Approximately 500,000 of the 1 million Magellenic penguins nest at here at Punto Tombo. Surrealism at it´s finest....
After our recoup beach day and trip planning day at Play Union, we continued our trek down South on Route 1 to Punto Tombo for the largest Magellenic penguin nesting area in the world. Approximately 500,000 penguins nest at this location out of the 1,000,000 in existence. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to get to Patagonia.
It would take us about 3 riding days to get there on Route 1 gravel roads with no services. The other route option was to head soute on Route 3, Eastern Patagonia´s main highway, the same Route we took South to get to Playa Union. The shoulder was nonexistant and have a 6 inch drop off the side. The traffic was way too fast, and semi-trucks would almost blow us off the road with the wind force when passing us. We even got a bus driver sign to us that we were crazy from the driver´s seat, so I took that as a sign for no more riding on Route 3. We were a little anxious for this ride since we kept getting different descriptions about the gravel quality for this route from every person we talked to. Some good, some bad. And we couldn´t find any bike posts about Route 1 online. Well, here goes nothing!
We started in on the ripio aka the gravel in Rawson, about 6 km west of Playa Union. At first the ride was ok, and then gradually, the surface turned really poor. Tons of deep sandy gravel, so much so that we were forced to get off the bike and walk. About 12 km, we threw in the towel and resigned ourselves to going back and jumping on a bus tour to view the penguins. On our way back, a car with an Argentine family pulled up, asked is we were OK, and offered us a ride to Punto Tombo since they too were on their way there. Hell yeah, we couldn't pass this up. Norman, his wife Ali, and their little 2-yr old daughter from Buenos Aires were such great company and we are so grateful for the ride and time we spent with them. He was blazing down Route 1 in soft gravel going 100 km, a bit nerve racking but nonetheless, a great time to chat. Once there, we spent a couple hours with the penguins. And wow, what an surreal experience to be surrounded by thousands of penguins, so less than a meter away! They posed no inhibitions around humans. Truly amazing experience and definitely worth the trek to the Eastern side of Patagonia.
On our way back, the family dropped us off at our bikes, and we headed back for another 10 km to Rawson on gravel. The wind was now at 30-40km per hour cross/head wind with no cover in the Patagonian shrubby flat landscape, and it was the most excrutiating ride I have ever experienced. We screamed, cussed, and got pushed off of our bikes countless times until finally 2 hours, we made it to town, exhausted, thrashed, and completely covered in dust head to toe. When I checked into the hospedaje for the night, I was getting very strange looks from the clientel. We had been camping in Patagonia up to this point, but it was good to splurge for a room.
The next morning we biked about 40 km west to Gaimen a Welsh colonized town, where we read that an eccentric guy turned his house into a recycled art museum in town that he had been continually adding to since 1983. The ride was relatively tame, with a slight headwind and mostly uphill, but a cakewalk compared to the ripio madness we had before. Once arrived, we found out the museum was closed since the man who ran it passed away recently. We were able to get some pics at the entrance at least.
Other than that, the town was pretty dead quiet, so we grabbed some beers instead of tea at one of the fine Welsh tea houses Gaimen boasts, and then headed back to our quiet camp. While cooking dinner, the rain started to pour, so we ran into the shelter and ate dinner with four Argentian women from Buenos Aires that were hitchhiking on their summer vacation, and very great ladies to hang with.
The next morning the wind again was howling 30 to 40 km , but this time in the direction we were heading back east to Trewlew to catch the night bus to the Andes. Instead of taking us an 1.5 hr to get back to our destination, it took us 30 minutes. Thank you tailwind! So much fun to be on the largest chainring the entire trip. We landed in Trewlew on a Sunday afternoon where nothing was open but found a pretty swank historic hotel built in the Twenties called the Touring Club. The restaurant bar stocked with more liquor than imaginable and had Wi-Fi. So what the hell. We spent about 7 hrs there before catching a night bus west back to the Andes, in the Lake District into Esquel to start back in on our Andes tour heading North by bike.