Karukinka National Park... Days 2 & 3 / by Mark Boyd

The family piled out of their car.  Local folks from the area, parents with two kids....  They waved whilst we sat by the campfire to keep warm.  To give Angela a chance of actually camping rather than sleeping in the car I'd collect large sheets of cardboard to slide underneath her side of the tent.... She made a mattress of clothing, something I couldn't do because once again I was wearing everything I owned!  We climbed in to our prospective bags but within half an hour she was off back in to the car.  Once again I heard the engine start and the fan for the heating go on.  I buried myself deep in to my bag and drifted off in to a chilly and broken slumber.

I awoke to someone slapping the tent, 'luces, luces!' she said.... My groggy head translated, 'lights, lights...'  Oh no!  Angela hadn't left the car lights on?  Please no....  I jumped out of the tent, and there they were.... two dimly illuminated head lights... I opened the car door and turned the key.... The car grunted.... it didn't even have the energy to turn over.... Great!  Why on earth did she put the headlights on in the first place???  The only option was a bump start, and it was going to take a few of us to get the car turned (three point) on this undulating grassy surface.  Thank heavens for the local couple, because getting the car turned and pushed on to the flat would have been a nightmare, maybe even impossible.... With the four of us pushing, shoving and grunting the car was just about on the flat, there may have even been the slightest hint of a downhill, we pushed as fast as we could then I leapt in.  Turn, bump, VROOOOOM, VROOOOOOOOOOM..... and away.... I continued for about one mile, then returned.  The locals had decided I'd thought better of returning for Angela, but what choice did I have?  All my gear was still there!  Haahahahahahaha!  She was extremely apologetic, and these things happen, so hopefully a lesson learned.  Thank heaven for my blissful wilderness being ruined by the presence of a really helpful local family!

I left the car running whilst we ate breakfast and packed down the tent..... 

 We spent 10 minutes in the biggest woolly jumper I'd ever seen.... These were the last f-ewe.

We spent 10 minutes in the biggest woolly jumper I'd ever seen.... These were the last f-ewe.

More driving around this wilderness and maybe towards the Argentinian border, it was early and we had plenty of time.  We stopped at the ranger's hut to confirm directions, whilst there he offered us use of the bathroom facilities.  Very kind indeed!  We spotted a back road to the border, but we were soon advised that this was in fact closed.  This meant back tracking and adding another two hours on to our drive towards the Argentinian border..... Sheesh.

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We ploughed back North whilst I scoured the fence posts for pygmy owls (would love to see a pygmy owl, smaller than our UK little owl) and other birds.... intermittently shouting 'Guanaco'.... Once back on the main road we headed South towards the border.  On reaching the border we were informed there were delays due to the power system being down.  How long would the delays be?  Maybe 5 hours.... Great!  What a morning.... Outside it was howling and damned cold. We grabbed the stove and the coffee to make a hot drink. 

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An open window provided the necessary ventilation.  

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With only a two hour delay suffered, we ploughed through the immigration necessities and were bound for Rio Grande, the next big town.... I was going to gamble on making the fuel last but decided a slightly earlier detour may prove wise.  We struggled to find the 'petrol station' on the timber yard.... and played about with the pump for a good 5 minutes before one of the workers came out, turned the pump on and started the refuelling process. 

 Weird petrol station.....

Weird petrol station.....

Shortly after Angela disappeared with the guy to pay..... When I say disappeared, she disappeared.... Once 15 minutes had passed I became concerned and began exploring the timber yard.  No sign.... What had they done to her?  Then she appeared.  They had no change, so she sat and waited with the guys whilst someone went off to find change.  During this time she enjoyed a fresh coffee.  Thanks Angela.

An hour later we reached Rio Grande.  We stopped at a cafe to grab a cake and coffee (for me!) and then continued.... Two coffees and one piece of cake was an expensive 11 quid!  We headed off on a little road I liked the look of.  Not only did I like the look of it, but it also connected up with the main road just before reaching our final destination in the South, Ushuaia.  

The road was unsurfaced... of course... there was a lake around 65 kilometres out that we could camp at.  Once again I scoured the fence posts, and this time spotted an owl, but by the time I'd carefully applied the brakes and reversed it had gone.  Bum.  

A car slowed us down in the other direction to tell us that the road was closed further ahead.... But we'd seen another vehicle pass us whilst I took a picture at the side of the road, and that car had not returned..... Hmmmmm.... We continued for another fifteen minutes before we met the 'other car'.... We continued.... Sure as anything there it was.... A bridge that had been broken and impassable for weeks.  CERRADO.... 45 miles of unsurfaced road.....Why didn't they put a sign at the beginning of the road??? 

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We were a mere 5 miles from the lake.  The light was fading.  The wind was blowing.... We needed to find a sheltered spot to camp.

We flagged two vehicles down on our way back.... Then I found it... The perfect camping spot amongst the gnarled trees!  What a spot!  I carefully drove the car off the road and in to the trees which were barely wide enough to pass through in places. 

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I could hear the calls of hundreds of ibis.  I pitched the tent and we headed towards the calling birds.  I walked faster than Angela who lagged behind a little.... She lost sight of me as I disappeared in to the ibis roost.  The noise was amaaaaaaaaazing.....  Tomorrow morning I'd rise early and explore the colony!  I wandered back to make dinner.