The story of the #RioSantaCruz - Part Two
(Catch up with Part One here)
From time to time we rode up high onto a plateau to avoid cliffs on the river...
...and these moments afforded us some of the greatest views of all.
We arrived at the sites for the two dams that will be built, but found it impossible to imagine this valley under another 80 feet of water.
Just behind the site of the Barrancossa dam lies Basalt Glen, a favourite spot of FitzRoy and Darwins, and another that has remained unchanged. In a couple of years time, it could be at the bottom of a lake.
The second dam site, at Condor Cliff, was also named by Darwin, and it's hard to argue with his reasoning; condors glided over our heads for days, their 8 foot wingspan dominating the skyline.
Wildlife abounded on our journey, with guanacos our constant companions - watching on the ridge and howling across the steppe to warn others of strange beasts with cameras approaching.
Yet it is an unforgiving environment for a living beast and the earth is littered with bones of the unlucky, picked clean by the vultures and scattered by the wind.
Our days were long and tiring, yet the apparent monotony of the scenery never got dull...
...and occasionally we even had company from the wild (and semi-wild horses) that roam the wilderness.
We met few people, but when we did the gauchos saw to it that we had what we needed and told us about the challenges- and rewards- of life by the Santa Cruz.
As our journey headed towards its conclusion, we savoured the last few campsites, and found ourselves seeking rest in exactly the same bend of the river as FitzRoy and Darwin in 1834.
With just 30 or 40 miles to go, we crested a hill and saw the Cordillera in the distance; snow-capped mountains stretching across the canvas of horizon beyond the steppe.
We reached the lake after a long day, just before darkness came, and were met with a body of water so large it felt like the shore of an ocean.
Some worry that if the dams are built, they will affect the level of the lake...
...and subsequently damage the Perito Moreno glacier that feels the Santa Cruz from the western end of Lago Argentino. It would be a huge risk to take, and the project is riddled by inaccuracies and oversights.
Patagonia is a land of contrasts, and the Rio Santa Cruz a ribbon of life through a harsh landscape. Yet it is beautiful, in that way that hostile places can be, and the dams are as yet a threat of unknown quantity to the region.
The story continues...