After a wonderful stay in Cabana Hospedaje Celi across street from bus terminal in Esquel, we got on 8am bus for 9 hr ride thru some truely amazing, beautiful country. The terrain chg was huge outside Esquel...shallow ponds, flamingos...our trip enhanced by panoramic seats - front of bus, above driver - plus a very coop cloud cover which going E. Makes viewing easy. Sun not blinding us and not super hot either. Wide open grasslands, tons of sheep just sheared, & cattle. 4 sightings of rhea (bird like ostreich but smaller), very tough to see being gray/tan like the brush hereabouts (very flat wind-swept terrain and birds run fast or are feeding w/ heads down). Really amazing such a bird manages survival here but with few humans and really no other preditors! We see along the road shrines, many with red flags others with plastic bottles filled with water. The story goes that back in early 1800s near Corrientes in N. Argentina there was a´Robin Hood' kind of guy, Gauchito Gil, who flew a red flag everywhere he went. When he was finally caught he performed a miracle...he told the executioner that when he would get home that day his son would be seriously ill but if he spoke Gil's name the boy would live. This came to pass, the boy lived and since that time whenever someone makes these memorials they put up red flags, 'The person who it is for, lives!' I guess that's the message. There's another version we heard later in which 'Gauchito' when finally caught had to be taken all the way to Buenos Aires by a 12 man military guard. Of course, he was not allowed to ride a horse and they tied his hands and 'dragged' him along behind them. At night when they stopped to camp one of the guards took pity upon him and gave him food and water. He died before arriving in B.A. but before he did he cursed the 11 and the kind guard was blessed. Afterwards, the tale goes the 11 died in various gruesome ways but the one kind soldier upon reaching home found his son gravely ill and prayed in the name of Gauchito to save him. This came to pass and for this reason they fly the red flag in honor of the blood shed by Gauchito. Also, the bottles of water hark to a story in which a woman died on the desert in the N. and her baby survived by suckling her even tho she was dead...these are very weird beliefs, but then who's to say!
Recent rains have brought out the flowers alongside the road, primrose and other yellow flowers called yellow button flower, plus small white ones as well. Another Mari says is like gum weed we have in US, sticky flowers. Luck is still with us, clouds remain...few times sun has come out it is sizzling inside even with curtains closed. Wind is constant, even the short 6¨ bunch grasses are permanently pushed over towards the E. Really great river valley w/ spectacular rock colors in layers - red, rust, green, brown, cream, salmon - kind of like Badlands, carved by centuries of wind and water erosion. Later into vbolcanic rock pinnacles, fabulous shapes plus past noon, sun out but overhead or behind us! What incredible timing/luck. The turquoise/green river bottom lands contrasting w/ towering rock walls are impressive. But it all ended about halfway along on our trip, kind of suddenly we enter flatlands.
In town we check out several places ending up at a place, Hostal Viajero, recommended by the gal we arranged out tour for tomor to see whales, elephant seals, orcas, sea lions, and some Magelanic penquins hopefully. She was very nice, gave us a 16% discount plus a retired people discount (even incl Jake in that one) which kind of soothed the way to decide to do it. Still costly at $90 US, but lasting all day. The Hostal also gave us a little break and it's not far from the bus terminal.
Bus was to pick us up at 7:15 but arr at almost 8...then some more waiting for others...eventually leaving town about 8:30. The guide spoke English and was very good at putting up with delays (not of her making by the way). There were folks from Israel (4), France (2), Swiss (2), MX (1), Spain (1), Brazil (2), and us 4 just to give and idea of tourist mix here. We learned from our guide that this area has the largest aluminum plant in Argentina, ALUAR, (due to electricity available as well as bauxite from Brazil), plus they ship tons of volcanic rock/tile to Italy mostly, fish processing plants (6) mostly owned and shipped to Spain, alot of ceramics produced, and P.M. is known for its tourism, especially for being the dive capital of S. America. The tour goes out around Vazquez Peninsula our first stop in the N. was to see orcasMore Info On Orcas
and we were very lucky to see ll of them as they cruized the beach hoping to grab a sea lion or elephant seal. We saw these guys as well but the orcas were not successful in their hunt while we were there. Our guide said that any films we see about orcas (Natl Geo or other) are almost all filmed here. Next a short stop at a small colony of Magellanic penquins More Penguin Info
on our way to Punta Cantor at the end of Caleta Valdez, a naturally formed estuary where the currents have created a sand bar and left a bay of calm sea for birds and other wildlife to live, really cool. Along the way we saw groups of guanicos, llama-like critters but smaller plus patagonian hares called Mara. Finally, the boat trip in the bay where from Oct-Dec the S. right whalesMore Whale Info
give birth to their young and teach them to swim. The end of the season now yet we still saw at least 4-5 pair of them, again really cool up close like that.
The boats launch uniquely from a shallow bay within the larger bay via a tractor-like vehicle which tows them on a trailer out into the water and on return the boats drive up on the trailer to be hauled out. Especially good because it does not require a huge dock or other permanent buildings into the water. Our boat was really nice having several different levels to stand on for viewing/taking pics. Passengers could move about and rotate positions so everyone has a chance to get a good view.
Finding an internet w/ Skype was a trial once we returned around 6. I went to 4 different one over a period of almost an hour, hiking in a huge circle around the city center eventually ending up near the central plaza on the coastal drive. It amazes me that a country seemingly so 'western' and really quite modern, has so few internet facilities...but that's the US too, isn't it!?!