Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Roads of Patagonia: A River Runs Through It

I stole the joke of the title from the Lonely Planet Guide commentary on the worst roads in Costa Rica, however it applies today to our little sojourn.

Again with Franca the Italian and Pedro our driver/guide we set off at 8am for our all day excursion to Parque Peninsula Valdes a UNESCO site bursting with seals, penguins, orcas and armadillos.

It does not rain in Patagonia. It is a pure desert. That is except when Beth and Catherine decide to visit. Then you get an all day rain interspersed with tropical downpours that made any visibility impossible. This meant that the unpaved roads which consist entirely of very small polished gravel rocks from the sea and heavy, enormously sticky clay, become the highways of nightmares.

Pedro gunned through huge clay ruts flooded out which sent our car spinning and donuting all over the road leading C and I to express extremes of terror and fear.

Pedro like any good Argentine thought it was "fun". I finally figured out they drive like maniacs not because it{s habit, but because they really enjoy it. Worst is that if you ask them to slow down they tell some sad fib just so they can continue to relish their hours of driving like Mario Andretti in the company car.

During the cloudburst from the south of the pennisula to the north, I commented that never had I driven 45 km straight fishtailing the entire way. This is not an exageration.

We came upon a young couple, their car spun off the road, their tires buried in over 1 ft of gravel and which could not be extricated except without finding a shovel, which no one had. We left them assuring them we would notify the park rangers who would call civil defense.

As C and I clutched desperately at the handles of the door, Pedro drove like someone from a monster truck derby through the many rivers which now entirely flooded the road. Clay repels water, oesn{t absorb and thus, the entire road looked like it was covered in snow: flood waters of white clay pouring out from the surrounding desert.

Franca of course being from Milan demanded Pedro 'Dukes of Hazzard' it through the most flooded roads so she could video the entire experience on her Sony while C and I screamed in fear in the back.

It was only at the end of our journey that Pedro revealed, that not only as a former farmer had he negotiated more flooded roads than Noah, but that his hobby was off road driving.

Might have told me that earlier.

Oh and the Seal Lions were great. Hundreds and hundreds covered the beaches and surfed into shore on the waves while their little pups raced back and forth across the beach in gangs of playmates. The whole lot roaring and barking.

Behind lay the immense aquamarine blue of the Atlantic. The sky above was a dark blue while bolts of lightning shot down into the waves and the sound of thunder echoed off the cliffs and mingled with the howls from below.

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