Up at 5.30am after one final comfy but short sleep at the Tin House, we packed our bags once more and said our goodbyes to a sleepy Sean who was setting off with a ridiculously large bag to do the W-trek himself that morning. We caught a quick taxi to the bus station, unable to bear walking the 10 minutes, and took our 3 hour bus to Puerto Arenas, rolled into another taxi, to yet another bus station, spent our last Chilean Pesos on junk food from a blind street vendor selling random bits, caught another 3 hour bus back across the Chile/Argentina border, our ticket for which seemed to include all sorts of sandwiches, crisps and biscuits that kept being brought to us (not that we were complaining of course) and finally, after a 4.5 hour wait in a station, got a 15 hour bus up to Trelew; this is a pretty mammoth journey looking back, which hadn't seemed too bad at the time when this was just a standard weekly South-American trip to us!
At 10am we arrived in the city of Trelew, which was strangely founded in 1886 by Welsh settlers, a feature shared with many other cities and towns in the area. After spending a tiring 40 minutes wandering around this run-down council-estate type city, and seeming to have asked the most mental man there for directions, we finally reached our hostel. After check-in we treated ourselves to one more 30 minute bus ride to the nearby town of Gaiman, famous for its small stone houses with rose-filled gardens and numerous Welsh-Teahouses; we were of course visiting to get our fill of a Welsh tea! With our British roots we followed in the footsteps of Princess Diana and made our way to the 'Ty Te Caerdydd' teahouse, which she visited in 1995; a day which the locals proudly recount. About one third of the residents here claim Welsh ancestry and indeed our waitress, a small old lady in traditional teashop dress, explained to us through both Spanish and Welsh that her Grandfather had come from Cardiff and had moved over to Argentina. She was very excited to meet Trevor, an 'actual' Welshman, and we seemed to draw a slight crowd when discussing this fact in the tearoom. The afternoon tea itself was enormous, with unlimited pots of tea complete with a knitted cosy, sandwiches, scones, and a range of yummy rich cakes; in fact we were beaten and had to take a couple of the cakes away with us! It was all a little surreal being in the middle of Argentina and tucking into a Welsh tea, and after wandering the streets to work off about 5 calories of the 5000 we had just eaten, we caught a bus back to Trelew for an early night. Unfortunately our dorm room contained a number of extremely noisy, inconsiderate guests who spoke very loudly, turned lights on and off, and slammed doors, despite us trying to sleep, and there were more than a few loud huffs coming from Sophie, who just about managed to bite her tongue.
Next morning we were off to another Welsh settlement town called Puerto Madryn, which is also famous for the other type of 'whales'. It is located within close proximity to 'Península Valdés', an important nature reserve on the Atlantic Coast which is regarded as a World Heritage Site. We checked into our 'Hostel Retorno' and were greeted by a rather scary owner called Gladys who proceeded to try and sell us every tour that we weren't interested in. Instead, Gladys' use came in the form of a criminal when we asked to change some more of our dollars into pesos on the black market rate (she apparently keeps all her pesos and dollars literally under her mattress), and the next day we got the public bus out to the Peninsula. After reaching 'Puerto Piramides', a tiny town on the peninsula, we boarded a Whale watching boat where we were unfortunately joined by 30 very excitable school teenagers. We headed out into the sea searching for Southern Right Whales who approach the Peninsula from their feeding grounds further South between June and November each year in their hundreds, to calve and nurse their young away from the predatory groups of orca that patrol this part of the Atlantic Coastline of Patagonia. On our trip we managed to see around 6 of the enormous 15metre long mammals, distinguished by numerous callosities on their heads, a broad back lacking a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Its skin is very dark grey or black with the callosities on its head appearing white due to the large colonies of whale lice living in them. Luckily they are pretty curious towards human vessels and spend a lot of their time at the surface of the water which makes them pretty easy to spot! We watched a few, often with calves alongside them, as they came to investigate our boat and sprayed water out through their blow holes, occasionally rolling over when seagulls started to annoy them by landing on their heads as they surfaced and pecked at their callosities to feed on the lice. Although we could really only see a small amount of their bodies out of the water, you could see the shadows beneath and imagine the sheer scale of the animals, giving us that feeling of insignificance being so close to such an immense creature; the largest whale after the blue whale. After an hour and a half out in a very chilly boat we headed back to shore, satisfied with the numerous pictures of big grey lumps we'd taken at sea.
After heading back to Puerto Madryn we collected our bags from the hostel and made our way to the bus station where we waited for our 1 hour delayed bus, which eventually left at 10:30pm, to take us to the third last stop of our travels; Argentina's cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires.