Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Península Valdéz

Aura and I just got back from a circuit around Península Valdéz. We spent the night before and the night after in Puero Piramides, which is a small town of 300 people on the entrance to the national park.

We got a little bit of a late start, but it didn´t seem like it would take to long to make the trip so it was okay. Our little VW Gol was not really made to travel around 200Km on ripio, but it was built well enough to endure it at least once. Our first stop was at Punta Delgada, about 70Km into the circuit. There we stood on a bluff about 150 feet above a beach were adolescent sea elephants were sunning on the sand. The were all napping and hard to see because we were so high up, so we departed pretty quickly. Besides, the security camera that kept watch over the tourists was making me nervous. I wasn´t sure if it was there to keep watch over us, to protect the sea elephants, or to settle insurance disputes after some dumb tourist got killed after climbing over the fence and falling to their death.

After that, we headed north toward Punta Norte, so 80Km away. Along the way we stopped on the side of the road and looked over the bluffs. It was really beautiful and the wind off the pampas cooled us off a bit as we watched more sea elephants play in the sea and sun on the beach some 100 feet below.

Another short jaunt brought us to Caleta Valdéz, which is a state run luxury hotel. We walked on some paths that took us down to the beach where we could actually see some sea elephants. The were all adolescents that could quite make the long swims at see that the adults do, and for the most part all they were interested in was napping. The were really cute for an animal that resembles an overstuffed sausage or a fat sack of fat.

Yet another quick drive brought us to a penquino colony were we stop for a bit to be reunited with our friends. A good number of them lined the shore, but as a sea elephant cruised up the shoreline the all scuried to make a 10 foot perimeter between them and the water line. We jumped in the car and made our way to Punta Norte with a few stops to see the Guanacos (which are pretty much a llama).

We weren´t even all the way into the parking lot at Punta Norte when we saw the first sign of wildlife. An amidillo was making his way toward the parking lot, but dove into a burrow as the car got close. We parked the car and made our way back to the burrow to see if we could see him again, but the armidillo was nice enough to meet us half way. It took us all of a second to realize that he was about as scared of us as we were of him, which was not at all. He sniffed us and made his way on his route toward the ocean.

We followed him and took the path down to the sea, where about a 100 sea lions were lining the shore. These were a different type of sea lion, I think, and the males weighed in at about 800 pounds! All the males were protecting their harems and having a pissing contest over who was the boss of the beach. They made quite a lot of noise and did a lot of biting too, but they were entertaining enough to draw a big crowd, including the armidillo.

After we´d had our fill of watching the boys bit eachother, bark, and make out with the girls we headed back to the car. On the way we ran into some animals that looked like the worlds smallest chipmonks, measuring all of an inch and a half long. When we made it back to the car, the birds were in a general uproar so we know something was up. We figured they were made at a small group of people that were headed down the trail to the sea, but then I spoted what they were really upset about. A small grey fox was trotting around looking for a snack and the birds didn´t like that at all. We stalked the fox as best we could, but it didn´t take long for him to notice us and drop into an arroyo.

We found a spot where we could see him trying to make his way into a bramble bush and eat an insect he seamed really interested in. The bush began to shake a little and the fox put his ears up and all of us were a bit nervous. All at once, our friend the armidillo stuck his head out of the bush and scared the fox to death! The fox made a sound like an angry squeze toy and shot up into the air. When he landed, be put his ears back and histed at the armidillo and jumped out of the arroyo and sat on the lip. The armidillo appeared quite pleased with himself and made his way down the arroyo in search of a snack. The fox sat on the lip and watched and the resumed his search for a snack as well.

We tried to leave but just couldn´t resist the chance to watch the fox and play with the armidillo, who seemed to be curious of anything that moved. We took about a hundred pictures and laughed until we were sore! After that, it was a 90 minute drive across the interior of the peninsula back to the hostel. We had a great diner and had a debate over which animal was our favorite. It was a close race, but I think the armidillo really was the star of the show.

We miss you all and can´t wait to share our stories in person!



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