December 23rd – Steph’s 27th Birthday
Just a blog update on the last few days which has primarily been travelling north from the deep south in and out of Argentina and Chile, sometimes on the same day. Each time you have to formally enter and exit. At only one border did the countries share a building therefore exit / entering by moving to the next desk. All others were back on the truck to drive a few hundred metres to another border post. The EU’s open borders are growing on me!
On our last night in Ushuaia we had a night out at the Casino. One of the fastest dealers and counters I have ever seen (and I have seen a few!). Unusual method of play in that dealer deals cards face down, you can’t pick them up but each player has to turn his own cards over one by one. Also they don’t peek to check for a dealer blackjack so you can go through the whole hand, hitting, doubling, and splitting only for the dealer to turn over blackjack. All good fun played for an hour and a half and lost 30 pesos (£4). Some of the group did significantly worse but one walked away with a nice £50 profit.
Steph, en-route south in the Truck your hen party playlist went down well with everyone as it’s amazing how many people know those classic songs regardless of age.
We have been at a combination of bush camping and camp sites, bush camping is great for the sense of being in the wilderness and the peace and quiet but downside is the lack of showers and toilets. A garden trowel and a loo roll being as good as it gets!
Weather wise we had a shockingly cold and wet night Thursday whilst camping which meant there was a bit of a truck party to delay going to bed. The truck has a well stocked bar (unsurprisingly currently managed by 2 Australians, cheers Duncan and Geoff), you simply mark down what you have and with beers at $1 a can and wine $5 a bottle it works well. People top this up with their own spirits. There where were a couple of serious hangovers next day, one guy who shall remain nameless to save his blushes not making dinner the next night. Incidentally these are allegedly “mature” people who really should know better. Reminds me of the Tammy incident in Vegas when things just sort of sweep you along, now that was a serious hangover eh Jim?
Campsites solve the facilities problem, but can bring noise and neighbours who aren’t always quiet. We did have a fantastic night at an estancia (farm) site, we were the only people on the site and there was a converted building with a built in brick barbeque and best of all table football (Photo courtesy of Lisa). This was a genuine antique and would be worth a fortune back home cleaned up and renovated. It was made of cast
aluminium in art deco style and was absolutely gorgeous. Good fun had by all. The half lamb cooked slowly on the barbeque with a nice bottle of Malbec just made it a perfect evening. The farm cockerel next morning at 5.30am was less welcome.
Even though the drive north is not the most interesting, largely miles of pampas with the occasional interesting vista. Nonetheless you do see some interesting wildlife sights en-route, surprising how rapidly views of the endemic guanacos (lama like) rapidly become mundane, we did see a rhea (ostrich family) with about 20 chicken sized young scuttling out of the road. It had also become something of a joke on the truck that we needed to spot an armadillo to complete sightings of the major animals. Lo and behold Pete screeches to a halt as there is one crossing the road. Funniest sight was Pete racing across the road to head it off before it disappears in the bush. So we all got to see an armadillo in the wild but regrettably no-one got a photo / video of either the armadillo or Pete’s dash.
A visit to Cuevas de Los Manos today, an interesting pre-historic cave painting site dating back 10,000 years and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Cave is slightly misleading as it’s more a massive rock overhang of several hundred metres in a glorious valley with a river running along the bottom, it’s quite stunning that the paintings have survived thousands of years when basically open to the elements, it is indeed a good shelter which is why it is assumed the nomadic tribesmen stopped there in the first place.
The name translates as “Cave of Many Hands” as the paintings are mainly profiles of hands with some drawings of animals and what are assumed to be spirits . These are done as a “negative” i.e. hand placed on the rock and then pigment sprayed from the mouth. It’s amazingly effective in a variety of colours blues, blacks and reds with rare green. Interestingly of the 800 plus hands logged only around 30 are right hands. The assumption being that the natives were primarily right handed and if blowing through a tube to direct the pigment spray would do this with their right hand except for the few lefties.
The hardy walkers hiked the 14km from our farm campsite to the caves the rest of us took the Truck option to the entrance and just walked the 2km to view the paintings. We had a charming guide who was very informative about the history of the site including the fact that until it was made a heritage site in 1999 it was open to anyone to walk up to and sadly in some cases deface the ancient art.
Bush camp in a small town Perito Mareno (same as the glacier) where we managed to leave a phone message with Birthday greetings to Steph and speak to Jim and send a couple of emails. The telephone cabins and email were in an Ice Cream bar. Bill for 30 minutes internet and 5 minutes phone call to UK Arg $12.50 and Ice Cream Arg $20.00!
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