8th January 2004
We were up early to get on the first ferry back across to the mainland at Punta Delgada. The queue was a lot longer than last time and there were a few more lorries too. We were concerned we wouldn't get on and would have to wait for the next one. But yet again, we needn't have worried. We got on easily and were soon back to Punta Delgada and on our way to the Argentinian border at Monte Aymond.
From here on the road was a smooth, paved road, so we made quick progress to Rio Gallegos. We were half-way to our final destination that day - the Monte Leon National Park - but we needed to stock up on food. We parked up in town and after checking emails at the J@vaCyberCafe on Roca, we stopped for some lunch further along the road at La Parilla Diaz. Then, after another large succulent steak, we stocked up at the local supermarket and headed back out of town, keeping on the RN3.
To get to the park, about 210km north of Rio Gallegos, we had to leave the nice, fast, paved road and travel along RP 63, a rough gravel, pot-holed road off to the right. Keep a look out as you could easily miss the turning. The park consists of 62,168 hectares of patagonian steppe and more than 30km of coast. It felt quite remote and the canyons we drove through gave an almost wild west feel to the park with the rock formations and cacti sprouting up all over the place.
Entrance to the park is free, and as we entered there were leaflets available to take, with maps on what to see. There is also a sign stating that the park is not suitable for motor homes (not sure why, as the roads weren't that bad). We drove through Guanacos canyon and then parked up to walk the 1km or so to the penguin colony. They were quite shy, lots hiding away in their little holes in the ground, but you can get quite close to a few who were more curious than the rest. From the top of the headland you get a great view of the entire colony. Make sure you bring binoculars.
From there we drove on towards the Guardaparque and the only place where you can camp in the park. There was no one around, and it wasn't easy to see where you could pitch up. We asked another couple who had parked up and they seemed to think we could park and camp anywhere, so long as we were near a firepit. If you have a ground tent, you can camp in a cove below, next to various fire pits, and be fairly sheltered. As we had our roof-tent we had to stay up top on the headland - great views, just not so sheltered. As far as facilities go, there is a toilet block here although that is literally all. It was obviously out of season and the water was all turned off, but I managed to find the stop cock and turn it on just to fill up a jerry can with water as we were running low.
One thing we have loved whilst camping out in South America in the middle of nowhere are the fantastic sunsets and night skies. Tonight was no exception. As we cooked up some soup and the sun went down we saw the most amazing sunset with the sky lit up like a rainbow - all greens, yellows and reds. The photos just don't do it justice.