Argentina is a huge country. It took driving up the Atlantic coast for me to truly grasp just how gigantic it was. Before starting our never ending push north to Uruguay, we were constantly crossing back and forth across Chile for most of our five months in Argentina. Doing this we avoided most of the eight hour driving days on long roads that just stretched to infinity.
However, after Ushuaia we had almost 2000 miles to cover to get to Uruguay. That is basically driving back and forth from LA to San Francisco over five times in California terms. It was a lot of driving.
We decided to try to break it up by visiting nature reserves along the Atlantic coast where the rich, cold water attracts an abundance of sea life including penguins, sea lions and whales. Our first stop was the free national park at Monte León where there is a large Magellanic penguin colony and many other species of birds.
Monte León was great for a few reasons. It was free to visit and to camp at, it had a great camping area next to the water, the coast was beautiful and dramatic, there was beach access, the park only had a few other guests in it, we were able to get very close to the penguins on the hiking trail and there were adorable foxes that hung around our camper the entire time we were at the park. The only down side was it was a bit windy at night, and after dark we were told we could not be outside because there were so many pumas in the park it was dangerous to walk around.
The pumas here have a never ending supply of slow, fat penguins to snack on (which was very obvious as we hiked the trail and saw all the dead penguin bodies strewn about). Penguin carnage aside, we enjoyed our time here and would have stayed longer if the wind (it blew all night very consistently) did not force us to move along in search of a place to get a better nights rest.
After Monte León we had planned to slowly camp our way up the Atlantic coast and visit more penguin reserves, however, the wind had other plans for us. We had naively thought that we had left the windy part of Patagonia behind us, but we were very wrong. The wind on the Atlantic coast was just as intense with very little shelter. We found that camping on the beach was no fun when we could not sit outside because of the wind.
It is hard to describe what intense wind does to you over time. It just started to break us down and tire us out. It was loud, it was so powerful that we had to be careful opening the truck door so it would not rip of the hinges, it makes it miserable to walk around outside and just sitting inside the camper on a beach all day hiding from the wind was not fun. So our slow jaunt up the coast turned into a very fast push to find a place with less wind. On our endless drive up through the pampa we broke up the drive north with a few great boondocking sites on the beach. If the weather was better, the camping on this coast was amazing, huge stretches of untouched beaches with endless camping opportunities and crystal clear waters.
After around 1000 miles of driving we arrived at Gaiman, a town settled by Welsh settlers in the Chubut river valley.
To be honest, there is not much to do in Gaiman besides go to Welsh tea houses and eat an alarming amount of calories and caffeine in one sitting. The town is cute to walk around and the surrounding Chubut Valley is very beautiful to explore (which we did about a week later), but other than that it is a sleepy little town with an interesting history.
We stayed a few days here because the small little campground in town was hidden from the wind and we finally were able to get a few nights of good sleep, but after we caught up on sleep and a bit of wifi, we were ready to head out to our final Patagonia destination in Argentina, the Valdes Peninsula.