25. tammi, 2017

Breathtaking nature in Valdes Peninsula.

Ouch! I have to pinch myself to make sure that I'm still awake, and not dreaming about one of those nature documentaries on tv! I can't quite believe that I'm standing here, watching penguins sunbathe in real life, at the Valdes Peninsula nature reserve on the coast of Argentina.
We left the traffic jams of Buenos Aires behind us a couple of days ago and headed south, driving across vast areas of farmland, passing by fields like gently swaying oceans of gold and yellow. In addition to wheat, Argentina also produces corn, sugarcane, sunflowers and soya beans. Many of the big farms do of course farm livestock too and we did see some huge herds of cattle, with hundreds of animals in each herd. No wonder, since meat is Argentinas biggest export.

Upon our arrival in Patagonia we had to empty our fridge of all fresh produce. In an attempt to protect the area from foot and mouth disease and the likes, restrictions have been put in place on produce allowed into the area. We too, were put through various checks, and after confiscating our hotdogs and apples, the officials sent us on our way.
We traveled at least a thousand kilometres through the rugged lowlands “the pampas”, where eagles soared high up in the sky and the earth flew up in clouds of sand behind us. The road through the desert is very straight. At times we could drive for dozens of kilometres without turning the steering wheel at all! The Rhea birds racing us by the roadside reminded me of the “road runners” from my childhood cartoon Woody the Woodpecker. We also saw some guanacos, reddish brown camelids, agilely jumping about in the bushes.

There's something quite adorable about the penguins. I zoom in and keep the camera clicking away. I photograph bird couples grooming each other, splashing about in the water and relaxing in the sun looking ever so content! Next,
we see some southern elephant seals. Their massive bodies lie almost perfectly still on the sandy beach. These giant seals can weigh up to four tonnes! After observing them for a while, I notice that they are digging in the sand with their front fins. Some are heaving heavily towards the sea, stopping at the waterline to enjoy the splash of the waves on their skin. They dive in with the waves, and in the water their clumsiness is instantly transformed into a streamlined flow of movement.
The noise from the sea lions can be heard from a distance. There's lots of them on the beach, all grouped in families. Some lucky males seem to have a couple of females on their territories, which they protect with grunts, intimidation and attacks in the direction of their neighbours.
When we get back to the car from the beach, something scurries from behind the back wheels into the nearest bush. It turns out to be a somewhat hedgehog-like, long haired armadillo, another new, yet fun acquaintance. Argentinian nature is full of wonders!