Patagonia - Puerto Madryn
Out of the heat and into the cold and I never thought I would say this but... a welcoming break it was. We honestly were looking forward to wearing warm clothes for a while. It actually felt very strange first putting them on. We pre-booked our bus from BA to Puerto Madryn which was going to be another 21 hour trip but at this stage we are more than used to them. In fact, you almost look forward to them because you have all that time just to relax an do nothing. We went with Andesmar which are by far that best bus company we travelled with - 3 meals, comfortable reclining seats, blankets & pillows, wine and most importantly (no other bus does this), we got to play Bingo! Bingo was a challenge in itself when you only know the basics in Spanish. Luckily we didn't win, saving us the embarrassment of crossing off all the wrong numbers. I think it is important to also mention here that our meals all had some sort of cheese and ham option, for instance in the middle of the chicken breast was... Ham and cheese! Just incase you started thinking we hadn't had some in a while. Andrew goes mad every time he sees it which is obviously highly entertaining for me.
Myself, Andrew and our swedish friend Pete (the three musketeers) set out on Sunday and arrived early the next morning in Puerto Madyrn and got a taxi straight to the hostel. We have starting latching on to anyone that is willing to come travelling with us... safety in numbers and all that.
If you decide to go to Patagonia then Puerto Madryn is a must do! It's the wildlife capital of Argentina. You will see everything that you'll never see at home.. Orcas (Killer Whales to you and me), sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, guanacos (llamas), hawks, eagles and more.
We stayed at a hostel called HI Patagonia which was perfect with a really nice owner called Gaston. Gaston was married with kids but I'm still pretty sure he was gay because he kept hugging and winking at Andrew in quite inappropriate ways. Other then that, Gaston went out of his way to help us, planned the whole few days for us while we were there. A lot of travellers leave out Patagonia because of the cost of it. It is expensive especially the tours and hostels but it is completely worth it. We spent 4 nights (€10 p/n) at this hostel and could have spent longer, it felt like a little home away from home and you could book all your tours from here too which saved a lot of hassle for us. Everyday we had a trip/tour planned, there is a lot to see and do.
The first day when we arrived we went to a place called Punta Ninfas where you go to one of the many stunning beaches and are brought within a few feet of elephant seals. For anyone who hasn't seen Ice Age or Happy Feet, elephant seals are possible the fattest and ugliest mammal to live. They make some horrendous sounds as well but I loved them and it was incredible to be able to see something so close. They are also MASSIVE, the biggest one we saw was 16ft long and nearly as wide. We were told that they can weigh anything up to 4 tonnes... Ok then....
The next day, we did the Valdes peninsula tour which you have to go on tour with because there are a lot of different stops along the way that you would miss out on if you rented a car and did it yourself. We had the best tour guide ever!! This guy was adamant that we saw every living creature in the peninsula. On the way home, he suddenly stopped the car at 100mph, nearly driving us into the ditch, just to see a spider. In all fairness, this was the biggest spider I had ever seen and we were all pretty happy to see it, that we all quickly forgot about nearly crashing into the ditch. We started off the tour looking for Orca whales which were out of season but supposedly we still stood a chance of seeing them. Unfortunately we didn't but you can't have it all I suppose. On from there we went to a sealion colony which was incredible. There were hundreds of female and baby sealions all scrunched up along the shore. We got huge entertainment out of one really thick sealion that kept falling off the same rock trying to get to his friends. He didn't think to go a different way... Hilarious stuff. After sealions, we went to see some penguins. I love penguins!! They have to be the cutest little things in the world. Think about it, do you know anyone that doesn't like penguins?? No is the answer, I certainly don't and if I did I wouldn't want to know them. There was a lot of penguins at this beach but nothing compared to what would be seeing the next day.
Another thing that you are bound to see and that we saw a lot of is Guanacos. These are like prettier more elegant versions of Llama. Now they would be similar to sheep in that they wouldn't be the brightest animals on the earth. In fact they have a very big reputation with trying to commit suicide. Another reason I wouldn't recommend renting a car is because these things just love running in front of every moving vehicle. We had some really close calls. God bless our tour guide and his brakes. Our last stop was the small town of Valdes which was beautiful and the place where I found my twin animal. This is basically a golden retriever that looks identical to me! I'll post the picture! The whole tour cost us 450 pesos each. It is expensive in terms of travelling on a budget but it's a full day tour and worth every penny of it!
The following day and one of my favourite days so far on this trip was what I like to call 'Happy Feet' day. We went to Punta Tomba which is the biggest Penguin colony in the world. We rented a car for this one because it worked out cheaper as there were four of us. We roped another person into coming with us for this one - Raphael from the US. On a side note, I'd just like to mention, some of the soundest and most down to earth people we have met so far on this trip, were, believe it or not, American, changing my whole opinion of them. Back to the tour itself... The car journey getting there was great fun, we all got very competitive with a serious game of 'The Name Game'. We gave Pete the character of King Kong and he just couldn't get it and all we could do was laugh when he asked questions like 'am I brunette?', no 'so I'm blonde?'. After two hours of driving, we arrived at Punta Tomba. After doing the whole standard, boring museum tour first, we weren't really sure what to expect with the colony. Well we definitely couldn't have predicted this one. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. Literally thousands of penguins everywhere, going about their daily business not even caring about these massive humans standing over them. You can literally be standing right beside them within a foot, they just don't care but don't touch them. They don't take kindly to that. We spent hours here, it's almost hard to leave - we just couldn't get enough of the penguins walking (more like waddling). After a great day we stocked up on some 1.5 litres of Argentina's finest boxed wines and drank till late. The problem with drinking for us, like I mentioned before is that you can pretty much write off the next day of doing anything productive. We stayed in bed late and lounged around most of the day but I did manage to force Andrew to go for a walk. It took serious persuasion.
The following day we took a flight to our next destination El Calafate. A flight in this case was half the prices of taking a bus only costing us 400 pesos. Check LADE airline for cheap flights in Patagonia.
That's it from Puerto Madryn, next stop El Calafate.
I'll keep you posted!!