Rio Gallegos is a big industrial city. To get there by bus from Ushuaia we had to cross the Argentine border into Chile, take a ferry across the Strait of Magellan, (where we saw Commerson dolphins) back across the Chilean border and into Argentina before reaching Rio Gallegos.
After a day in Rio Gallegos we moved up the coast to Puerto San Julián
. We arrived here at midnight and luckily the fifth and final hotel we tried had a room!! Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, landed in Puerto San Julian in 1520. He arrived aboard the 'Nao Victoria' with a Spanish Armada of five ships. He had been sent from Spain to find land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He was the first European to set foot in South America. In San Julian we visited a replica of Magellan's ship and took a Zodiac to see the local colony of Magellanic Penguins. These guys are slightly different to the penguins we saw in Antarctica. They have the luxury of bushes to nest under and sand in which they dig small burrows by laying on their bellies and kicking with their feet and, good news, they don't smell as bad either because they don't eat krill!!
After a day in San Julian we traveled for 12 hrs to Puerto Madryn, founded in 1865 by Welsh immigrants. We visited Peninsula Valdes which is 131 feet below sea level and the lowest point in South America. The peninsular is a wildlife hub where we saw a large breeding colony of sea lions (adult males really do have lion manes!!), juvenile elephant seals, Magellanic penguins and guanacos. At this time of year, at high tide, we were told that killer whales can be seen snatching penguins/seals straight off the beach.
It took us 20hrs to reach Buenos Aires by bus, our last coastal stop and the birth place of Tango
. Our first night, we went to San Telmo, alive with tango on a Sunday - very cool! Buenos Aires has a very European feel, very similar to Madrid. We saw Casa Rosada, the Government House (covered in scaffold) the balconies of which are famed for political speeches from Evita Peron. Evita, wife of President Peron, was famed for setting up infrastructure for the working classes such as trade Unions (we went to the Evita museum!!). The Opera House, Teatro Colon, was closed for renovation. The main shopping street, Calle Florida, was great and La Boca was another great place to watch tango and live music in the streets. Also as February is carnival time in most South American countries, we watched a carnival procession down Avenue de Mayo from our hotel balcony.
Because our plans were dramatically changed by an unknown force we met up with my parents who are STILL traveling in Argentina, in Gualeguaychu!! Gualeguaychu is famed for its carnival, the biggest in Argentina, which takes place every Saturday night in February. It is enough to say it was a lot of fun......!!
After we returned from Antarctica we traveled up the Argentine coast stopping in at Rio Gallegos, Puerto San Julian, Puerto Madryn and Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires we bought ferry tickets to Uruguay, however, our passports and tickets were stolen an hour before we were due to catch the boat. Therefore, we had to change our plans and stay in Argentina until the replacements come through. We traveled north to Gualeguaychu to see Argentina's 'Carnival de Pais'.