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The Eastern Lakes
Patagonia Indomita

Otway Penguin colonyOtway Penguin colony (Svetlana Kononov)
I woke up to a temperature of 45°F inside my dome. I warmed myself up by chasing giant hares on the outskirts of the camp, trying to get close enough to them to take a picture. During the day the temperature rose up to 60°F, which seemed to be the daily average of my stay in Patagonia.
This was the day of relaxation. We rode in the Cascada van visiting lagoons and lakes, getting out for short leisurely hikes. We started observing the wild life from the windows of the van. We saw what looked like a mating dance (or was it two males?) of guanacos. Someone with sharp eyes (probably one of the guides) spotted an ostrich chasing a fox on a hill in time for the rest of us to watch it.
The lake-side hills offered a study in green - there were so many different shades of it. As much as I liked looking up at the surroundings, there was a lot going on the ground, too: a great variety of delicate wild flowers, grasses, bushes, and stones covered with lichen and moss. It occurred to me that even if I were struck by some ailment that forced me to keep my head down for that entire day, I would still have enjoyed it immensely. Green bush (Mata verde) looked like it was coming back to life from the dead, with its green branches sprawling out in the midst of grey ones. Fancy flowers of Little Shoe of the Virgin (Zapatito de la Virgin) showed up here and there, surrounded by less glamorous but equally intriguing plants.
This was a guanaco kingdom (ruled by the invisible pumas). The sentinels watched out from the distance for the rest of the herd, which did not seem to be too alarmed by the proximity of the humans. My tranquil flower gazing on a hill was interrupted by a teammate calling my name. When I looked up, I found myself within a few hundred feet from a big guanaco running down the hill and spewing an impressive fountain of spit. For a moment I thought I was about to be drowned and/or run over by the beast. Luckily, he did not change his direction, while I was hurrying back to the van.
Of course the birds were present in a great variety. I only took note of a couple of names: Black-faced Ibis (Bandurria), Southern Lapwig (Quetehue), Kara-Kara. On the shores of Laguna Amarga we got to see a flock of pink flamingos taking off.
The last site of the day was Salto Grande, a gorgeous waterfall. It starting drizzling by the time we reached it. The light rain matched the mood of the last hike of the trip: a walk from the waterfall to the van that would take us back to EcoCamp.
The last dinner at EcoCamp featured lamb barbeque, as promised. Of course our vegetarian teammate was offered a tasty alternative, as always. We were in the party mood after dinner, and stayed up late in the sitting dome. Our hopes of dancing were not realized, for the lack of a CD player or any other way of producing music (that was the only shortcoming of EcoCamp). So we just drank wine and talked. Ours was a group of 12 people: 8 Americans, 2 Australians, and 2 Londoners. We all got alone well, despite the language barrier. By the end of the trip I could understand about 80% of the Australian speech, though still had trouble with the Welsh accent of one of the Londoners. I am sure my teammates had their share of difficulties deciphering my English with a Slavic accent.

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