Archive for April, 2012

solo again

Posted on April 26, 2012 by 12 Comments

We parted ways with Fern, MC and Simon, but we’re sure we’ll run into them again somewhere down the road. For now, we have tentative plans to meet up and snowboard in Kashmir, kayak the Amazon, and race Baja.

It was a little sad not to have another red bus behind us on the drive. It’s been nice having a caravan and having friends around.  It makes me miss my friends back in the States (as well as all those I’ve met along the way) a lot more.

But, it was also nice to get back to our [I’d like to insert ‘routine’ here, but we don’t really have one] normal way of life.

So, we headed west to the beach. Jason and Bode hadn’t seen an elephant seal yet, so we drove several hours on a bad gravel road to Punta Ninfa.

There’s a pretty weird old fiberglass lighthouse here, and the elephant seals were down on the beach below us. We found a rope and started climbing down the cliff. Sliding down in some parts. The earth was really soft and crumbly and often it was difficult to find a place to put your foot without setting off an avalanche.

We made it down to the beach and got to see several seals, but no older male. We waited a little while to see if he would come back to shore, as there were lots in the water playing. But soon it got too windy and cold to enjoy sitting around.

Climbing up the cliff was actually a lot easier than climbing down. We had planned to camp here, but the wind was bad, and that huge cliff outside the bus was not ‘child peeing in the night-friendly’. I’d already had enough stress worrying about him on the hike, so we decided to keep driving to a proper campsite in Puerto Madryn.


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la hora del té

Posted on April 25, 2012 by 6 Comments

There isn’t too much to do in Gaiman. So after giggling at the name for while, we decided to act a little more civilized. It was high time for high tea.

The town was founded by the Welsh, and although the town is about 5 blocks by 5 blocks big, it has no less than 10 tea houses. They are everywhere. We couldn’t not go.  Still, MC and I had to do a bit of convincing to get the guys on board.

With high recommendations from the crazy cabana owner, we set off to one of the nicest places in town. Soon after we sat down in the very English parlor, trays and trays of pastries started to arrive. We didn’t even have to order. We had all forgone lunch in order to eat as much as we could, but we weren’t prepared for the amount of sugar that would be served to us.

Bode declared this his new favorite meal ever.  And this is from a kid whose allergies prevented him from eating about 90% of the goodies offered. Still, he got scones with 3 different types of jelly, lemon pie, some sort of traditional fruitcake (which is actually a lot better than fruitcake) and tea with a whole lot of sugar.

When the check came, we were all a bit surprised… nearly $20 USD per person. There was no possible way we could have eaten it all, so we decided we’d get all the leftovers to go. And then, we all needed some exercise. Luckily, the playground is right across the street, and it has the steepest tunnel slide in the world – it just shoots kids out like a cannon. Full speed. Despite the only warning sign for kids I’ve seen in South America (6-14 years only), we all gave it a try. And all of us tried it only once.

We also peered into a closed-down park that was built with recycled materials. This was the reason I’d wanted to come to this town (thinking it would be a bit like Coco’s Corner).   The artist died a few years ago, and the family kept it open for a while but couldn’t maintain it.  It’s for sale now, and looks pretty amazing. Alas, this isn’t our opportunity. I would get too fat here with all these tea houses.

MC and Simon ended up staying in town an extra night (they are due in Osorno, Chile to meet up with their VW’s new owner) to celebrate Bode’s actual birthday.

Bode has had no less than 3 other birthday celebrations already this year, so this was going to be the final bash.  The over-abundance is largely my fault.  I don’t want him to miss friends and family on his birthday, so whenever we have been around either (Houston, Ushuaia) he got a party. Just in case his actual birthday is a dud.

Rest-assured he got exactly what he wanted on his birthday. Since he loved the tea so much, we surprised him with another (in-home) tea party.  I’m not sure how many other 7 year old boys would be thrilled with a tea party, but mine sure was. BIRTHDAY CAKE for breakfast! Heck yeah, that’s how we roll.

Gifts of Legos, video games… and an entire day spend finishing Wii Super Mario Brothers with Simon.  Later that evening we had a Wii Sports night. We will always and forever have strike and spare bowling dances inspired by MC.

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Filed Under: Argentina

Playa Escondita sushi

Posted on April 24, 2012 by 4 Comments

The next morning we made it to Punto Tombo – yet another pinguineria. The differences between this one and Cabo Dos Bahias were enormous. There were tourists and tour buses.  This place even had parking attendants (although it wasn’t crowded) and we were immediately directed to the ticket window. It was a bit pricey, but considering Dos Bahias was free (for us) it wasn’t a big deal. Then we were ushered into a modern museum where we saw life-sized replicas of all the fish and fowl in the area. Finally, we were allowed to drive about 1 km closer to the beach and enter the penguin area.

While Dos Cabos had about 9,000 pairs, Punto Tombo has 200,000 pairs of penguins. There were penguin holes as far as the eye could see. And downy white penguin feathers all over the ground. The grounds were enormous, but most of the penguins seemed to be missing. Also, there was no access to the sea where the penguins were swimming.

A few birds did meander through the walking trail, though. It would have been amazing, had we not been so close at Cabo Dos Bahias. I think we were all a bit disappointed on this stop. But still, PENGUINS!

A few hours north, and we discovered yet another hidden gem of a beach, Playa Escondita. We were the only ones there, so we popped the top and got comfortable. The guys tried their hand at fishing. Simon was the lucky one today.

Later, 3 commercial fisherman came back into the bay. We were hungry and Simon’s fish wouldn’t feed all of us, so we bought 2 sea bass and a huge salmon right out of the boat. So fresh, there was only one way to prepare it… sushi!

Who says 5 people can’t make sushi in a VW bus?

By the time we got up the next morning, we realized that this little gem wasn’t so secret. It was Saturday morning, and the beach was lined with local fishermen casting into the surf. Since it was a bit cold and windy, we decided we had enjoyed this place more on our own, and packed up.

elephants on the beach

Posted on April 23, 2012 by 2 Comments

Camarones had been described as a sleepy little beach town. It didn’t help that we arrived (as we always do) during the Argentine 4 hour mid-day break. It also doesn’t help that the tourist season is over in this part of the world, and well, they just shut things down until next year.

The tourist office was open, but unhelpful. The campsite was closed, but we weren’t sure if it was for the season or if we should wait on someone. Simon needed a new muffler, but had been quoted (at 2 different shops) the equivalent of about $500 USD back in Comodoro Rivadavia.  So, he decided to go out and find a creative welder – small towns seem to be better for this sort of thing. We never get anything accomplished in a big city.

The first ‘professionals’ we found passed on the job, but then we found a guy that would fix it on a tree stump in his front yard. He insisted that the other guys in town were ‘too rich’ and didn’t want any new business.  We had him fix a couple of things on Red Beard too, including bracing the pop-top brackets which were bent from all the wind*. We even had a spare rubber pop-top tie down.

Earlier, we had a made a bet that it would be impossible to buy shrimp in Camarones. Basically, just a demonstration/test of logic in South America. Well, I forget who won, but we did not find any camarones in Camarones.

We decided to drive a bit farther and camped at the coast.  Jason and Bode went off to fish (and lost all their lures after just a few casts). The rest of us headed out for an hour hike down the beach to see if we could spot elephant seals.

First, we spotted a dead sea lion and a dead horse. I had forgotten my rule about not following Simon and was beginning to worry. Luckily, after an hour, we spotted a huge group of sea lions. Unlike any other sea lions we have encountered, these were freaked out when they saw us. We weren’t even close, but they all stampeded into the sea. It was actually pretty impressive. The best part was that they left the 10 or so elephant seals sleeping on the beach. They looked up at us a few times, but really couldn’t be bothered to move.  The babies and females are pretty cute, with big black eyes. The males… well, their proboscis isn’t as cute as it would be on an actual elephant.

Eventually a few of the braver sea lions returned, and then we could really see how big the elephant seals were – about 10 times the size of the sea lion.

Simon had been keen on trying touch some of the wildlife. For some reason, his translation from French to English had him saying ‘poke’ the animals. We did not correct him when he said he wanted to poke a sheep, but they were just too fast.

*we’ve still got a problem with the metal brackets in the very front center. They were also bent out of whack. We have bent them back to something close, but it still doesn’t close down correctly (and blows up when trucks pass). If anyone could trace a template or provide a profile photo of the exact shapes, we might be able to correct it. Until then, we’re still dependent on duct tape!

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Filed Under: Argentina

coffee and penguins

Posted on April 21, 2012 by 1 Comment

We chatted with one of the friendly (lonely?) rangers and he told us that all the action in the penguin colony was at sunset and at sunrise. We lucked out the first night and showed up when all the little guys were coming home from work and were making a big commotion.

So, we decided to come back at sunrise and see if the kerfuffle was any different.

It was – they were all pointed the other direction.  At sunrise, all the penguin dads put on their suit and head off to work. They get on a penguin highway from their little hole all cruise the way to the sea. They hop in, flop around and get everything good and wet, then take off like a pack of porpoises. Jumping and diving in and out of the water as they head out to sea. You can see them splashing and sailing in a line  all the way out to the horizon.

The ladies stay at home and take care of the nest. This doesn’t seem to entail much. This time of year, the adults are molting, so there is lots of preening and plucking. Later in the day, they start their unique family call (think donkey) so their mate knows where they are. When they get home, they trade places and the other goes out to fish for the afternoon.

At this time of year, the kids have already taken off. The newborns leave around February (at 4 months old) and head to Brazil by themselves. Mom and dad leave for warmer waters about now, so this is the end of the season here. Still, there are 9000 little pinguinos here to enjoy.

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Penguin sunset

Posted on April 20, 2012 by 10 Comments

Cabos Dos Bahias. I don’t recall where we heard about it (Phil?), but it’s another little gem.

There is absolutely nothing out here except empty coastline, penguins, guanaco, skunks, armadillos, tumbleweeds and a few park rangers. No visitors. For two days, we had the entire reserve to ourselves. Cool wildlife, great camping… and it was all libre.

I have to wonder if the people that claim that this drive north is boring didn’t ever get off the highway. The main highway north is terrible – windy, full of trucks, and not much to look at. But, there is some seriously cool stuff out here if you get off the pavement.

fun facts:

-penguins mate for life

-skunks and armadillos love to eat penguin eggs

-penguins don’t give a damn about you or me

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Rada Tilly

Posted on April 19, 2012 by 2 Comments

We stopped off at a small town outside of a big town. There wasn’t much to do here, so it seemed like a perfect place to stay for a few days. Rada Tilly seems to be the destination for weekenders from Comodoro Rivadavia and is full of fancy homes, but not much else.

The campsite had hot water, a quincho (a kitchen area for cooking and eating) and wi-fi, so why rush things? Besides, we all had some kombi work to attend to.

For us, those new CV boots we put on in Santiago… completely destroyed. We just duct taped some garbage bags on those and will leave that to another day. No parts here. We’ve been squeaking like crazy since Chiloe, so we had a grease job ($10 USD). Oh, and one of those brand new tires couldn’t seem to hold air. The valves in S.A. aren’t always the best, so we were hoping that was it. But the tire would be flatter and flatter every day, so we needed a gomeria. $10 USD. We also could not see out of any window. Car wash $8 USD. Oh, and we were out of clothes. $12 USD for a load of laundry. The Aux battery for our solar and fridge was just about a goner too, so throw in another $150 USD for a regular car battery.

Simon had to clean his carbs. He also discovered 2 tires in bad shape and had to buy new ones ($350 USD!) His muffler had some holes in it, but two different muffler shops wanted to charge him $500 USD for a repair. So he passed, hoping to find a welder in need of a few bucks to fix what he’s got.

Multi-taskers we are. The guys wanted to fish, so we hung up the laundry and waited for the tide to come in.  For 2 nights, the guys fished for tiny pejerrey (sea water silverside). I admit, I was doubtful. I’m not a huge fish person, so tiny boney things aren’t my favorite. But MC and Simon cooked us up a fish fry you wouldn’t believe. Absolutely awesome.


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