Trip Start May 01, 2010
85Trip End May 01, 2011
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Where I stayed
Feeling surprisingly refreshed from the night bus we decided to get stuck in straight away and rented bicycles for the day. After doing some hunter/gathering at the local supermarket and having a soup and bread lunch we headed out of town on our bikes. First stop the ecocentre, which was open every day except Tuesday… it was Tuesday.
Next stop was an area about 10-15km out of town where sealions are known to gather
For the 2nd and 3rd day we had decided to hire a car and drive to various points in the area. In addition we had bumped into Andy and Lowri (see Buenos Aires post) and decided that we would go 4-way on the car which obviously halved our costs, a saving we welcomed gladly. That evening we had a catch up over dinner and talked about the route we had planned, which went as followed.
The first day I drove us to Puerto Pyramides - the gateway to Peninsula Valdes which juts out from the eastern coastline. It was a bit weird driving on the right and on a couple of occasions, when my instinct kicked in, I reached for the door handle when I wanted the gearstick, but soon got used to it. Peninsula Valdes was really nice and our first stop took us to a small group of penguins. We were separated by a fence but they were not shy of coming really close, I could have easily reached through and stolen one – which I must confess, I briefly considered - but thought that maybe it would be frowned upon
Once we'd had our fill of penguins in holes, we headed further down the coast and saw lots of elephant seals lying on the beach. I was amazed at just how big they are, some as big as 5 meters. They don’t really do much to be honest but they make the most amusing noises and we did see a male chase off another who approached a little too closely to his harem of females.
After this Andy drove us back to Puerto Pyramides where we had booked a whale watching tour. As we were making our way to the boat we could see the tails of whales smashing the water in the distance and we were all getting quite excited. In the month of July the baby Southern Right Whales are born and for a couple of months afterwards the mothers stay near to the relative sanctity of the shoreline, which for us meant guaranteed sightings of whales.
The boat didn’t go far before we saw our first one, approaching the boat extremely closely. We were told that their lack of fear of boats render them good targets for whaling, which has lead to their overall population going from 20,000 to less than 2,000 making them an endangered species, though we were happy to hear that thanks to strict protection their numbers are now on the increase
The next day we headed for Punta Tombo, further south, which was a penguin colony consisting of over 500,000 Magellan penguins. It took us a long while to get there which was a slight problem because Andy and Lowri had decided not to do the dolphin boat tour we had booked and instead visit some Welsh towns (no I am not joking) in the area. This meant that we had to drop them off in a town called Trelew afterwards and then head to Puerto Rawson where our boat was departing.
The penguin colony was awesome and better than I had expected. I anticipated some sort of dividing fence to keep humans and penguins segregated but there was absolutely none. There were some white rocks which we were advised to stay inside but no one around to enforce it and the penguins certainly didn’t want to stay on their own side and, having zero fear of humans, were constantly waddling amongst us. It was amusing to see their various mannerisms, playing habits and how they jump off rocks and ledges to the ground
At one point, towards the end of the trail we were laughing at a penguin that had grabbed hold of a tourist’s jeans and was ragging them around like a dog pulls on a toy. Being rushed for time I was trying to work out with Andy and Lowri what time we should depart and suddenly felt a sharp pain on the back of my leg. The penguin - in an attempt to get my combats - had bitten my leg and was proceeding to follow me around pecking at me and flailing his arms wildly. I liked penguins a tiny bit less after this incident.
Onwards we drove and dropped Andy and Lowri off at Trelew having arranged to pick them up at 6.30pm at the bus terminal. Cutting it fine I drove as quickly as was safe and we made it just in time for our boat. The dolphins in the area are known as Commersons’ Dolphins; they are an unusual black and white colour and are only found in that part of the world. We were informed on our departure that there was no guarantee of sighting a dolphin and upon hearing this we were slightly disheartened, having been so up close to the whales.
We needn’t have worried however, as after about 10 minutes we spotted some playing alongside the boat and generally having a whale of at time – ha ha, get it? – the boat was then stopped for people to take photos but unfortunately the dolphins get bored when the boat is not moving and swim off out of sight
We picked up Lowri and Andy right on time and headed back to Puerto Madryn to drop off the car. In total we had driven 850km in two days and, apart from two minor incidents (going the wrong way around a roundabout and hitting a stupidly placed and unsigned speed bump on an 80km road), we got home safe.
Having done so much in so little time we decided to spend the final day sitting out in the garden and relaxing. As we had drank far too much in Argentina, particularly Buenos Aires, we had decided we would detox until Mendoza where wine would be unavoidable. This went totally out of the window when we met Richie from Chorley who basically bullied us into drinking, which we did all afternoon whilst playing cards. Ah well, we can always continue the detox in our next stop - the Departamento De Lagos (The Lake District) where we plan to do lots of hiking and difficult bike rides.