Here are all the posts for my first trip to Argentina. This is part of the Patagonia trip. Also see the Chile travelogue which overlaps with Argentina. I returned to Argentina again; here are those posts.

Argentina 1 Photos

Here are some of my favorite photos from my first trip to Argentina. Click any photo to see slideshow.


Map: Fishing Zones

We plan to visit each of the three major fishing zones in Patagonia. This region is generally regarded by fly fisherman as among the best in the world.

made it, Bariloche

On Sunday, 26.11, we flew from Santiago to Bariloche via Puerto Montt. The Andes are spectacular. It was cloudy, so we only had occasional views. They are like the Rockies in that they have large peaks. But they are also like Oregon with the volcanic cones. Many of the cones are new. They are unique in that there are spikes of rock at the top of the peaks.

When we left Santiago, it was hard to get cool. Here, we are pulling out our warm clothes from the luggage. It is springtime in the mountains. Santiago was hot summer. From our hotel room we see a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

We had excellent paella last night at a Spanish restaurant (as in a restaurant that serves cuisine typical for the country of Spain). Afterwards, we visited a chocolotateria. Bariloche is known for its chocolate and it did not disappoint. After breakfast and getting provisions, we head north.

Map of northern Patagonia


We´re staying in Junina de los Andes. Flew from Santiago to Puerto Montt to Bariloche. Drove our Suziki FUN over dirt (rough) road Siete Lagos. We are staying in an apartment. Fishing is good. Scenery is reminiscent of western United States.

photo of fishing Patagonia

Here is a photo of my very first Patagonian fish, a nice rainbow taken below La Herradura. That’s Dawn fishing where she caught her first fish. It’s hard to see, but the white triangle in the center is Volcán Lanín. The river is Rio Chimehuin.

Junín de los Andes

We like Junín. We have been here about a week and had planned to leave in a couple of days, but have now extended our stay another week. Our hosts are Alicia and Natalio. Alicia has warm, Latin blood. We can’t make it through the gate to our cabaña without enthusiastic greetings complete with kisses on the cheek. Natalio took us on an excursion up in the mountains in his truck (king cab, very comfortable). Our cabaña is nice: living room, private bath, two bedrooms. Also, TV, microwave, bidet and a kit for making mate. Until recently, it lacked a coffee pot; I have now purchased a new drip filter. I had been cooking coffee cowboy (perhaps gaucho) style, but the grit got to me.

Patagonia is reminiscent of Colorado, except it’s warm in December and there are few people. Yesterday, we climbed a volcano, Volcán Lanín (3776 m.s.n.m.), in the national park. We did not climb it to the top. It is a technical climb requiring crampons, pick axes and an experienced guide. There is plenty of ice and snow. We climbed just short of the snow along a ridge known as Espina de Pescado. The volcanic rock was black, the snow white, and the sky intensely blue. The patches of shrubs were green. We climbed high enough to get an excellent view of the surrounding snow capped peaks.

The air is very dry here. During the afternoon, the sun is fierce; it is easy to get hot and burned. After dark, it cools off quickly. We use our down jackets for evening walks and turn on the gas heaters in our cabaña. Even during the afternoon, it is cool in the shade. It is early Spring here in the mountains.

To the west of Junín lies the Andes. Our hosts took us to Lago Huechulafquen. From Puerto Canoa (on the lake), we took a cruise around the lake to see lava flows and rock formations. The cruise was narrated by an enthusiastic docent speaking in Spanish and aide by lout speakers. When it started raining, his assistant used a squeege to clean the windows!

On maté. It was on this cruise that we first became acquainted with maté. The couple behind us were friendly. The woman was sipping a beverage. It appeared to be a type of metal straw inserted into a gourd or brown hand grenade. They asked if we liked maté. I had just stood up to buy some beverages and replied that I was going to find out. I went to the back counter and looked at the soft drinks and candy. I noticed the stove was going for hot drinks. I asked the man for two matés. The waiter was somewhat dumbfounded and replied he couldn’t do that. He called the Tour Guide who explained mostly in Spanish with some English that you can’t buy
maté; you can only be given maté. You can buy the gourds and other equipment, but not the drink itself. I said I understood and asked if I could buy a soft drink; he laughed.

When I returned to my seat, Dawn was sipping on a maté. She handed it to me. It was at once astringent and sweet. The straw was stainless steel and flat at the top. The herbs appeared stuffed into the gourd which was made of pottery. The man had a thermos of hot water to refill the gourd. As we disembarked, we noticed most parties had maté kits. Some were modest elongated plastic bags while others were ornately carved leather cases. After our excursion, our hosts invited us to ¿Toma maté? Again, a gourd stuffed with herbs was passed around. A thermos provided additional hot water. You slip slowly from a metal pipe. As I sipped, I kept wondering if the herbs contained something more than caffiene. Somehow, it reminded me of late night rituals in my college dormitory. At the grocery store, I now see there are more kilos of maté than coffee and there are all sorts of related paraphernalia.

fishing report, Rio Chimehuin

We have found fishing here everything we hoped for. Clear, cold rivers flow from the mountains and provide abundant habitat for trout. At its best, I released six fish in an hour, each ranging from fourteen to eighteen inches. The largest fish so far has been a heavy brown twenty inches in length. We have found Rio Chimehuin which drains from Lago Huechulafquen the most most productive. Mostly, I use what I think of as a standard nymphing rig. Nine-foot five weight rod, nine foot leader with 5X tippet. Size 16 nymph (Hare’s Ear, Prince Nymph, Pheasant Tail all work fine). Fish the seams of riffles. In the evening just before dark, there is a caddis fall and fish can be caught downstream of the overhanging willows. I caught the large brown this way. He was vacuuming up caddis without any concerns. I could see his broad head roll over to take my fly even though it was too dark in the shadows to actually see my fly. He ran out into the main current and raced downstream. It was difficult to get him to the net. His color was spectacular even in the low light. So far, our best spot on the Chimehuin is south of town where the road curves and there are many statues of San Ignacio.

Rio Curruhué was a bust because its entire length is fenced and inacessible. There is access under the bridge, but we only caught one small fish. Similarly, Rio Malleo is slow fishing. Although extremely picturesque with many views of Volán Lanín, we found few fish. We tried both above the interesection with 23 and below the five-peso Mapuche gate.

For unknown reasons, the custom here is to take siestas. People arise early for work and school. But in the afternoon the stores close. Dinner is served very late. We typically fish until dark which is now after 9 p.m. and then return to town. (It gets light before 6 a.m., don’t know when). All the restaurants are open. We are easily seated a 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night. Even when we are leaving, more people are arriving for diner, often with young children. We have attempted to adjust our schedules because the best fishing is apparently in the morning and evening–so essentially we can fish two shifts with a siesta in between.

freight train on a kite string

Yesterday we went to the mouth of the Rio Chimehuin where the river begins at the outlet from Lake Huechlafquen, “la boca.” This is trophy water famous for many fish, big fish and renowned fisherman.

We were suiting up when the game warden presented himself and asked for our licenses. We have met the game warden on most of our fishing excursions. They typically show up on cross-country motorcycles, ask for your permit and after carefully inspecting it, leave. They are friendly in an official way. El Señor Hugo Felix, the guardfauna, turned out to be an extremely hospitable, well-informed guide. He showed us the popular fishing spots and told us their names. He pointed out fish and told us about popular methods for catching the fish. From the bridge, he pointed to several extremely large fish and groups of smaller fish swimming peacefully in the crystal clear water. When prompted, he told stories of famous fisherman that knew particular fish by their markings and could catch them with a single, well-placed roll cast.

I started fishing the boca where it is more lake than river. I was preparing my line for the first cast when the first fish struck my line. I was ill prepared. I fished downstream. I caught a small one and lost another. I was using my seven weight in the wind. The wind is easterly–and although it was light, it created one to two foot waves. In the river proper is a large, submerged rock. Hugo spotted a feeding fish and said I needed a long cast to reach it. I could cast that far, but the fly floated over the head of the fish. Hugo said I needed to get deeper. But when I added weight, the BB kept flying off on my backcast. My roll cast came up short.

Meanwhile, Dawn had positioned herself to drift nymphs to feeding fish under low-hanging willow trees. She captured and liberated (Captura y Liberación) three fish all well over twenty inches. She fought two of them for about fifteen minutes each. I returned to my fish at the point of the rock and switched to my usual technique of deep nymphing and finally managed to hook a nice rainbow.

When we decided to take a lunch break. Hugo set up some chairs and a table for us in the shade. We told him of our travels. He is from Junin and has worked for the department for twenty years. His schedule is fourteen days of work followed by four days off. For fun, on his vacation, he goes to northern Argentina to fish dorado. They have teeth that require special leaders. He suggested we try our five-weight rods for better feel and because the wind was not especially strong.

After lunch, I switched over to my five weight. I had been using a 3X tippet on the seven-weight, but left the 5X on the five-weight. Both Hugo and the fishing book suggested using a wooly bugger. I decided to fish with a Prince Nymph, a fly I have a lot of c0nfidence in. I tied on a 14. I flipped the fly into the slack water below the piling of the bridge. I pulled my line tight and a giant fish leapt up. I was ill prepared. My reel began to sing, spinning madly as the fish swam into the main current and chugged downstream, careening and leaping. It reached the bend in the river, paused, took a final leap and disappeared. I tossed the same fly into the river and again hooked another fish. This fish immediately snapped my line at the leader and disappeared. Because this is the big one that got away, I cannot say that the one that jumped in the air reminded me of an Alaskan king salmon or that the size of its head was as big as my thigh. I will say that confirmed catches from this trophy boca include a twenty-four pound brown.

I caught several more fish including another nice rainbow. Dawn won the prize for the day. We were both tired and cold from standing in a river fed by melting, volcanic snow with out faces blown by the wind and burned by the sun. Hugo was kind enough to invite us into his trailer home and offer us hot tea and bread with jam. After conversing for awhile, he said it was nice we could speak Spanish. He has lots of visitors from the States, especially Montana, but most only speak English. We thanked him for his introduction to “la boca” and told him that without him, we would have had a good day, but with him, we had a special day.

photos, Bariloche

goingroom with a view
Here´s a view of a volcano in the Andes. I took the picture while we were flying from Puerto Montt to Bariloche. We stayed at a nice hotel in Bariloche; this is the view from our room window.

photos, Lanin

with Alicia and Diario
This photo shows Dawn with our hosts, Alicia and Diario. They took us on an excursion for a boat tour.
The other picture shows our enthusiastic tour guide telling us about the mountains and geology.

Esquel, arrived here December 13

We left Junin yesterday morning. We drove six hours or about 500 kilometers south to Esquel. We are in the real Patagonia, now. As we drove Route 40 south from Bariloche, the Andes were on our right and the plains dropped off to our left. Route 40 is the major route that spans Argentina from north to south. It is paved with asphalt. In some places, it has stripes down the center and guard rails as a defense aginst rolling over in steep curves. In many places, it has neither curves or guard rails; the asphalt is pitted and cracked with many potholes. The mountains on the west are interesting. The steppes to the east over time accumulate into one, never-ending sameness of dry, claylike hills blown by hot, gusty winds. Small trees give way to low-lying shrubs and hills to knolls. My understanding is the continent stretches south for 1,000 kilometers this way.

But we drove to the West into the Andes. Esquel is tucked among several mountain peaks, all snowcapped. It has about 35,000 inhabitants. We are staying at a nice, rustic cabaña on a hill west of town.

We intend to visit the Pargue Nacional Los Alerces
for sightseeing, trekking and fishing. There are many lakes there including the well-known Futalaufquen. Connecting the lakes are rivers–and hopefully trout. We are nestled in the continental divide of the Andes: the water flows east to the Atlantic via Rio Chubut and to the west via Rio Grande also known as Rio Futaleufù. The Chileans have seeded their waters with Pacific Salmon (stocked them for aqualculture) and the salmon have now made their way to the headwaters in Argentina.

The weather was warmer in Junin. It could be a cool day here. This morning we turned the heater on and wore down jackets. During late afternoon, it warmed up and I am now wearing short sleeves. When I first awoke this morning at 5:30 a.m., it was light; last night when we were eating supper at 9:30, it was getting dark. (By first awoke, I mean I went back to sleep. And, actually, I awoke for the third time after my siesta. :-) ). There are a few small Christmas trees here and some decorations, but it is hard for me to be in a Christmas mood.

photos, Lanìn

at Volcan LaninHere is a photo of us in front of Volcàn Lanín. We climbed for a couple of hours to the point where snow and ice began. Beyond that, you need a guide and technical equipment. The tree on the right looks like a bonsai tree. It is growing on volcanic ash near Lanin. I took the photo while we were on a boat tour of the area.

photos, Boca of Rio Chimehuin

Laninat the bocaThe Rio Chimehuin runs out of Lago Huechulafquen which is fed by glacies in the Andes including Volcàn Lanìn, shown at the right.

photos, Dawn fishing

nice oneHere is Dawn fishing and one of her big fish. Dawn has caught three fish over 20 inches. She also caught the first fish. I have caught the most fish and the most unusual fish (a silver colored brown trout).

photos, Junin and flower

chochoHere is the river in Junin. It runs right through town. The flower are lupin known locally as chocho.

photos, Patrick fishing

arucharyaHere I am with a brown in a riffle that was very productive. The tree is an Arycharya Tree and the spot is called the Arycharya Pool.

photo, BBQ

Argentainian BBQThey have a different way of BBQing things here, parrailla. Note the gaucho has taken his hat off and hung it in the corner. See his red sash. You can`t see his dagger (faucon), but he has one tucked behind him. I was having an espresso in a cafe one morning and looked up to see a dagger.

map, Esquel area

We’ve moved south from Junin to Esquel. The park is to the west of us where al the lakes are marked. We drove up there for the first time yesterday. We visited a guide that we have engaged for a float trip down the Rio Rivadavia on Monday. His family has lived there since 1900. The park was developed in 1937 and they have the rights to continue living there. The lakes are deep and clear.
Thanks to William C. Leitch and his book, Argentine Trout Fishing, for maps, orientation and lots of information.

photos, flamingos and bamboo

I was very suprised to see pink flamingo and bamboo. I just didn´t imagine they were here. But they are.

photos, us and FUN

Fun, car
Here we are with Lago Verde and Parque Nacional Los Alerces behind us. We’ve been driving a Suzuki FUN. It has good mileage and holds all our equipment. But it is noisy and bumpy on the gravel roads. Also, we have to take our fly rods apart when we drive.

photos, maroòn and Rivadavia

Rivadaviabrown trout
Here is an underwater photo of a brown trout I caught. The Riò Rivadavia flows from Lagò Rivadavia and later into Lago Verde.

next destination

We have enjoyed our stay in Esquel. Our cabaña worked out fine. We visited some waterfalls. The fishing report is that the National Park seems the best. Arroyo Pescado is all private and very expensive, even by U.S. standards. Rìo Grande (aka Rìo Futulafquen) is very big and very full of water. There are not many obvious access points. We fished above the bridge right before the international crossing into Chile. We are still uncomfortable climbing under barbed wire fences to access the river by crossing someone’s land.
We floated Rìo Rivadavia in Parque Nacional Los Alerces yesterday with a guide. We had difficult weather (wind, cold and rain), but worse, recent heavy rains had the river swollen with cold water and the fish sulky. We did catch some very nice fish and saw literally hundreds of them. Earlier in the week, we briefly fished Rìo Arrayanes and also saw lots of fish. (Arrayanes are a type of tree that looks like a Madron (if that helps?)). More than anything, it felt like the Patagonian Andes, wild, unpredictable and exhilirating.
Despite the weather, we liked it well enough to book it as our next destination. We will be staying at Hosterìa Cume Huy. We stopped by there after fishing all day. They had a huge kitchen with a large wood-burning stove; it smelled great. They provide three meals a day and a warm place to rest. We will be close to our fishing spots. From Esquel, it’s a drive of 1.5 hours. After that, we move on to Bariloche and Puerto Montt.

Christmas photos

Christmas chocolateHere is Dawn buying provisions for the long bus ride. Bariloche is full of chocolate shops, each of considerable size. Their chocolate is wonderful.
This is a view from the bus window on the way to Puerto Montt. It is Volcan Puyehue, near Osorno.
As we were driving on the bus, we went through a little town. I had my camera out with a long lens and was looking for photographic subjects. I saw this little girl and trained my camera on her. Before I could take the photograph, a bus came between us. In the meantime, the father noticed my attention. He was walking with his family on Christmas eve. I looked at him through the windows of the bus between us. He lined his family up for a portrait. When the bus moved, I snapped the photo before we moved on.Christmas treefamily
Here we are at our restaurant after dinner.
Here’s the sun setting over the bay in Puerto Montt on Christmas Eve eve.This is a view of our hotel with a cloudy volcano behind it. The other view is from our hotel room window.hotel viewfrom across the bay

Los Alerces, the trees

We are standing in front of Lago Futulafquen and beside an arrayanes tree.

We are standing in front of Lago Futulafquen and beside an arrayanes tree.

fishing Rio Rivadavia

We fished the Rio Rivadavia with guide Marcelo Coronado. We were impressed with the beauty of the scenery and number of trout we spotted. We were disappointed that our trend of hiring guides on bad weather days continued. We did catch some nice fish, but overall it was a slow day, especially considering the potential. The river was swollen with chilly water. A furious current ran through the river and from bank to bank in the turns. Marcelo lives at the downstream end of this short, several mile long river that drains from Lago Rivadavia into Lago Verde. Marcelo was knowledgable, skilled and friendly. We tried a variety of techniques: fishing while floating and anchored and wading the banks, sand bars and shallow parts of the river. We fished under trees and under banks overhanging the river. Marcelo said it wasn´t the fisherman and it wasn´t the guide. The weather had driven the fish deep underwater and they weren’t feeding. For lunch, he set up a table and chairs on the side of the river. While we ate we talked about fishing, Argentina and the U.S. He couldn’t understand why we didn’t take siestas. After lunch, while Dawn and I fished, he took a nap. The river was a turquoise color.
Dawn caught more fish than I. She was using a Type IV sinking tip. I used a Cabela’s rig which had kind of a shooting taper with various 12-foot tips that could be exchanged without changing the line. It was my first time using it. I found it awkward. The tip at 12-foot is accompanied by a 9-foot weighted leader with a 4-5-foot tippet. This 25-foot end sunk rapidly. The problem was I could not lift the full 25-feet from the river with a roll cast or a back cast because it was heavy and sunken into the water. This meant, I needed to strip the line in to a shorter length and the knot-to-knot junction slid through the forward rod guides, hanging up on the way in and out. Also, although the tip went down quickly, the line was very buoyant and tended to offset the value of the sinking line in the fast-flowing water. For these conditions, I think a full sinking Type IV is the ticket. I will try the sinking tip again. It worked well in the side tributary creeks where I could cast to the far side of the water and allow the tip to sink while buoyant floating section floated across the current. I will try it again and experiment with using just the sinking tip without the sinking leader

photos, Los Alerces vistas

Here is a photo of the hosteria we stayed at and the view while we ate meals. It snowed one night.
We tried to explain “Dreaming of a White Christmas” but I’m not sure our broken Spanish converyed the meaning.
The cho chos (lupin is the Latin name) were in full bloom everywhere.
The peaks were visible from the hosteria. The panorama shows Lago Rivadavia.

photos, flowers

Flowers are in bloom everywhere. Not sure why, but there are entire fields of wild roses.

Happy New Year! and update

Happy New Year! We are in Rio Gallegos (the city). I’ve not forgotten you, readers. It’s been two weeks since I’ve had ready Internet access (in Esquel). Even today, the cafes don’t open until afternoon because of the holiday. After Esquel, we went into the National Park Los Alerces which was totally off any electrical or Internet grid. That was followed by travels by car to Bariloche and by bus over the Andes to Puerto Montt for Christmas. We boarded our ferry boat for a four day trip with over 900 miles of sailing. See separate (not yet posted) blog for account of the worst storm in three years. We arrived late but safe in Puerto Natales in the pouring rain. It rained all night. It had been raining on us since Los Alerces and we decided to go east rather than into the park, Torres del Paine, in the rain. Se we spent a day taking buses from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas and on to Rio Gallegos. Yesterday was a gorgeous day–warm, sunny and little wind. Today, it is raining. As time and Internet access permit, I will attempt in separate posts to update you of our travels.

We look forward to happy adventures and travels in 2007. Last year had some good fortune, but it was also a time of tumultuous change full of challenges. I hope all of you have a wonderful year, full of happiness, health and friendship.

map, Southern South America

Rio Gallegos

On the bus to Rio Gallegos, I met two Israelis. After Israelis finish their mandatory three-year military service, many of them travel and South America is a popular destination. The couple was splitting up, as they said–she by bus to Buenos Aires and he by bus to Ushuaia. He was surprised we were staying in Rio Gallegos and said he thought there wasn’t anything to do there.
He is correct. If the guide books list it at all, they say it is a place to stay while waiting to take the bus or airplane somewhere. We decided to come here because a fifteen year old book said it had good fishing. The taxi driver said there wasn’t any fishing here. The guidebook says to go twenty miles west of town, take a dirt road and look for a water tower. Fish upstream from there.

After our experience driving 20 miles per hour in our Suzuki Fun in Junin, I am now equipped with a large four-wheel drive Toyota king-cab pick up complete with a roll-bar and large fire extinguisher. I can now easily go 80 km per hour. We were stopped at the police checkpoint (everyone was). I was mindful not to sound like a smart-aleck when the policemen wanted to know where I was coming from and going to. Rio Gallegos is the answer to both questions. The town is at the mouth of the river of the same name.

Standing at the water tower, I surveyed the river and wondered if this indeed could be the place. An Argentinian fisherman was returning from his fishing. I greeted him. After awhile, he invited me to ¿Toma mate? which of course I did. After exchanging pleasantries, he told me all about the river and the fish. Our timing is good. These special brown trout, plateados (silvers), return from the ocean once each year to spawn. They are now in the river. He had hooked, but lost, a six kilogram fish that very morning. Like a local Trout Unlimited member, he directed us to one of his favorite fishing spots, where indeed we spotted several extra-large jumbo trout jumping in the air. …so, we are here for several days.

There are some interesting animals I hope to photograph. See photo of rhea; they look like ostrich.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Well, 2007, a New Year, a new beginning. We are in Rio Gallegos on the east coast of Argentina. At midnight, we heard a few fireworks, and then more and more. The entire sky, all over the city was filled with huge fireworks for 15 or 20 minutes! From at least 50 different sites. It was amazing, but felt like a true celebration of all the people. We came east to get out of the rain of the mountains. Yesterday was beautiful, but today, rain. Summer in Patagonia. We were out on the river fishing, and the birdlife is amazing. As we drove, there was an adult rhea (they look like ostriches) with about 10 little ones running behind. I wish I knew the names of all the birds and ducks, with so many little ducklings I got to enjoy nature doing what it does: the covies joining, the males fighting it out to see who is master, and the loser being driven away. And a mother with the smallest little ducklings, maybe 2 inches tall, probably on their first swim. The only sound on the river are the calls of the birds. Truely beautiful. And wildflowers blooming everywhere. Of course, seeing huge plateado (sea run brown trout, that are silver) jump out of the water, was exciting too. I caught the resident browns, which have a very dark coloration, brown and red and are some of the heaviest fish I have seen. It is interesting now to see a river similar to those we fished high in the Andean Patagonia after having crossed the steppes and has reached the Atlantic. The water is no longer the clear turquoise, although still clear, it is tea tint. And the fish reflect this. Pray for sun.

fly, before and after

The phrase is, from river to table. But in this case, it’s from table to river. In the morning I tied up a fly and the following day I caught a fish with it. We brought our vise and other materials for tying flies. The wooly bugger is a popular fly here. It mimics a small fish, leech or large insect. It also mimics pancora crabs which are abundant here. The locals drop the “w” when pronouncing the fly’s name. I awoke one morning in Esquel and tied a half dozen on the kitchen table as I drank coffee. Lead thread, maribou, saddle hackle, chenille and as a variant, flash-a-boo. I tied them in black and olive on hooks sizes 6 and 8 with a beadhead.
The following day we had moved to Los Alerces National Park to the Hosteria CumeCue. We fished the boca of a stream flowing into Rio Rivadavia. During our guided float trip, I learned that a floating-sinking tip was awkward to cast and didn’t go deep enough for the large river in spring run-off ocndition; so I bought a Type IV full sinking line. I waded deep along a sand bar and cast toward the opposite shore. There was a seam that flowed into a back eddy. I let out line hoping to drift the fly deep into the seam. Then I stripped the fly back in through the slow water. I caught two nice fish that way, a brown trout and a rainbow.

The photo of the fly uses a 105 mm macro lens. The photo of this fish is taken underwater using my point and shoot camera.

on the move

We’re on the move again. January 15 (the day we fly to U.S.) seems all too close. We enjoyed Rio Gallegos. Look for a longer post and photos of penguins and other wildlife. Today, I caught a 23-inch, 3-4 kilogram sea-run brown trout; wow!

Tomorrow, we have a 12-hour bus ride to Ushuaia, the most southern city in the world. The bus goes on a ferry over the Straits of Magellan. We will be in Ushuaia for three days.

After that, we backtrack to Punta Arenas and up to Torres del Paine park. We are staying at an estancia just outside the park. We met the family when we stayed the night in Puerto Natales after our boat ride. We hope the rain has stopped and I will be able to get some photos of the renowned peaks.

end of world

We are in Ushuaia, nicknamed the end of the world. I think we are about 55 degrees latitude. It gets dark about midnight. I think it gets light about 3.30 a.m. The weather is temperate and no wind. Yesterday, we went for a seven hour cruise on the Canal Beagle, scene of Charles Darwin’s studies on species (the Beagle was the name of the ship). Last night we ate at midnight. We dined with a German who lives in Mexico City and just returned from an Antartic cruise yesterday morning. We ate succulent king crab. They served it in a bowl, already cracked, just the legs. Wow.

Tomorrow we fly to El Calafate to see Perito Moreno and then on to Torres del Paine. Our trip is unfortunately nearing an end. I have lots of good photos, but unfortunately, I have not found an Internet cafe here that can accomodate them. Later….

Los Pengüinos

We drove our truck about 120 km southeast of Rio Gallegos to the point of land known as Cape Virgenes to the Provincial Reserve for penguins. Over 100,000 Magellan Penguins make their home at this colony from late October until about February. When we were there, the chics had hatched and were in various stages between very young (pichon), still in the nest and standing around with their parents (juvenil). The nests are dug among the roots of mata verde plants. The colony is located along a coast made up of beach and rather barren land. The distinguishing feature of the colony location is these mata plants.
The reserve is set up with a 1,500 meter walkway through the reserve. The afternoon we were there, we were happy to be alone with the penguins for about three hours. We walked slowly through the reserve. The wind was, of course, howling. But we could still hear the constant din of the penguins. The young are constantly crying for food with a high pitched sound. And the parent left with the hungry chics

wants to be relieved of the duty by its mate. The mate finds its partner by the unique sounds of its call. The call is rather like the braying of a mule; consequently the species is commonly known as the jackass penguins.
Feeding the chics is a full-time job. The parents take turns walking to the ocean to catch fish, then walk back and regurgutate the meal. The penguins follow a stone path where they have worn away the sand and brush. At one point this path crosses the visitor walkway. Dawn and I seated ourselves somewhat off the path to see what would happen. As we took our places, the penguins got spooked and ran away. When they “run,” they resort to their aquatic position and scurry on their bellies across the smooth stones.

After about ten minutes, the parade was considerably backed up and hundreds of penguins were milling about. Eventually, they started inching closer. We remained quiet and still with a low profile.

Eventually, two approached us. After moving closer and hastily retreating several times, they essentially sniffed us and decided we were okay. Meanwhile, about a dozen continued on the path about ten feet from us. After that, groups of penguins would slip by us.

From a distance, a penguin looks like a penguin. The tuxedo outfits even mask gender. But, up close, they have different personalities. One marched through the pack, passed within several feet of us, looked at us, and continued on his (her?) journey, without an apparent worry. About

30 acted as a group and kep approaching us and spooking themselves. Others stood there and watched us, just as we were watching them. They were curious about their visitors.

We really enjoyed the Cabo Virgnes Provincial Reserve. Perhpas we were luck in the timing of our visit (Wednesday afternoon), but we had the place to ourselves.

Leaving Rio Gallegos

DawnPlateadoAt this point in our trip, we have moved faster south than the change in seasons. Although it’s
summer, it’s cold here. The wind is fierce. It’s mostly in the 40s F. If Junin felt like Colorado, this feels like Alaska. Rio Gallegos, the city, has about 60,000 inhabitants. It’s located on the estuary where the river flows into the Atlantic. The river has its headwaters in the Andes and is a major watershed for the entire southeast part of the continent. For fly-fisherman, Rio Gallegos (and Tierra del Fuego generally) is noted for the sea-run trout. The trout are brown trout or marònes. When they go to sea, they return silver and are known as plateados (plata is Spanish for silver). In North America, we have sea-run rainbows, known as steelhead. Sea-run trout are significantly bigger than their land-based cousins.Rio Gallegos
When we arrived, we had beautiful weather for New Year’s Eve–it was warm with little wind. We went to the river and saw numerous groups of fisherman and picnicers. The river was clear and the water level was falling. At one point, I saw numerous fish rising (small, resident 12-18 inch trout that I did not target). That night, it began to rain and rained all New Year’s Day. After the rain, it got cold and windy. We visited Bella Vista in the middle reaches of the river and the tributary, Gallego Chico. The wind was so strong it was difficult to assess the riffles, pools, depths or seams. I had to pick my spots to fish downwind. I caught a couple of browns. The Hotel Bella Vista is open. The Estancia looks prosperious. Everything else looked closed and deserted.
We returned to the lower Gallegos to the water tower west of town for two more days. Worse than the wind and cold, the water level was up considerably. Snow melt and rain run off made the river muddy, cold and difficult to wade and impossible to cross. I kept switching fly lines from sinking to floating/sinking to floating and finally, back to sinking. By early afternoon, the wind was too strong to fish. The last day, I caught a silver, by stripping a greenish brown matuka through a seam at the tail of a pool. It felt like a coho salmon, about 6 to 8 pounds and measured just short of 24 inches. To really fish the river, you need time to learn it and wait for the right conditions. Maybe, next year. Despite the weather conditions, I really enjoyed the environment. Most days, we had the river to ourselves. Waterfowl were everythere with young ducklings. Wild flowers were abundant. The big, blue skys were streaked with high wind-blown clouds. The air was fresh and crisp.

Guanaco, Patagonia wildlife

GuanacoGuanacoFrom a distance, the steppes of Patagonia seem to be dry and barren, but the grasses sustain a number of unusual species. For me, the guanaco were the most interesting. I am used to seeing deer and at first, these look like deer.
They are very alert when a car approaches. If you get out of the car, they are easily spooked and flee. They are elegant and fast as they run. For some reason, they don’t always run away, but rather cross the road in front of your vehicle. Compared to the car, they run about forty miles per hour. When they chew grass, they look like a camel. The Latin name for the species is Lama guanicoe. Their cousin is the llama or alpaca. They were hunted by the Indians and later almost obliterated by European hunters and ranchers. Now, there are lots of them in the national parks and out on the open range. They tend to group up at the water holes and better pasture areas. We would see them as we drove to and from fishing the Rio Gallego and whenever we traveled in Tierra del Fuego. Because it was springtime, there were lots of youngsters.

Birds, Patagonia wildlife

RheaRheaUnusual birds in Patagonia include rhea, flamingos and sheldgeese.
The rhea are called ñandù. They remind me of ostrich. When they run, they have a funny gait. They run very quickly, far faster than you or I can run, especially on the uneven plains. Often they graze beside the road and run away as the car approaches. Before they move, they are extremely difficult to spot because their camouflage is flawless. When they run, the trunk of their neck is horizontal to the ground. They can’t fly.
Flamingos are not unusual in Patagonia. I saw them in shallow lakes and ponds, poking around in the marsh areas for food.flamingosflamingos
There are many ducks and aquatic birds around the fishing rivers. The sheldgeese are very common. I think this is the Magellan goose.

Ushuaia, Glaciar Martial

Glaciar MartialWe climbed to the foot of Glaciar Martial. You need technical gear and a guide to climb higher.
First we took a taxi from our hotel and then a chair lift and then we hiked. The glacier is about 7 km from Ushuaia and about 385 meters high. There’s a pretty trail through some lengua trees. The glacier is interesting and the view of the city is great. On the way down, we stopped at the Casa de Tè for tea and scones.Glaciar MartialGlaciar Martial

Beagle Canal, Ushuaia

Beagle CanalWe took a catamaran excursion boat into the Beagle Canal. The Canal is named after the ship that Charles Darwin sailed in while he was researching and writing, Origin of the Species. The Les Eclaireurs is the furthest south of any Argentine lighthouse.
As we slipped away from Ushuaia, the most southern city in the world, we seemed to enter a magical territory of sea animals.Beagle CanalBeagle Canal
The canal has many small islands where sea lions, cormorants and penguins gather.
Beagle CanalBeagle Canal
The juvenile penguins are now old enough to leave their nest; we saw many first time swimmers enter the water.Beagle CanalBeagle CanalWe even saw a whale. We sailed past Port Williams which the Chileans claim as the southernmost town in the world.

Perito Moreno, El Calafate

Perito MorenoPerito MorenoWe didn’t originally plan to go to El Calafate, but we are glad we did. Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that is growing and it is big.
The wall of jagged blue ice stretches three miles across and 200 feet above the surface of Lago Argentino. The glacier itself extends as far as the eye can see up the mountain valley. The guidebooks say the glacier is so large the entire city of Buenos Aires could sit within its boundaries. While we were watching the glacier, an enormous chunk of ice split off from the wall and crashed into the lake. The glacier is very active and you can hear loud, groaning, cracking noises as it advances. The glacier is grinding the peninsula that juts into the lake where the viewpoint sits; you can see ground up rocks and dirt where it has advanced.
Perito MorenoPerito Moreno

Starting in Junin, wherever we went, Argentinians would ask us if we had been to El Calafate. We did not plan to go because it was off our route and is known as a tourist town (if not a tourist trap). When it was time for us to leave Ushuaia, we went to buy our bus tickets and found out that Frommer’s was wrong; there are no buses from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas on Tuesday. Our reservations at the Estancia began on Wednesday, so we needed to get back north. We took a plane to El Calafate with the idea of taking a bus from there across the border to Puerto Natales where we could rent a car to get to the Estancia.Perito MorenoPerito Moreno

We landed in Calfate about five, knowing our bus would leave about eight the following morning. We had to check into our hotel, get cash, buy bus tickets and eat dinner. Dawn asked the cab driver if it was possible to see the Glacier in the evening. He jumped on that and explained it was the best time because the light was better and there was less wind. He offered to be our personal guide. He took us to our hotel where we had problems with our reservation. Then we went to another hotel, the bus station, the store to get drinks, and off we went. The cab driver drove us the 30 miles to the glacier. He relaxed in the cab while we went off to see the glacier. Then he drove us back to town to our hotel.
I thought Perito Moreno had something to do with a lost moraine. But the glacier is named after someone famous. Perito Moreno is the father of the national park system in Argentina. You could also say he is the father of trout fishing in Patagonia. Trout are not native to South America. Moreno commissioned a study in the late 1800s to introduce them to Patagonia.