The Whales And The Wales

Trip Start Aug 08, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Thursday, May 1, 2008

The crossing into Argentina was relatively pain free, a 5 hour bus journey with just a couple of 10 minuet stops at Chilean and Argentinian customs.  Our first destination in Argentina was Bariloche.  Bariloche is a fairly touristy town that sells T-shirts, sun glasses and chocolate - the chocolate in fact was very very big and they had shops as big as supermarkets selling chocolates galore - I had some and it was very good.  We arrived late in the evening so went drinking in our hostel that night, arrived in the bar at 7pm to take advantage of the 7-8 happy hour, only to be told that happy hour had ended.  Hmnnnnn.  It took another couple of hours before I realised that there was a 1 hour time difference between Chile and Argentina that had cost me dearly in slightly cheaper drinks.

The Sunday I spent in very lazy fashion watching a bit of TV, walking around the town and spending a bit more time in the hostel bar with the bunch we'd met the night before.  The Monday was a bit more productive as I headed for the Nahuel Huapi National Park.  This national park was amazing and more like the Patagonia I was expecting further south; snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes, trees with leaves of all colours from greens to bright oranges and reds.  While there I must have covered over 20km which was great exercise too.  Back in the town centre we had to move hostel due to no availability at our current hostel, and moved just 10 metres across the road to a smaller but much better place.  In next to no time we'd got chatting to nearly everyone in the hostel and enjoyed a very good and now rare roast dinner that the owners prepared.  The roast was great and as I've noticed whenever I now see vegetables on a plate, they were the first things to be eaten - bit strange how when you don't see them as regularly as you should, that they then become your favourite part of meals.

After three nights in Bariloche we took an overnight bus to the Eastern coast town of Rawson, from where we'd take a local bus to Trelew and then another bus to Puerto Madryn.  To be honest we didn't really know where we were going at this stage and were making it up as we went along.  The main reason we opted for Puerto Madryn was for its range of wildlife including Whale watching, but also because it was easily accessible to a small town called Gaiman which not only had a funny name but also has a strong welsh settlement. 

It was a 2 hour journey to get to Gaiman from Puerto Madryn and it really was a strange town indeed.  The majority of cars being driven were from the 1960's, 70's and 80's, and there were a whole load of Welsh tea-houses offering traditional welsh cream teas.  I was amused at one tea-house indiscriminatingly using the name Lady Diana Spencer in its advert without any explanation for its use - Had she been here?  Did she ever know of it?  "If it says Lady Diana Spencer on the ad then it must be Welsh"  I could hear visiting tourist saying.  Although apparently a tourist destination the locals did like to participate in the popular game of 'Stare At The Stranger', and the tourist office was also amusing as the very attractive woman who worked there, looked like I was her first visitor for weeks and had me filling in all sorts of questionnaires on why I'd go to such a place.  After a couple of hours the towns attractions were covered (including experiencing some classic welsh cake) and we took the bus back via what appeared to be a tour of back-of-nowhere-farms for several rural pick-ups.

The following morning we'd arranged to go on a tour up to Peninsular Valdez.  As I mentioned earlier the peninsular is a hive of wildlife activity and in the right seasons there are over 1000 whales in the gulf there, over 600,000 penguins and many other animals and sea-life.  Unfortunately for us we were visiting in the 2 months that were low season so weren't likely to see as much - another place for me to mark for a future visit though as the place sounds fab.  We went to the peninsular regardless with another two Japanese tourists in a minivan which had about 20 stone-chips in the window.  The reason why soon became apparent as we hit the gravel roads that make up most of the peninsular.  While we were there we walked several trails and saw a sea lion colony of about 200 sea lions all making the funniest wailing and belching noises.  I also saw a tarantula scurrying across a path which I probably would have stood on if I hadn't been on the look-out for armadillo tracks.  Oh and I saw the armadillos too, one in a bush in its more native environment and then another two in a car park chasing a fox around.  I never imagined armadillos to be quick but they can sure move when they want to.

Back in Puerto Madryn we killed 3 hours in a restaurant until our next overnight bus which would take us to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aries.
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