So it turns out Rio Mayo is the national sheep-shearing capital of Argentina – who would have guessed! It was also one of the windiest places I have ever been – the hotel manager told us the rooms had no windows because they try to keep the weather out in the winter. Pretty grim. The street graffiti was great though..
I think this is actually advertising a brand of yerba mate, but it felt like Darwin was still following us
Today was a day for getting to the north, through the province of Chubut to the district of lakes in the province of Neuquén. It was a marathon drive – still along Ruta 40, which the GPS satnav had real trouble with, it has recently changed course and the poor machine kept getting confused. This of course necessitated a lot of discussion about which way to go – but we got here in the end. We had one last Benthamiella stop at an estancia where a plant had been collected in the 1940s – not much use, these estancias are huge and we had no idea even where to start. We had a go though, both in some hills and around a dry lake – no luck. The sun was unbelievably strong, if it hadn’t been so windy we would have fried.
The main houses of Estancia Quichaumes are the trees you can barely see in the middle distance – the only locality info on the label of Benthamiella graminifolia is “Estancia Quichaumes”; talk about needles in haystacks!
The area is super dry, at an earlier stop all the plants we were looking for were dried out and crumbly – despite it being completely dry, this lake was full of geese (cauquenes)
We decided to make tracks for San Carlos de Bariloche, a large town in the middle of the national park of Nahuel Huapi. The habitat again changed rapidly and quite abruptly – from dry steppe to mountains with forests of Nothofagus (southern beech), Austrocedrus (southern cedar) and Araucaria (monkey puzzle trees)! We stopped to see an old friend, Cecilia Ezcurra, who works in the herbarium in Bariloche, where we will go for an hour or so tomorrow. Then it is into the mountains where new plants await!
What a change from the dried out lake about 200 km to the south!