Animal highlights of our 2020 South American trip

Marcel and I are grateful every single day for being able to spend almost the entire month of January travelling through South America (namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay).

As I look at the streets of my city – now, painfully empty, I wish only for one thing to happen when the situation stabilises: for people to return to truly living (it’s hard to stay inside and know that you simply can’t do things) by being kinder – to themselves, to their loved ones, and to all the strangers met on an ordinary day.

Until then, as animals have giant hearts and intense positive energies, here are the most memorable animal encounters of our trip.
It all started with capybaras spotted somewhere in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul – I screamed in happiness (and we were on a bus). Then there were condors, 6 of them, spotted while rafting down Juramento River in northern Argentina.

In between, I did smile with all my heart seeing my favourite animals – parrots – fly around at sunset. We were with our wonderful Argentinean friends in Tigre, about an hour north of Buenos Aires by road. The light was sublime, the waves – electric blue… and we were sipping mates.
Parrots in Tigre, Argentina
         
The drive to San Antonio de los Cobres (from Salta and back) was beautiful and gave us so many opportunities to meet some fluffy animals in the wild.
Three cuis (guinea pig relatives) crossed the road (I saw two and Marcel saw three). The closest encounter occurred, however, while I was looking out the Tren a las Nubes’ window – a trip that I would only recommend for the chance of meeting animals.  
You can also find cuis in Patagonia
At one point (on our return – we were still on the train – from Polvorilla Viaduct), I looked down the rocks and saw a cute round shape heading into an opening. I knew the shape too well – and so, one of my dreams came true! Seeing a chinchilla in the wild, and I did tell Pancho and Rufus about it when we got home (they are our chinchilla family).   
The chinchilla from our train car
Another nice thing happened on the same road – a curious vicuña kept staring at us and didn’t get scared at all, which gave us time to take pictures and simply wow.
Vicuña encounter - San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina

The next day, as we headed even more to the north of Argentina, we planned to get to Iruya, but, after talking to kind locals, reading about the road there, and seeing the menacing clouds, we turned back. Somewhere between Humahuaca and Tilcara, however, llamas made us stop and smile for several minutes. There were two baby llamas around – protected by all the other animals – and my heart was stolen by the wee white one.
Llamas, Humahuaca, Argentina

Trading the Andes for Patagonia, we found ourselves going out to sea, dressed in wetsuits and truly anxious. Our favourite experience of the trip and some of the most emotional moments in our lives were about to follow. Lobo Larsen Buceo made it possible in a friendly and eco-friendly manner and I’ll always remember how swimming with sea lions felt… together with their joy, positivity, and soft skin.
 

Driving around Península Valdés was an explosion of wows. It was unlike any other stretch of land I had seen. Guanacos welcomed us – and they were a bit fearful.
Guanacos, Península Valdés, Argentina
At Punta Norte, we saw sea lions again (and many cubs around) and elephant seals. The smell was… but the show of nature was worth it!    
Sea lions, Península Valdés, Argentina
Having missed the last tour at Estancia San Lorenzo, we wandered a bit – in our attempt to see penguins – and were surprised in that afternoon heat, when a Patagonian mara mother and cub stopped hopping to look at us. Aaaah, the Patagonian hare!...
Patagonian mara, Península Valdés, Argentina
Did we see penguins? Yes, against a turquoise background. There’s a Mirador de Pingüinos (you can locate it on the map)… you are so close to the main road and to them, that it feels surreal. P.S. Don’t touch.
Penguin, Península Valdés, Argentina

Our time spent in the middle of Magellanic penguins continued at splendid Punta Tombo Nature Reserve – one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The positive energy that these small and adorable creatures give off is something special. 
Penguins, Punta Tombo, Argentina
The same no-touch rule applies here – a place guanacos, too, consider home.
Guanacos, Punta Tombo, Argentina

…and if we swam with them and got a chance to see Punta Loma Nature Reserve from water, we also got to see the sea lions from the lookout point (free of charge). Cormorants are some nice companions!
Sea lions, Punta Loma, Argentina

To end it all in style, while we were on a bus heading south, towards Comodoro Rivadavia, Marcel spotted two rheas (choiques) and I also spotted one. It was a windy day and we were saying goodbye. The joy we felt, however, is still in our hearts. ♥♥  It was never blown away.

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