Gem and Lob's Big Adventure
Chubut Valley - Puerto Madryn, Peninsula Valdes And Gaiman, Argentina
Puerto Madryn & Gaiman: Puerto Madryn is famous for two things - whales and the Welsh, a strange yet perfect combination. As we arrived very early - 7 am and couldn't check into our rooms we went to the seafront for a coffee. When sitting down, across the street from the beach, Lisa looked out and could make out quite clearly whales - right there across the road! It was crazy and at first we thought we were hallucinating from lack of sleep, but no there they were lolling about all over the place. So we dashed out of the cafe and spent the majority of the day on the pier watching whales with all the other tourists, oohing and ahhing as they simply swam around flapping their tails. It seems that all of this whale watching was to spoil us for the Peninsula Valdes trip, where you go in a boat to get right up close to them. It was a cold windy day - on a small, crowded boat. Sooo most of the time was spent dodging the people throwing up beside us and watching avidly, and swayingly, for any whales. Unfortunaely, they seemed to be a bit put off by all the vomiting. Luckily our perserverence and good sealegs paid off and we were perfectly posied, and somewhat taken by surprise, when a whale did a magnificently athletic jump out of the water directly in front of us, as you can see from the pictures. That made the trip worth while, as unfortunately the whole island of sea lions randonmly got fed up with the place and left en mass - while the penguins were holidaying in Brazil! Wildlife eh? With the whales part well and truly experienced we ventured into this strange Welsh business. Basically the Welsh went to Patagonia in 1865 to preserve their national identity, and as there was land cheap they settled in what is now Puerto Madryn. As with all discounted products there was a slight hitch, the land was barren and there was no drinking water. Oh dear. However, they bucked a trend and actually made friends with the indigenous peoples by chatting over tea and in exchange they were taught lifesaving skills, and walked what is now about an hour's bus ride to settle by the river. We went to visit the caves the welsh first stayed in when they arrived, which were right in cliff faces by the sea. It was while we were looking at these cliffs we met Mari, a teacher from Cardiff teaching welsh to argentinians, and Ed, a photographer working on an exhibition of the Welsh settlers and their legacy in Patagonia. They were both based in Gaiman, the place with the most obvious Welsh infuence, and our next stop. Gaiman is a very very small town, so small it has only one pub open on a weeknight infact, and no hostels. We stayed in a very nice B&B, stacked full with all types of tat from Wales,and really looking the part. We set off out to explore, not something that took long, and then went to the Welsh Museum. Just as we were about to go in, we heard our names shouted across the street (not something we're that used to in Argentina) , and turned to see Ed, camera in hand, running about the town sccosting people that looked as though they might be Welsh! Feeling popular, we went on to the main tourist attraction of Gaiman, "Welsh Tea" (yes yes, more tea, we know), check out the pictures, especially of the clearly traditional Welsh tea cosy. As we were paying, the lady started to speak Welsh to us, because we were white, and could therefore be Welsh. She looked terribly disappointed to hear we were English, and more so to learn that even living so near to Wales, we still didnt speak a word of the language. Mad. In order to better communicate with the locals, we went to call on Mari, the Welsh teacher, who was just about to take a class, but met up with us later. Her spanish was worse than ours (well ok maybe not quite!!) because apparently the whole few months she's been in Gaiman she's barely spoken anything but Welsh! It really is amazing, and so cool to be seeing all this so far from those green valleys... Sadly the next day we had to move on, but full of tea and very happy, and impressed with the work of the settlers in their "little Wales away from Wales".