Inside Casa Rosada (Kenneth Nelson)
At 8:30, after a lesiurely breakfast in the eating area of our hosteria, our trekking guide Augustino arrives to take us to the Harberton Estancia, a former sheep and cattle ranch that is now home to a Pinguino (Penguin) colony. We take a Zodiak raft over to Martillo Island and walk as near as 6 feet from the penguins to observe them close up. Most are Magellanic Pinguinos who make nests in the ground for their young, along with a few Gentoo Pinguinos mixed among them. Again our guide, Augustino, explains the habits of the animals to us, along with the main predators of their chicks, the Skua birds. The owner of the island allows groups of only 20 persons at a time on the island to avoid upsetting the penguins, who appear to be milling around like a group of relaxed folks wearing tuxedos at a cocktail party. After hiking around the colony, we raft over to Gable Island nearby for a vigorous 6 km. trek with Augustino. He leads us at a good pace, but still manages to do a great job of explaining the various animal, plant and tree life of the land along the way. It is a sunny clear day with no rain, which Augustino says doesn't always occur at this time of year. (Lucky us!) Temps which normally run 40-50 degrees F. are up to 60 degrees today. The views through varied forest and prairie terrain are spectacular. At the end of our trek we are renewed with a lunch of olives, cheese, chips, bread, sausage, and steak, cooked on a grill by our guides at an abandoned sheep herder's hut. Good Argentinian Malbec wine plus water or soda ("gaseosa") is plentiful, and the meal is topped off by brownies which Augustino swears repeatedly that he baked himself at 4:30 am that morning. I notice his fingers are crossed behind his back, though, and I believe I can see his nose grow just a half-centimeter longer! After rafting back to the mainland, we stop at the Cetean Whale Museum on the grounds of the Estancia. A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide shows us through the exhibits and describes the different whales, porpoises, sea lions and other mammals of the area. The museum does research with the University in BA, where our guide is finishing her degree. She is volunteering at the museum in the summer. "Muy interesante", and well worth the visit and a donation, so I dig deeper for some dollars for the collection jar. Then Augustino drives us all back to Ushuaia in a small bus as he plays Jonny Lang and other American blues CD's on the radio. After our huge lunch we decide that ice cream ("helado") and cappuchino are all we need for dinner, and we end the day, satisfied and tired.
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