So Lodzi was broken down but……
The journey back west across Argentina was by coach and Kerry insisted on "Coch y Cama" in other words - the seats are like beds. After a very comfortable nights sleep across Argentina we arrived in Puerto Madryn and headed straight for the car rentals as we had calculated this would be the cheapest way of touring the Valdez Peninsula.
Not quite a Landrover, we ended up with 3 door Fiat Paulito which we used extensively criss crossing the Peninsula for 4 days on dirt roads. At the end of which we were actually thankful we did not have Lodzi!!
The Peninsula is a vast protected area of coast line where whales come to breed, elephant seals come to breed, penguins come to breed, sea lions come to breed and Orcas come to feed!! We were here specifically for the Orcas. This is one of only two areas in the world where Orcas beach themselves hunting sea lions.
On the first day we arrived at "Punta Norte" we saw two pods of Orcas come in to the bay to eye out the menu, but no action. The following day no hunting action but we were given a fine display of an Orca breaching in the distance - awesome. Day three was a blank. Day four the Orcas arrived just after high tide and boy did they look hungry. One Orca proceeded to hunt just in front of us to the point of us encouraging the seal pups to go for a swim - but no joy. He cruised the beach twice about 250 metres from us which was spectacular and then they finally went a bit further away and were successful with a beach attack. Every-one was very excited and our patience had paid off.
We returned overnight Sunday evening and headed straight to the mechanics for an up-date. The verdict was not good- all the parts had been returned but assembly would take a week!!! Why I asked? The mechanic responsible for putting the engine back together was on holiday and would be back Tuesday evening!! So much for the deadline of trying to get to Ushuaia for Kerry's birthday on the 10th.
After daily up-dates we eventually decided the best course of action would be to not rush anything and make sure we were happy with the vehicle. Our decision was to take the car for a weekend test drive - return it on Monday for a full check and then we could continue our journey. Kerry would have to spend her 30th Birthday in the Patagonian lake district. We headed out into the "7 lakes" journey which was awesome and had wonderful weather for the whole day trip. We arrived in a quaint town, San Martin de los Andes in a mountain basin beside a lake and checked into a cheap hotel.
Sunday was Kerry's big day - an old woman - the weather was not that great but we did a full day off-road driving to some natural hot springs in the mountains and remote lakes all the way to the border of Chile. That night we checked into a plush hotel where we got our own Cabana with views over the whole valley and lake. A wicked end to the day for Birthday girl.
Monday morning we returned to the mechanics for a final check and were thankful all was well, time to be getting on.
We finally left Bariloche on Tuesday morning and had decided our route south would be along the infamous Route 40. A notorious dirt/gravel road running for over 1000km through Patagonia being the shortest route South. 4 days of awesome, slow, driving on some of the best and worst gravel roads we have ever encountered saw us into El Chalten - base of the Fitz-Roy Massif range. Luck was with us with the most perfect weather and supurb views. We drove through the town and down another dirt road to Lago Desierto in virgin forest and camped beside a river. The next day was wet and windy and we drove back into the town and booked into a hostel for a hot shower and to get laundry done.
Next stop was El Calafate, the doorstep into the Perito Marino Glacier National Park.
The Glacier was very impressive and was the only advancing glacier in the world till the late 90's. We camped, alone, in the deserted campsite 7kms from the Glacier and woke up to snow in the morning. The visit to the Glacier was beautiful and we were witness to numerous chunks of ice breaking off and crashing into the lake. The noise was likened to a shotgun going off in your ear which would then echo through the valley.
Three more days easy driving, crossing the Magellan Straits and driving across Tierra del Fuego we are now in Ushuaia, famously known as the most Southerly city in the world. We are only about 600 miles from the Antarctic, in short, very cold.
The delay with the car has put us back three weeks but we have now seen the whole of Patagonia in autumn. All the trees range in colour from green through crimson, red, okra, yellow, orange and brown and everything in between. All this with the backdrop of snow capped mountains and crystal clear lagoons, creeks and lakes can only be likened to Calendar and Post card photos with sometimes indescribable beauty.
We have spent a couple of days driving the whole area and visiting all the major tourist areas which have included the National Park, the Beagle Channel (named after Charles Darwin's ship that sailed through here), and then the most southerly of practically everything you can think of from Prisons to Museums and Garages. The weather is changing very quickly now and it snowed for over 7 hours last night. It feels like it should be Xmas! Hopefully heading North now we should be chasing the good weather.
What a feeling of achievement to now have driven from top to tail of South America covering over 16,000kms in the Landy, over 1400 kms by boat and over 2000 kms by coach and we are both just as exited as when we started!! It is a huge milestone as the next 6 months will all be spent driving north so literally a turning point in our epic journey. We are now firmly committed to extending the journey but are not sure yet for how long or how so any contributions to the Lodzi Expedition travel fund would be welcome and you get a personalised e-mail from us once a month!!
The offer is still open if any-one wants to hook up for a couple of week's enroute anywhere. So, keep the e-mail correspondence coming in as it is nice to hear from everyone and we have found Internet cafes in some of the most remote towns and villages imaginable. The world is definitely all wrapped up in a keyboard and a phone line now.