March 18, 2008
I feel a million times better today. Yesterday was rough, but Im back in the game now.
Today we drove up a steep dirt road towards La Hoya, a little ski area 13km outside of Esquel. From there you can take a chairlift up 2,624 feet. I wasnt convinced wed take the lift up, weve already done that a couple other times in Bariloche, but I thought Id see if we could get any good views on the drive up.
Also, and maybe the main reason for heading this direction, is that I read there are guanacos in the area and I really want to see some of these, fuzzy llama-like animals.
The views on the drive up were outstanding. Youll have to take my word for it since Anders was crashed out the whole time. Well, he had been awake for two hours already. Actually you don’t have to take anyones word for it since I took pictures.
I pulled over at a few miradores (viewpoints) to gaze at mountain ranges both close and far. And one spot I looked at the hillside above the car and there was a guanaco looking back at me. I was thrilled. It was still kind of far away and all by itself, but I was still psyched to see it. Now, to find out where the rheas live
After watching the guanaco until it walked out of view, I drove the rest of the way to the ski area. It was closed, so that pretty much solved my dilemma of deciding whether or not to ride to the top.
I had noticed a few trailheads on the way up and figured we’d check out the one at the Curva de Guanancos. It seemed like and opportune place to look for more guanacos.
We didnt see any more mammals, although there was a woodpecker (Magellanic?), a few chucaos and some other small birds. Plus a bunch of flies, but no wasps, which was a blessing considering how many of those stinging insects there seems to be in Patagonia.
The trail started out through some two-needled pines (Henry told me, according to Mike, that the government pays farmers to plant non-native pines on the their land. I don’t know if this was the same pine or not) and paralleled a little arroyo. Craggy outcrops plunged out of the hillsides and buff grasses, thorny olive-colored plants, and other shrubs blanked the landscape.
Where the trail crossed the creek we got off the trail and walked a little downstream to find a good lunch spot. Anders threw rocks in the water and I checked out all the water-loving plants hiding among the boulders.
After our lunch break and some time throwing rocks in the creek we headed back down the trail to the car.
We didn’t see any more guanacos, but it was a lovely day anyway. Back in Esquel I stopped to buy a ticket for the Old Patagonian Expressa train that runs from Esquel to El Maíten to the north. It’s pretty touristy, I think, but you can take a day trip on these vintage railroad cars. Apparently, however, it doesn’t run on Wednesdays even though Foders says it does. So, I have to decide it I want to stay another day to do it.