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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PHOTOS FROM ARGENTINA

Still in the Andes
Can't resist taking photos
Following a river
A great Argentina road
The canyon we followed cross country...John is trying to show how windy it was!!
Camp spot right on Playa Pardelas...a very windy night, so GR2 got covered in salt spray

Another arty shot
Penguin beach at Peninsula Valdes
They are soooooooooo cute
Sealions and puppies at Peninsula Valdes
Aren't those Dads ugly
Families picnicking on the beach
A friendly Armadillo
Punta Tombo
So we don't get in the way of the penguin parade
Prices!!!!
Roads!!!
Mining town
Heaps of oil and gas
Old farmhouse (Estancia)
A petrified tree
Landscape near the petrified trees
Love those cliffs
and love the colours
Yet more roads
Those are all penguins!!!
Guanaco
Guanaco "troops"
Volcanic lake practically at sea level

ARGENTINA'S PENGUIN PARADE

Our last lake in Chile we saw through drizzle and rain, so we were keen to cross the Andes to finer weather. The border is of course at the top of the mountain range. Exiting Chile - no problems. Passport stamped & GR2's import licence handed back - then drive for 50km to repeat the process. No quarantine, no vehicle check, nothing. Sadly it's still raining so we pull into a camp area in the Nat Pk on the Road of Seven Lakes. It is still raining in the morning so we decide not to spend hours driving the scenic route and detour past Lago Tralford - great choice as it is a gorgeous drive (dispite the bad road). As the rain clears we head south through a gorgeous valley surrounded by huge craggy mountains. Then on to Bariloche (chocolate capital of Argentina) where we only stop for hot chocolates & cake. The place is busy. We are heading cross country to Peninsula Valdes on the Atlantic Coast - so a long drive is ahead of us (Route 62). It is pretty bare with very few towns. We pull over for the night in one of these between an ATM & the police station, and get a bonus of free Wifi!
The next 120km are pretty amazing - we drive through a massive river canyon - shades of Kings Canyon (Aus), but it is incredibly windy....saves us a lot of diesel. Once we leave the river the road becomes a tad boring. Finally we arrive at the Welsh town of Gaimam (I am hanging out for tea & scones- yummy - we think the waitress says $16ARG each, but it is $60ARG each!! We get a doggy bag.)
Then on to the most boring road yet, before finally reaching the Peninsula. Phew - it costs us $70ARG each (Argentinians pay $20 & locals pay a mere $7.....), but it is a "must see" destination. We have the whole weekend here as we are booked into an autoelectrician's on Monday to get the diesel heater looked at. We use 2 camp spots - the unofficial beach camp at Playa Pardelas as recommended to us by Stephen. and the next in the town of Punta Piramides on the end of the beach with other local motorhomes & caravans. We do the touristy drive to see the penguins nesting up & down the cliff and strutting their stuff on the beach, see the sealions with their "puppies" (who are adorable), and also see herds of guanacos, rheas (like small ostriches) and amardillos.
Monday we have maintenance work to do: firstly the diesel heater which had a broken wire, lots of groceries and finally GR2 gets a good wash. She was filthy from her time on the ship & in port, and also from the dust & salt spray on the Peninsula.
Our next detour is the massive "March of the Penguins Seaside Style" at Punta Tombo. Apparently there are half a million of them, not to mention all the babies they have just had. John is penguined out, but they are soooo cute, and just a tad stinky.
We carry on along the coast on a dirt road - camp right beside the beach & have a great BBQ steak, with not a soul in sight. Awesome. We give the next peninsula a miss as there are still more penguins and head inland for a change detouring to a petrified forest. For some reason I thought they would be standing!! They were all lying on the ground and had been for 150million years. Still the scenery was pretty awesome. A far cry from the flat Estancias (stations) we had been driving through.
Anyway southwards we go - again following the coastline with some lovely beaches and amazing cliffs, stopping at a few more Nat Parks and YES seeing a lot more penguins. Beaches covered in penguins !! There are signs for pumas, but we can't even manage to spot one.
Further south another border - all is very easy, just queues of people. Wait in line to get passports stamped, then wait in line and either hand in our vehicle approval, or receive a new one. Going into Chile they are fussy about food, so we have been feasting on our fruit and veges. This time they want us to boil our eggs - fresh one are not OK. Then onto a ferry and over to Tierra Del Fuego. Antartica here we come!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

OUR VOLCANO DRIVE

Our amazing volcano drive

PHOTOS FOR VALLEYS & VOLCANOS

Vineyards in the valleys

Start of our bumpy ride

Valparaiso's cable cars
Love those wires - Valparaiso house
Valparaiso streets
Parque Nacional Laguna Del Laja - camp spot

Same camp spot - different angle

The Laguna
Getting closer to Argentina
Side of Volcano between Monkey Puzzle trees
Our amazing road
Parque Nacional Congouillo

Campsite beside lake at Lican Ray

Yet another volcano

One of many wooden homes

Final camp site in Chile's Lake district

VALLEY'S AND VOLCANO'S

By the time we reach the gorgeous seaside town of La Serena the desert has started greening up. We finally have a double land motorway with tolls. So time to take a few scenic detours up into valleys where vineyards stretch high up into the hills. They look amazing against the dry mountains. Our second detour is a bit more difficult than anticipated - very narrow, twisting & steep for hours. We are quite relieved to stop for the night at a Nacional Parque full of more geogylphs.(Global Roamer 1 would not have made it!) After that the toll road seems more attractive.
Next stop the city of Valparaiso. We manage to find a semi guarded spot on the beach and head off to explore. It is very cute & very steep, but a few hours in the city is enough for us, so we head off. Back to the beaches, forgetting that we are nearer cities and it is holiday time....there are lots of locals camping & sadly leaving their debris behind. Definitely time to head inland to some national parks. We put in a lot of miles to get past the the cultivated countryside so we can get to the mountains.
Our first is Parque Nacional Laguna Del Laja. We arrive late and camp in an amazing spot on top of a lava flow beside the lake. The volcano is right behind us. The next morning we drive right around the lake nearly to the border of Argentina ( no we can't go yet, we still have fruit & veges to eat) so we retrace our steps and continue to our next parque.
This time through lots of forest plantations and open countryside. We are looking for Malalcahuello, but with no signs we have to ask for help. We finally get there and drive through heaps of amazing Monkey Puzzle trees and come out to find ourselves beside the volcano. My book says that there is a hour and a half walk to the crater...so we are hunting for this. We follow the road straight up the side of a volcano ( We both rate this as the MOST AMAZING drive yet) As we climb up we could see right into the crater of the neighbouring volcano...no need to walk at all (How lucky am I!!) We followed the mountainside for quite a while continuing down beside the massive lava flow and through more foliage. It was definitely a one way road. Not even sure where it went to, so we turned around and headed back, only meeting 3 other cars who had to reverse back to let us through. We slept down below in the Monkey Puzzle trees. The next morning was gorgeous, so we repeated the first part of the drive.
The next park was down a lot of bad dirt roads surrounded by lots of trees....Parque Nacional Congouillo. Here there are lots of beautiful blue-green lakes and the amazing (& active) Volcan Lliama. From here we head to Villarrica - a huge lake rather like Taupo in NZ, with it's own volcano towering over it. Around the lake there is some very expensive real estate and the resort of Pucon is pumping. Way to busy for us, so we continue to Lican Ray (yet another lake - I forgot to mention that we are in the Lake District) and camp beside the lake with yet another volcano behind us.
Just a few more lakes, and lots of little villages full of wooden houses - many in various stages of deterioration. It has started to rain. Tired of lakes and rain we head over the Andes to Argentina....actually this was the plan. Because of our delayed start we are taking the faster route south to pick up our cruise mid February.

PHOTOS FROM THE ATACAMA

Ancient Art on the hills (Geoglyphs)
Old Nitrate Mine - Humberside
More of Humberside
Iquique city- between the ocean and the dunes
Beaches...sand both ways
An amazing drive

Mano del Desierts - a great photo opportunity