Peninsula Valdéz, Punto Tombo & Puerto Madryn, Patagonia
Sep 6, 2005
We arrived in the sunny port of Puerto Madyrn, feeling somewhat a little jaded after our 24 hour journey, but to clear blue skies and brisk spring sunshine. Due to it's abundance of whales, Puerto Madyrn, which is about halfway down the Argentina east coast, has grown from a sleepy little village into a thriving tourist town of 70 000 peops.
After settling in we decided to head down to the beach and watch the sunset. From the edge of the pier we were also able to see a couple of sea lions playing in the water as well as a whale splashing around, which was pretty good start to our whale watching experience.
We had decided to splash out and go on a trip with a proper guide rather than our usual style of winging it. Our agenda was whales in the morning and elephant seals in the afternoon.
We had quite a drive through the "riviting" Patagonian countryside through the Peninsula Valdez to Puerto Pyramide(the place where the whales are usually found).The scenery reminded me a lot of the Karoo in South Africa. It has the same flat horizon stretching for as far as the eye can see covered in small low lying shrubs and bushes. In order to spot the whales (Southern Right Backs - the same ones we get back in SA) we were loaded onto a boat and taken out to sea. We spent the next hour and a half being completely mesmorised by these gigantic and beautiful creatures. We were lucky enough to see at least a dozen and at times were literally only a metre away from them (one even gave the boat a nudge). My favourite part was having water splurted from their blow hole onto our faces. T'was a pretty surreal experience for both of us.
After the whales it was back on to the long and desolute highway to the elephant seals. Onroute we managed to see some Patagonian wildlife. A couple of small deer sized hares and the Argentina version of llamas calle Guanacos. Our guide managed to organise us a sneaky and rather than go to see the seals in the normal spot, we were taken to a private beach where again we got the up close and personal experience. Again we were a metre of so away from these immense animals (4 metres and 4 tons!).
As our whale trip had been so sucessful we decided to splash out again the next day (I know our poor poor budget) and do another once in a life experience. This time to visit the Toninos (the very rare black and white Commersons Dolphin). These little guys were definitely my favourite as they chased our boat, surfed the wake of our boat, jumped in the air and swam in front of the boat (escorting us forward). Again we were only inches away from them and able to see them in all their glory. That afternoon we headed out to see the newly arriving Magellan Penguins. These chaps, much like us, had been on holiday in Brazil over the winter and now were returning for the summer. The men had been sent on ahead to prepare the nests while the ladies were making their own way in their own time (Penguin mentality appeals to me: Let the men work while the ladies sit back and chill out!!)Anyway as it is the beginning of Penguin season we were able to see the men come in from their long swim at sea, waddle up on to beach, dry themselves, have a little sleep, a little chat, a preen and a clean and then possibly another light doze and then head for home. Penguins always return home to the same nest year after year so Tim and I were most interested to track their journey home. Needless to say t'was a little slow, interpersed with little powernaps, aimless wanderings and chats here and there (sound familar ladies?)but they made it home in the end!
A quick stop in a little place called Gaiman near Trelew (Puerto Madryn) where the Welsh colonised in the late 19th century and still speak the ling de Cymru!!
A quick tea and (half a ton of..)cakes session (in a right proper tea-room innit butt) with a hideous tea-cosy and a shrine to Princess Di (who visited Gaiman once and sat in the cordened off chair now on display...hmmm)
After our marine life mania and our wallets empty, we decided to move onto Bariloche (a playground for the rich and famous) a town in the Argentina Lake District. We left Puerto Madyrn in style and have found our "perfect bus". Tim and I have been on the hunt over the past 8 months to find the perfect bus and last night we pretty much did that. Three seats wide in the bus, hot food and wine served as well as a little night cap (whisky!) before you go to sleep. Nice, who needs to fly when there are first class hotels on wheels!
Take care peops
Tim and Nix xxxx