. This park is named after the protected alerce trees in the area, some as old as 2,600 years old (Fitzroya cupressoides).
Just gone onto google to find about the red memorial thing, and find it is about someone called Gauchito Gil.... Google it, you will see the pictures and see the information... Still don't know the significance of the water bottles!!!
From Buenos Aires we travelled through the Argentinian pampas - the land of the gauchos. We saw gauchos working with the very fat and healthy cattle (with berets or Andy Capp type hats)all along the way. They always waved us by.... The farms looked lovely. From what we saw the farms don't really have formal gardens, but the fancy gated entrances are usually long tree-lined driveways with mowed grassy, park-like areas leading up to their houses. The houses looked impressively huge, often castle -like, with turrets. One that we saw even had its own race track! (We were heading up to the Sierra de la Ventana, just north of Bahía Blanca.) Lots of mealies , soya and of course horses, cattle, and some sheep. These grand estancias often take in guests, but it is quite exclusive accommodation, so not quite in our budget!! It is a very tourist area, pretty in the mountains. In Argentina, and Uruguay, they produce the most divine salamis and Parma ham type meats. So we went into one of the local shops in Sierra de la Ventana and had a grand time tasting, and then buying..