A Postcard from the Argentine Desert
I’m not sure what we expected from the Argentine coast south of the River Plate. Certainly, we knew that it was a windswept place, and we knew that there were few settlements. Having visited it twenty years ago, we knew that Valdez – the peninsula which shelters the famous whale breeding ground – is a waterless wasteland of rock and sand; but what we hadn’t realised is that the whole of the country from this point south is similarly dry, barren, and flat.
To be sure, I’d read Darwin and knew that on a journey of 140 miles, from the coast towards the foothills of the Andes, he had seen nothing but scrubby bushes; and I’d read Gerald Durrell and knew that he found the scenery monotonous. Nevertheless, some part of my mind refused to accept that the entire southern half of Argentina – an area roughly equivalent to Britain and France combined – could consist of nothing but a desolate brown plain sprinkled with glacial pebbles and speckled with knee-high thorn bushes. Well, seeing is believing, as they say…! – but I’ll tell you another thing: until you have seen and experienced this desolation you cannot imagine how beautiful it is.
Since we haven’t travelled inland I can’t say how the interior measures up, but down by the seashore this virtual desert supports a surprising amount of life. And, of course, the siennas, ochres, and browns which might tire the eye of the overland traveller are here set-off by an aquamarine sea edged with crisp white foam.
One thing that we haven’t seen while journeying down this coast is a WiFi signal – which is why you haven’t heard from us. As I’ve said, settlements of any sort are few and far between, and throughout most of the past month we’ve been entirely alone. We are ever aware of our great good fortune in being able to live as we do, but this recent experience has underlined the point. While somewhere around 50 percent of Argentina’s population huddle together in the province of Buenos Aires, we – by virtue of being able to travel on the winds and in our own home – have been privileged to explore their country and see sights of which they must remain wholly unaware.
Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.
The majority of anchorages on this coast are exposed and potentially dangerous. This is Janssen on a good day. Despite the fact that the wind was offshore, the bay was still swept by swells.
One of the big attractions of this region is the abundance of dolphins of various species. These delightful little puffing piggies are called Commerson’s dolphins (but we refer to them affectionately as Commies). They will ride with a boat for hours at a time – and all the while that they ride with us, Poppy-dog runs around barking…
We could happily spend another six months exploring this region – but the South is beckoning!