We stayed in a town called shrimps!! And saw a lot of penguins!!
Camarones is the Spanish word for prawn/shrimp (plural) and all throughout Central and South America we’ve seen towns named after the little fellas, which we thought…and probably forever will think…was so hilarious. I mean, who calls a town shrimp? Needless to say that when we saw we could finally lay our head to rest in a place called shrimp we took it.
The town itself was unremarkable save for the beautiful sunset. In fact, it was a one-shrimp kinda town. The even funnier thing about this town called shrimp was that it had a huge monument dedicated to salmon. Go figure.
Things in South America don’t always make sense to us.
Now I’ll be totally truthful with you: we didn’t go all the way to a town called camarones for a laugh. We actually stayed there because we had been slightly north in Punta Tombo to visit another huge Magellanic penguin colony. In fact, it’s the biggest in South America.
And indeed, the colony at Punta Tombo was more impressive than the one on Valdes Peninsula that we had seen the day before.
At both locations, people were seperated from the wildlife so you couldn’t walk wherever you wanted to. It wasn’t a huge deal for us but if you’re a photographer, or just generally hate being told what you can and can’t do while you’re a visitor in another country, it might annoy you. The reason for the forced seperation is probably because there are too many people who have tried to pet the penguins. Every single one of the penguins at Punta Tombo is there to nest and its good that we can let them nest and raise their babies in peace.
With that said, we got SUPER close to the penguins. They aren’t scared at all and some are even curious. Mostly they just ignore people though and go about their daily penguin business.
This is the second day we saw penguins, and awesomely, it won’t be the last!
In our last post, I was supposed to include all of this information about day 4 but I forgot! So here you go…a whole seperate post.
Magellanic Penguins! South American Sea Lions! Elephant Seals! Guanaco! Rhea!
These days were filled with more animals than driving, most of the kind that we were never taught about in school.
Unfortunately, the ones we weren’t taught about – like the rhea (a small ostrich type land bird) and the guanaco (related to the alpaca) – are a bit hard to get pictures of using an iPhone. So, all I really got for you were pictures of young sea lions/elephant seals (I don’t know which) play fighting on the beach and super up close shots of Magellanic Penguins. I hope that’s okay 🙂
This was the first time we’ve ever seen penguins in real life in the wild, and it was incredible! They are so darn cute.
Day three we drove around the Valdes Peninsula, which, like most of eastern Patagonia, was quite barren. We’d hardly seen a tree in days. The treeless views meant that we had no trouble spotting rheas and guanaco though.
There are also these funny birds that hate flying (but can) and have fancy little head pieces, which makes them look like they’re on their way to a British wedding. If their fru-fru head pieces have any survival value, I’d be super surprised.
They were perpetually crossing the road in front of us while we were on the Valdes Peninsula (and later we’d find out that they’d be doing through all of eastern Patagonia). They were rarely in a rush but when the started running, their little legs got going so fast that they looked almost like the Road Runner’s (not the same kind of bird, I just checked).
It’s probably worth mentioning that the day our dreams came true, a nightmare was unfolding for people in Paris. We caught a glimpse that something really bad was happening on an old tv in a great little bakery in Puerto Pirámides in the morning, but we couldn’t get the full story until that night.
We spent the night at a great campsite on the edge of Puerto Madryn, a place that had a huge beach and seemed quite energetic. If we had more time, I would have so been up for a lazy beach day.
Ugh you guys, I made a mistake and completely forgot to include even a single peep about day 4. Not really a problem, but the cover image is from Punta Tombo…not Puerta Pirámides. Sorry for the ghastly confusion.
Do you know what kind of thing a Guanaco is? Ya, I didn’t know it was even a thing either until I saw it on the side of the road.
It’s a relative of the alpaca but these guys are not domesticated – wild and free, jumping fences all over Argentina.
Here’s the story of how I got to know what a Guanaco is.
Our alarm went off at the hateful hour of 7am. No way were we making the same mistake again.
Because we were camping opposite a factory, we felt a bit weird about sticking around to make coffee for ourselves. We quickly packed up our roadside bed and headed off to the nearest gas station to refuel our car and ourselves.
Most of day two was spent driving through boring flat terrain. At least the sun was shining brightly instead of rain. We were even able to cook lunch on the side of the road.
Our goal was to make it to a proper campsite BEFORE it was pitch black. We’re learning lessons left, right, and centre here.
The campsite we had our eye on was on a peninsula – Valdes Peninsula – that was home to penguins.
The main thing though was that we arrived before dark so we didn’t have a repeat of yesterday’s failed attempt at finding a campsite.
And so…Matt drove over 1,000kms and more than 11 hours.
We paid our park entrance fee, and headed to town. And it was there on the side of the road that we saw our first group of Guanacos.
We did make our goal. We got to the campsite (which took a bit of finding) at 15 minutes to 7pm. The showers closed at 7pm – and we were desperate for a shower after sleeping on the side of the road! Before we even parked Peppy, we ran into the shower.
After our rushed but hot showers, we set about finding a good place to park for the night.
And hereto we learned another lesson: Peppy can’t drive through soft sand.
Oh ya, she got stuck. But luckily not for too long. The crisis was averted by Matt’s driving skills and my pushing skills.
Truly, we’re novices at this Campervan-I got through Argentina but at least we’re quick learners!
So, we toasted a successful day with a glass of kind wine and then cooked dinner out the back of our van while the sun went down.
As we were finishing dinner, our oblivious neighbours cranked their annoying music. So we packed up and moved to somewhere quieter. The amount of freedom in being able to do that is incredible.
Today, the first official day of our new free life, was marked by poor time management. And don’t you worry, I can hear y’all rolling your eyes, shouting BUT YOU’VE BEEN TRAVELLING FOR ALMOST 9 MONTHS AND HAVEN’T WORKED IN LONGER!!
We slept-in…we woke up at 10am. A good sign, on the one hand, that our van stays dark and cool and quiet. But it was also a sign that we really need to utilize our alarms again — something we try to avoid unless we have an early morning bus to catch and generally don’t need because South Americans have little concept of shared space — if we ever want to get going at a reasonable hour.
Now, ever since we entered Chile, 10am wake ups have been pretty normal. But we had about 6 hours of driving to do, so a lot, and we didn’t want to roll up at a camp site in the dark. So we should have set off way earlier. Like 8.
We made a bee-line for the campground exit at 10:40am and headed to Wal-Mart (yep, they have them in Argentina) to pick up supplies for our adventure. With a bill of about 1,300 pesos ($180 CAD) and not $180 worth of stuff (thanks stupid inflation, you asshole), we set off on our next task: shoving food in every nook and cranny in our van. Space is at a premuim in old Peppy, let me tell you.
Now it’s about 12:40pm and we’re ready to hit the open road. And open this dang road was. It was flat and full of cows for the WHOLE DAY. Heeeeyyyy Argentinian beef industry, I see you.
We saw nothing interesting – expect for the fact that I think cows are adorable and interesting… To make the flatness a bit worse, it was raining from morning to when we went to bed- alternating between a horrible drizzle and simply pissing it down.
Although actually, we did see some GIANT birds which shocked the crap out of me and Matt at their first appearence. I don’t know what it was…and I didn’t get a picture for you, but I wish I couldn’ve. It was like a HUGE heron or something from another planet hanging out in all the cow pastures.
A little bit about our route….we were driving from the outskirts of Buenos Aires to a tiny, one-well-illuminated- street town called Tornquist. The plan was to camp in Tornquist at a campground because there are some pretty hills there. We could hike for a bit or whatever once we got there. A little rain couldn’t deter us.
However…as the day worn on, it was getting later and later. (Obviously!! I can hear you shouting.) Our 6 hour drive was turning into 7 hours…then 8, then 9, then 10.
It was taking so long.
And we never even stopped for food – t’was a day of peanut butter and nothing sandwiches follwed by peanuts and chocolate and bread-y things and I don’t know how we didn’t starve. It actually wasn’t bad though…it was the food of freedom, after all!
So finally it’s 8pm and we’re at a pretty nice gas statio, topping up our gas for the 3rd time, debating about whether we should continue on our just camp at the gas station for the night.
That my friends, is the ultimate freedom: being able to sleep WHERE YOU WANT/NEED/AT A GAS STATION CAUASE THEY HAVE A BATHROOM cause your whole house is with you.
We decide to push on because:
It’s still light out and we’re optimistic that we can drive 200km (or whatever, nobody was counting anymore) in 40 mins beca about 80 km an hour average tells us so (??)
There’s no wifi, we’re not tired, and have been told/basically promised there’s wifi at every campsite and we don’t want to sit in a gas station starting at the roof of our van
Subconsciously we’re both afraid that if we turn our little butane burned on to cook dinner we’ll blow the gas station – and us – up
Neither of us talk about number 3. That. We don’t have to. Canada trained us to be terrified of any kind of flame at gas stations.
And so we drive. For a million more kilometers.
And by we, I mean Matt. Because I can’t drive standard, and EVERY CAR IN SOUTH AMERICA IS STANDARD. For our readers from not Canada…we call manual transmissions “standard”.
I’m an automatic gal all the way…and by virtue of that, also a permanent passenger who gets to be chauffered around Patagonia by her husband. 😀 Lucky me ’cause I hate driving!
Now that we’ve detoured here, let’s get back to our journey.
We roll up in the pitch black raining mess of 10:00pm at some random national park. We can’t see ANYTHING through the rain, save for a sign for pizza restaurant. Matt gets out to ask someone where the campsite is…it should be right around there but we can’t see anything.
In the dark and in the rain, he gets a loud knock at the window and a wag of the finger from the guy. Basically, “get off my property”.
Thanks for the help! But I guess that’s what you should expect from a person who keeps his dog outside in the rain.
So, we carry on a bit further into the national park and see a sign for a fancy hotel. Great, we can ask in there!
The hotel was fancy!! We pull up and a nice, friendly waiter in the hotel restaurant tells us there’s a campsite 500m down the road. We’re nearly there.
It’s around 10:30 at night now. We’re pretty tired and hungry.
We drive on and see the sign for the camping. It’s a long, windy driveway through some giant gates, similar to those found surrounding National Trust estates in the UK. We drive up, park, knock on the door and a voice comes from behind us.
Unfortunately, we had failed to see the group of 40 kids who were here on some kind of school trip. They were in the dining area eating dinner (at 11pm because Argentina is weird like that). Their teacher told us the campsite was closed for their use only.
We only had one choice.
We found a decent enough place, with a field on one side and a factory on the other, parked, made peanut butter sandwiches (again), brushed our teeth, and went to sleep.
I’m currently sitting in the Andean Roads campground in Buenos Aires admiring our Campervan. Sure, she’s not as fancy as a VW but she’s ours for 32 days…33 if you count today, day zero, our bonus day of sleeping in her!
We might not have a firm plan for where we’re going to go over the next month, but at least we have a name for our van.
Her name is Peppy because…she’s “got a bit of pep” as Matt exclaimed when we took her for a test drive to a nearby restaurant.
So there you go, meet Peppy!
Day Zero has been spent with Matt organizing all of our belonging to fit into Peppy. It’s a tight squeeze because well…look at her.
The table is the bed. The bed is the kitchen. And every crevasse has our things in it – not that we had a lot to begin with, but it seems like lots.
Tonight we get acquainted and figure out how the bed works, and how not to suffercate ourselves while keeping mosquitoes out of old Peppy.
Here’s to Day Zero!
Peppy got a little more action today. We cooked our first Campervan meal: pasta with tomato sauce and zucchini, onion, and red pepper. A meal I’m sure we’ll be eating well…everyday. It’s pretty funny cooking out the back our van!