Puerto San Julian has experienced a deja vu of history of sorts. In 1520, Magalhaes (Magellan from now on), wintered in the bay of Puerto San Julian as it had a peaceful protection from the wind. During their stay, three captains (there were five ships altogether) mutinied and Magellan captured the errant ships and made a very graphic example of the Captains. Captains Mendoza's and Quesada's body were drawn, quartered and hung on gibbets posted at four positions - north, south, east and west. Captain Cartagena, the remaining mutineer, was left stranded on the island with a priest and never heard from again. Magellan went on to complete the first circumnavigation of the world.
It was 58 years later, in 1578, that Sir Francis Drake sailed into the Puerto San Julian bay where Drake also decided to winter. It was there he found bones belonging to what was believed to be the mutineers of the past. As with Magellan, a right-hand man was found to be inciting a mutiny and shipman Doughty was beheaded on the same "Island of Justice". Drake, actually a pirate by profession, went on to complete the second circumnavigation of the world.
And, as a side tidbit, this was where Magellan first encountered the peoples he named "Patagones" and henceforth, the name Patagonia is surmised to have been derived.
We enjoyed an easy breezy day in Puerto San Julian and then proceeded northward, detouring only to walk among fossils of a prehistoric forest. The Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados is a protected petrified forest that dates from 150 million years ago. During that time, the Andes as we know them did not exist and the area was significantly active with volcanoes. Having no mountains to interfere, the moist Pacific winds allowed for a humid landscape and therefore, a lush and prosperous forest of Proaraucaria trees.
These massive trees are estimated to have been over 1000 years old, reached upwards of 100 meters (about 300 feet) in height and many remnants are over 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter. The trees remain as they fell millions of years ago and as they were engulfed in volcanic ash, well protected from the elements.
"Petrification" or "silicification" occurs when the trees are covered in volcanic ash or other fine sediment for a long period of time. During this slow process, rain water, filtering through the ashes and thus enriching itself with mineral substances, penetrates each cavity and each void space of the buried woods and crystallizes. As time has passed, the once covered forest has been partially exposed because of erosion and wind scour. A large amount of trees and tree remnants are visible and quickly you begin to ask "How much of the forest is still buried?. Only future generations will know the answer to that query.
After our jaunt to oblivion, we trundled back to the coast to yet another small town of historical importance called Puerto Deseado. This town was also a harbor graced by Magellan and much of the flora and fauna was studied by Darwin. As we are arriving along the coast after the "season", there was not much to do but take long walks around town and pop into the wonderful panaderias (bakeries). And we wonder why we gain weight!
Fighting the very strong winds that whip across the unblocked scape, we found ourselves just hoping for shelter from the incessant bludgeoning of the wind. Throughout Argentina, they have what are called "Municipal Campgrounds" and they are consistently good places to rest, shower and enjoy a banter with the managers. Unfortunately, the one day we spent hours gripping our seats as Cindy was rocked by the winds, the Municipal Campground was closed when we arrived. We spent a rather swaying night without every really grasping what you would call recognizable sleep.
Continuing up the coast, we passed through a couple of tidy, quaint towns that were originally settled by Welsh immigrants. Dolovan retains much of its charm and it was not uncommon to see the wooden water-wheels in the small rivers that course through town.
We made the stop in Gaiman for the purpose to see two "parques" that specialized in old things. The Parque Paleontologico Bryn Gwyn is a lengthy nature trail that showcases many fossils found along the Rio Chubut. Unfortunately, they only close on days that rain and the Rain God Chaac (remember the Mayan god) decided to make his presence known.
With this disappointment, we went over to our second parque and met with nothing but fascination. The Parque El Desafio is a masterpiece park of junk created by an eccentric 80ish man, Joaquin Alonso. Since 1998, this parque has been in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest "recycled" park. Mr. Alonso, a very creative and ingenious fellow, has compiled bottles, cans, plastics, metals, etc., anything he could remake, reshape, recolor and reform into a park that captures, not only children's, but also stodgy adult's imaginations.
To say a trip through this park was a trip, is stating it mildly. Everywhere we turned, we were within a barrage of colorful flowers created from plastic bottles. We were guided along through can-covered fence rails with plastic bottle or hanger spindles. Old cars made for comical commentary as did old farm equipment. Throughout the labyrinth, very witty sayings were displayed on numerous plaques and not one failed to make us laugh. We should have more people that are a little bit eccentric like this...