Week 31 – How to summarize what we lived for 7 months ?! It is hard and I’m still thinking about how I will answer the question people will ask in a few days: “How was it ?!”
First, I think the most memorable is that incredible feeling of being free. During 219 days, I woke up every morning wondering what I WOULD LIKE to do. No Monday mornings nor Friday evenings, only Sundays. My alarm clock hardly ever rang, only exceptionally like this one time when we started at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise on the Salinas Grandes in the north of Argentina! We were able to change our route according to the weather and the migration of animals. What a nice feeling to follow spring for 6 months along more than 22 000 kilometers and to spend our time outside. I think I’ve been living in cities for far too long!
We saw incredible landscapes, discovered beautiful cities, tasted delicious food. We had the chance to see the famous constellation of the Southern Cross which has been guiding navigators in the Southern Hemisphere for 4 centuries! (By the way, did you find it in the picture of the post? :))
We learned a lot about the history of South America and about how the United States of America interfered in their governments during the 60s, 70s and 80s. They have participated, even orchestrated sometimes, the overthrow of socialist and communist politicians in favor of dictatorships. These interventions took place in Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. In 1975, the condor operation officially established by the dictators involved the torture and assassination of opponents of their regimes. The United States have provided technical and military support to this plan for years.
Let’s move back to a nicer topic. We had never imagined all the wildlife we would discover. I will not list of all the animals we have met (even if I’m dying for it!) but I will speak about the most memorable ones.
We started with llamas, vicuñas and alpacas from Peru and their cousins guanacos in Patagonia. We discovered the Cóndor in the Colca Canyon in Peru and followed it all along the Andean Cordillera, both on the Argentine and the Chilean sides.
We had the chance to observe the ballenas franca australes (southern right whales), but unfortunately missed the blue whales of a very short week on the island of Chiloe. The pingüinos de Magallanes (Magallanes penguins) and pingüinos Rey (Kings penguins) let us approached them as did the marino lobos (sea lions) and the huge elefantes marinos (elephant seals).
We saw many different birds, starting with the Bandurria Austral (black-faced Ibis) who kept us company in the campgrounds, walking for hours around the tents, methodically planting their long beaks in the ground to find some food. The small Tero común (Southern Lapwing) often threatened us if we dared approaching too much and we regularly encountered Carancho (Southern Crested-Caracara), a kind of small falcon. We were charmed by the majestic pink flamingos in the region of Atacama and by the Cisne Cuello Negro (black-necked swan) of Patagonia. Still in Patagonia, the very big Carpintero Gigante (Magellanic Woodpecker) and the noisy Loros Madriguera (Burrowing parrots) impressed us particularly!
Rarer species did us the honor of their visit: the zorro gris (a little fox), curious, approached one of our Refugio in Torres del Paine, the Choiques (Lesser Rhea) accompanied us on Ruta 40, a Piche Patagonico appeared on our way to the Fitz Roy, this curious little animal with a carapace that moves nonchalantly, and finally the very rare endangered Huemul surprised us on the Carretera Australe! The Zorrino Patagonico (Patagonian skunk) seems familiar with campsites as I surprised one who climbed a garbage in the Parque Patagonia!
In the category of more common animals, we have been surrounded by sheep, cows and horses, wild or domestic, that populate all Patagonia! More amazing has been the street dog population that is part of everyday life in South America. They are seen running behind cars, following tourists groups on guided tours, sleeping on sidewalks or sometimes in kennels set up by generous souls. Often we were followed by a friend of fortune during our walks in town or during our meals in the campsites!
I hope you did not get too bored with this long listing but these discoveries were magical!
I would like to finish my article by thanking you for following me during these 7 months. Selecting my photos and writing this blog have been a real pleasure!
Marie, Traveling baba.