Friday, January 05, 2007

In Patagonia

Title is of course of the Bruce Chatwin book, a very good read if you come across it. A collection of interlinked stories as Bruce travelled through Patagonia.

Am now in Comodoro Rivadavia, [GPS: 45.86685S, 67.48130W], a sea port on the Argentinian Patagonian Atlantic, having flown down here with Aerolineas Argentina. Two and a half hour flight, and sat next to a lovely young lady called Cecilia, who is studying the variation in number of vertibrae in fish around here. I asked if they eat them once they have finished studying - apparently not as they use some sort of drug to kill them. Shame. Plus if you spent the whole day studying fish, you eat beef steak for dinner! Beautiful landing, swinging out over the sea and then coming in to the runway which starts right by the water, as the sun set. Oil was discovered here in 1907, and this is what still drives the town's prosperity.

You'd never guess it's an oil town

Unfortunately I'm not here long enough to visit the main tourist sight of the town - the Museum of Petrol! Taxi into town for 25 pesos - £6, which seems fairly pricey but can't really argue. I spent the night at Hospedaje Cari HuĂ©, recommended by the book. My book suggests it should have cost US$ 7-11, but I paid 70 pesos, about £17.50 or $35!! This is a totally bargain basement place, and it's a quite concerning introduction to inflation and Patagonia in the peak season. At least they stock enormous bottles of beer, though I only manage one before falling very fast asleep!

Could be Whitstable!

Apparently at low tide you can spot sea lions, though I haven't managed yet. I wondered whether it was worth staying a few days here, as there is supposedly lots of wildlife along the coast. However the chap in the hostel told me not to bother. Okay then! So I'm booked on to a "Sportman" bus (44 persos, £11) to Perito Moreno on the West side. 6 hour bus ride. Near PM there is Cueva de las Manos - a volcanic canyon with a series of 10,000 year-old colour paintings of human hands and animals. After there another hour to Los Antiguos, where they are having a Cherry Festival, across the border into Chile at Chile Chico, then down to Cochrane and Villa O'Higgins for the good stuff! This is the plan anyway.

Temperature here lovely after baking in Brazil for the past few weeks. Gentle cool breeze but bright sunshine. I think you could equate my travel yesterday to flying from Sicily to Stockholm. The town is also apparently always windy - there are several wind-turbines up on the hill behind the town, which is dusty brown with scrub grass - totally different from the vivid greens further North.

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