After four plus hours of unsuccessful hitch-hiking in Rio Tranquilo we threw in the thumb and hopped the only bus that day down to Cochrane. We treated ourselves to a couple of luxurious nights in a real bed before heading to the hills for a three day trek. Reserva Nacional Tamango contains the largest population of Humules (Andean Deer) in the world. Despite their endangered status we had high hopes for a sighting due to the relatively small size of the reserve. As our luck would have it we did not encounter a single deer during the trip; although we did manage to see a Mink which had caught a fish! We were quite excited until we learned that they are a pest, having escaped from a fur farm decades ago and not doing much to help the Patagonian fauna. Not many people out trekking in the reserve – the guardiaparque actually gave us quite a tough time about going out trekking. As it turns out they were currently searching for a missing hiker. They only found him two days later! We did meet two University students from Conception who were living in the reserve for a month as part of there studies. Their job was to go out trekking each day to search for Huemules. Their colleague had spent January in the reserve and only seen seven. They had been there five days and not only had already seen nine, but also rescued the lost hombre. Pretty good start :) During our three very hot and very dusty days we did manage to enjoy ourselves, despite the lack of wildlife, in large part thanks to icy dips in the lake and reveling in the isolation.
We returned to town in time for the rodeo. Lots of stalls with food and craft and activities such as kids trying to ride sheep and catch greased piglets, men riding calves which had just been branded and a ‘traditional’ game that looked suspiciously like hop-scotch. All-around great fun! Less enjoyable was the conditions in the campground. There was only one campground in town and everyone was there. Twenty-seven tents on top of each other, two showers with limited operating hours, and one toilet, seat not included!!!! Needless to say we got out of there pretty fast.