Driving north from Punta Arenas along the Strait of Magellan I stopped to check out the red roofed buildings of San Gregorio, a 19th century sheep estancia. Also nearby was the shell of a 1869 british ship called the Ambassador. The former was apparently still operating while the later was now a Chilean historical monument.
Crossing the border back into Argentina I soon arrived in Rio Gallegos. I'm not sure what there is to say about this town except that Kirchner was based there as governor of Santa Cruz before becoming president of Argentina. Possibly the only easier job in the world than governor of Santa Cruz is governor of Texas. I visited a bank machine and gas station and got out of there.
North on Route 3 it was close to sunset when I drove up to a inn at an empty truck stop. The owner showed me to a crispy clean room. I really enjoyed the hot shower in the polished bathroom and the good food out in the dining room after a long day of driving and sightseeing. But something was not right in the twilight. As far as I could tell I as the only guest at Posada Lemarchand. After a while I noticed the family walking around with wild looks on their faces. The inn seemed new, but who knows how long they had been out there on that windy steppe. We all glanced up when a group of very tough looking gauchos walked in. I was ready for what had to be the next scene in the movie. But these guys turned out to be regulars who looked happy to be out of the wind - no knife throwing competitions or nervous womenfolk. They simply drank and watched late night futbol replays and I did the same.The next day I was up for an early breakfast and could see the wind already blowing outside. I looked over and noticed Granny behind the counter staring out at the gravel parking lot, lost in her morning cigarettes and solitude. On the way out I waved goodbye and didn't notice a response.
Continuing north on route 3 the wind was steadily slashing the truck and trying to knock it off the road. I had to hang on tight. Insect bits and dust made it difficult to see and it didn't help to smear it all around with fluid and water. At one point a suicide bird came flying in and ofted himself with a slap on the front grill. Later that afternoon I turned off for the 50K drive out to Petrified Forest National Park. The huge fallen trees trunks turned to stone millions of years ago and now lay across dry rocky hills and cliffs. Very forceful hot winds were whipping dust across the lunar landscape and its strange grey volcanic mountains. The wind was so strong I was having a hard time breathing and walking. Starting my drive back I stopped to take a leak and was left gasping when the wind flipped around and peppersprayed me in the face with urine and dust. Then, trying to get back inside the truck I had to duck down in front of it because I was getting raked by painful buckshot swirling up off the road.
Finally back off the ripio and on route 3 I arrived later in the small town of Fitz Roy with my tank on empty and planning to make another 100 kilometers. There on the side of the road was something that looked promising but as I approached I saw the shell of the old YPF station complete with wrecked vehicles scattered about the lot. This was making me nervous. I drove around until I found the local police station and the police chief. He went off to find me some gas. A while later he was back with a can and a plastic tube and sucked up a nice mouthful of the stuff. But the syphon worked and $!00 pesos later I was back on my way.
I made it up to a town I thought would be a nice place to stay. But Caleta Olivia turned out to be a smaller version of Commodoro Rivadavia. I now know why no one talks about it in the guide books. I stopped at two shabby hotels and was shown jail cells with sad carpets, stained walls and tiny cots. I kept moving. In the end I ended up at the Hotel Robert which, as far as I could tell, was the least miserable hotel in town. I had a nice milanesa with vino tinto downstairs in the busy restaurant and fell asleep early after realizing the remote control didn't work.