Home of the Southern right Whale

Trip Start Sep 23, 2010
Trip End Jul 13, 2012

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Monday, November 29, 2010

30th Nov.

Woke up around 8am with a plastic tray on my lap and breakfast which was a sweet croissant and a dry toast biscuit with cheese spread and a cup of tea and then we took our last anti-malarial tablet as it's now been a month since we left the Amazon. Around 9am we stopped at a Gendarmeria Nacional check point where they brought a sniffer dog on to check for drugs etc. We finally arrived into Puerto Madryn about half an hour late which is pretty good for South America then caught a taxi to the hostel and checked in. After a little rest we headed to the beach to check out the sights and walk along the pier. It's not much to look at, just a pier with the Prefectura (coast guard) and a smaller boat next to it but later in the year the cruise ships dock with hundreds more tourists to flood the place. Getting rather hungry we headed to the supermarket to get some lunch then headed back to the hostel to eat it and relax. As we'd booked our whale watching trip for tomorrow we had a better idea on when to book the bus to head south, so we headed back to the bus station to book our seats for Friday to Ushuaia and we got the last seats on the bus so that was lucky! We then headed back to the hostel to cook dinner, chicken curry (I hope) with the only chicken I could find which I thought was breast but it was leg complete with skin so it was a nightmare to prepare. An hour later (10pm) and we were eating a quite mild curry but it made a change, then off to bed as we had an early start in the morning.

1st Dec.

Got up around 7.15am to check about the trip but the tourist office was shut until 7.30am so we ate our breakfast and then found out that unfortunately it had been canceled due to windy conditions (hopefully it will be OK for tomorrow) so we headed back to bed. Later we headed to the supermarket to get some lunch and dinner for this evening, we bought fruit and yogurt for a fruit salad lunch and pizza for dinner, the good and the bad! In the afternoon we stepped out for some air and walked along the coast for an hour or two. We made it all the way down to the Eco -centro where they had the skeleton of a southern right whale. These things are huge and their flippers have hands a bit like ours with four fingers and a short thumb attached to the first finger. They do have more knuckles and the palm has two bones that can close together to make more of a scoop. The hardest part of any walk is the long walk back and the weather wasn't looking good either but we managed to get back without getting wet and on the way we saw a strange looking statue of two men one on a horse and one on a donkey, we found out later that it was Don Quixote. Once back we fired up the oven and cooked our pizza then a movie, (Wedding Daze) and then got some sleep as we had another early morning to see if we can see the whales this time.

2nd Dec.

Woke to much better weather this morning so hopefully we'll be OK for whale watching. After breakfast we were collected by our tour guide, Alejandro, for the trip to Peninsula Valdes. After we had collected the rest of the group we headed off. First stop was on Istmo Ameghino the piece of land that joins the peninsula to the mainland and therefore makes it a peninsula. At this point we could see both San Jose Gulf and Nuevo Gulf on either side.  In San Jose Gulf their is an island known as Isla de los Pajaros (Bird Island) which apparently is represented in the book 'The Little Prince' by the shape of the snake eating the elephant. Next stop the visitors centre to pay our entrance fee and look at their exhibitions. Then we headed off to Punta Norte where there is an elephant seal colony.  On the way, we managed to spot various different animals such as maras (hare like creatures but not), rheas and guanacos (llama family).From Punta Norte we headed south to Caleta Valdes and Punta Cantor. Caleta Valdes is home to a small colony of magallanes penguins before they migrate to Punta Tombo where there is a much larger colony (the second largest after Antarctica). Punta Cantor is home to another elephant seal colony and also a few very large petrels. It was here we had lunch and then afterwards headed towards Puerto Piramides to hopefully catch our boat to venture out to find whales. It was not looking hopeful as in the last few days due to high winds the port had been closed and no boats allowed out. The same was true of this morning. However, we all crossed our fingers and as Ben, an Australian we met, suggested, prayed to the goddess of wind. We arrived at Puerto Piremides around 4pm and it was confirmed that the port was open and boats were now going out. We would be on the last one! We had our boat, let's hope we could find whales! At approximately 5pm we were given life jackets, headed down to our launch and motored out. 15 or 20 mins later we had spotted penguins and sea lions, but no whales. In the distance however, there were a couple of other tour boats which were hovering around something. What was it? A dark shape moved through the water, like a fin! Excitedly, we headed in the direction of the activity to find not just one whale but a mother and calf. Within seconds we had the tail of the mother right in front of the boat – forming the ultimate photograph. Wow! Dean, camera in hand, started shooting – no! The camera refused to work! Was it the settings, no space on the card, low battery – who knows, just at the most inappropriate time it fails! However, just for the tourist that might have missed this massive obstruction in the water, the mother whale did it again, and there was the tail sticking out of the water again. This time Dean got lucky and his camera went on overdrive. Possibly, 100 shots later, a grinning Dean appeared from behind the lens with his thumbs up. After that, the whales just kept coming. At one point we were surrounded by mothers and calves (the males had left a month or two ago). We even saw a white calf, which would eventually turn grey as it gets older. Awesome! After an hour or so, we headed back to shore, many suffering with RSI from over usage of photographic equipment. With grins from ear to ear we returned to our hostel, tired but satisfied, for a fish and chip meal and then bed.

3rd Dec

After a deserved lie-in we got up, showered, ate breakfast and packed ready for our bus this afternoon to Ushuaia. We had lunch and then loaded our bags on our shoulders and trudged to the bus station. Our bus was due at 13.30 but we soon discovered it was going to be late, approximately 20 mins late. However, 14.00 came and went. We saw off a dutch couple of ladies we had met yesterday on our trip heading to San Antonio and their bus came & went. Three hours later we are still waiting, when finally our bus arrives. We discover that apparently it was held up due to the fact that drugs had been found aboard when a routine security check was made just outside Puerto Madryn. Finally on board we settled in for our 18hr journey to Rio Gallegos, hoping that our connecting bus to Ushuaia would wait. As we were running late, as soon as we left we had a sandwich dropped on our lap trays and they started a movie we think was something like extreme fighter 3 or ultimate fighter 3 (not sure as title was in Spanish) followed by a snack and the film The Rebound. Now in Argentina they like to eat dinner late but normally around 8.30-9pm on the buses, but as we were running late and the food is collected from a bus station on route we had to wait until 10.30pm for our dinner! We werenŽt happy to say the least but we ate our food and were thankful and got some sleep around 23.30.
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