Everyone we met were surprised when we told them we had planned to stay for four full days in Puerto Madryn. We wanted to get off the beaten track a little and as we had made the long trip from West to East and were making an even longer trip back up to Mendoza we thought a four day stop would be worthwhile. Most Gringos only see Puerto Piramides, an islet only a short trip from Puerto Madryn. It is a lovely National Park where you can see some great wildlife, but more about that later we had some other areas to explore.
We hired a car that was given to us almost brand new, very shiny and sparkly but that did not last for very long. By the time we had dumped all our belongings in and headed 5 minutes down the road it was covered in dust and dirt. The 'B' roads in Patagonia are not paved and are consequently dusty, full of pot holes and a bit of a nightmare to drive on. Our first day was going to be a bit busy in terms of driving distance and things to see. We were up early and packed the food we had made for the next few days (minus James' cold pizza he left in the fridge) and onto Route 1. After a good few hours of driving with wilderness either side of us we got to our first pit stop, Punta Ninfas. Our hostel in PM had told us about the Elephant seals on this beach. We clambered down the cliff face and couldn't believe how gigantic these creatures are. We were able to walk right up to them, almost to touch and admire the sheer size and smell of them. They had recently given birth to pups and these were particularly cute and sleep really heavily so we snuck right up to them. The males were pretty ugly but the alpha male was our favourite, he keep snorting and looking right at us as if to say 'What do you want?' It was an amazing experience, just us with a whole colony of Elephant seals.
Our next stop was Punta Lomos to see the penguins. This beach is a recognised National Park so we weren't as intimate with the penguins and we had to pay to get in. However, the penguins were quite happy wandering on our path and they are so funny to watch that we were kept entertained. The penguins had just laid eggs and we were able to see them very close up but got a bit upset when we saw a gull take one from the nest and eat it. James was shouting at it to stop but it is nature's way! We also saw mini guinea pigs (cavies) running around, obviously I thought they were adorable but tricky to photograph.
We had no more official sightseeing but it was another three hours along the crappy road to our final destination and we saw amazing landscape three Patagonian grey foxes, two hares, a family of weird rabbit/giant rats, three wild horses (including a foul), an emu and her 24 chicks! Oh and three other cars the whole way! We arrived in Camarones just as sun was setting so we grabbed a beer and water from the mini shop where everyone stared at me, probably because I am white and I was still in my shorts at 8pm at night. We found the campsite and parked up. In Puerto Madryn we had tried to rent camping equipment but it is the only place we have stayed where they don't rent it, and annoyingly the only place we have wanted it! Our only choice was to sleep in the car. This was fine to start with but with only a sleeping bag liner and a blanket stolen from the aeroplane it gets pretty cold. I woke up shivering and we thought we had put the heating on for a bit but failed in turning the engine on! As the sun rose so did we and we were back on the road heading to Caba Bahia. This was a lot less touristy and we saw more penguins, sea lions and guachanos (animals that look like a llama did it with a camel). We had a long drive back towards the north but luckily we could take the faster, actually paved road. It was touch and go for a bit as we were on the red for petrol but just as the car started beeping at us there in the distance we saw the blue and white lights of YPF petrol station. We got back to the camp site in PM in good time and spent the prevening (late afternoon) on the beach.
The next day was our most exciting yet. We went into Punta Piramides and saw some southern right whales and in the afternoon drove to the other end of the island in the hope of spotting an Orca. Immediately after we pulled up at the first view point we spotted 3 Orcas! We got so excited and later James mocked me as apparently every time they came out of the water I was making squeaky excited noises. We got a bit disappointed as after a few seconds of enjoying them they disappeared. Only to reappear a few more seconds later beaching themselves onto the side of the beach in the attempt of catching an elephant seal pup! We couldn't believe our luck, we had been told that this phenomena only happens between February and April, we were so lucky. Fortunately for us the Orcas had failed in their initial attempt and swam to another area where we could watch from a closer distance as the two older Whales were teaching the baby how to catch the seals without beaching. We watched in amazement for a good 15 minutes, it was so so so amazing (yes worthy of three 'so's'). We were about to leave the mirador after waiting around for about another hour for their return, when suddenly the ranger jumped in his van with his very powerful camera lens exclaiming 'Orcas'. We couldn't believe our luck. James jumped back into the car and we drove the short distance back to the original mirador. I was passed the camera and pushed out of the car as James came to a grinding holt just as he hit the fence! The car was fine and we couldn't have timed it more perfectly. The biggest Orca slid onto the beach and finally made a catch. Not only were we over the moon to see them finally get fed there was also a mother and baby southern right whale by the shore. The ranger explained that this is also very rare, they are such huge creatures that they don't normally come this close but the mother was keeping the baby away from the Orcas. It was such an amazing moment, something we will never forget and probably bore everyone with the story a million more times!
It was an adrenalin filled car journey back but we managed to sleep again in the car, this time a bit warmer with our £3.00 blanket purchase, hmm toasty! We got early in the hope of seeing more Orcas but we weren't as lucky today, so glad we came yesterday. We did see more penguins and sea lions and went for a walk near to where the boat tours go and saw four more southern right whales. A great way to end a truly wild adventure!