It took a lot of phylosophical reasoning over a steak and several bottles of wine to decide on a change of direction. Yesterday’s exploration to the east of the Andes immediately gave us some cacti, looking at data from various sources (thanks Martin, Brian and Guillermo), it seemed that there were cacti in Patagonia on the Atlantic Coast. Not only that, but there are other attractions such as the Maggalean Penguins, Orcas and ‘seawolves’, large seals I guess, that appear on each other’s menus.
So we decided to drive right across the continent (if we ignore Chile for the moment), from Esquel on the Andean foothills to Trelew on the Atlantic coast. It was a straight run to the east, 602 km in all. You may remember the temperatures in the west were rather like those in England, around 5 C. The car thermometer gently nudged up to 12 C and it seemed right to try a leg stretch stop, S2127. The one thing that had not changed was the wind that was blowing at gale force and added a significant wind chill factor. It nearly took the car doors off their hinges and Cliff’s jumper took off and got caught on a bush. The wind caused the usual streaming eye problems – I might see if I can get prescription goggles – a realo pain and not very efficient as a cactus explorer. Still, I found some cute yellow flowered plants that turned out to be a small pansy and a cute yellow star flower with black spots on the petals, plus a nice unusual lizard. I wandered back to the car and stood around until the key holder would let me in. But John was waving madly some 500 m. away, pointing down at something at his feet. Juan was already there and did a little war dance. So I squeezed myself through the wire fence again – very tight, very narrow, but fortunately not barbed wire. And there it was! Austrocactus patagonicus (?) and in flower! – how else could you find it? Excellent spot, John.
More reading required when we get home as there seems to be hardly any difference between A. patagonicus and A. bertinii. Certainly less difference then we have seen at some locations between the different growth forms of the same plant!
We made one more plant stop – there was just no more time because I made the silly suggestion to stop for ham, eggs and chips at a roadside restaurant. Service was awful and the food ranks amongst the worst that we have had in South America. The price (145 Argentine pesos – about £31) was a shocker too, but hey, motorway catering is expensive and there was nowhere else to go for hundreds of miles. Except that this was no motorway and no ‘catering’ in the European sense.
As we progressed farther east, the outdoor temperature just kept on climbing, reaching 34 C! Eventually settling at 30 C as we entered Trelew. We are staying in a nice historic hotel (= needs updating) that claims that Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid stayed here during their South American adventures. ot much has changed since those days, except that there is now a wifi system that made me wrestle with my firewall until it let me in, but after Angie had given up on me.
Tomorrow we go sightseeing before, on Wednesday, we drive some 380 km south, still along the Atlantic Coast. At least we have found the sunshine again and we have some cactus spots along the way as well!