Penguins, Whales and Seals!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, November 29, 2007


Welcome to the beginning of my Argentina adventure :o) first impression is predominantly that it is so european compared to Bolivia! Not really surprising but still a bit of a shock to go pretty much directly from mud roads and "being a gringo" to designer jewellery shops, european architecture and looking the same as everyone else. Still so far its pretty fun :o)

My first stop was in Puerto Madryn, a largish town in north patagonia. The flight from BA was good, and when I arrived I got straight in a minibus to town and found a really nice hostel. Luckily they had one bed free :o) I was really really tired on the first day, think that having left the park the hard work and lack of sleep was catching up with me! I wandered around town for a bit, and its cute - sandy beach with a pier, lots of nice shops, restaurants etc... Not an awful lot to say, I just chilled out and cooked myself pasta in the evening. Oh and they even have Carrefour here! If I didnt no better I could easily mistake Puerto Madryn for a french coastal town.

The point of coming to Puerto Madryn was that it is the closest town to Peninsular Valdes - famous as a prime breeding ground for the endangered southern right whale, as well as home to elephant seals, sea lions and magellanic penguins. Soo, obviously, on Wednesday I took a trip to go and see them! First up was whale watching. I booked onto a tour through my hostel with the promise of a small boat - if thats a small boat id hate to see a large boat, there were about 40 people on it! We headed off and within 5 minutes saw our first whale - a mother with pup alongside. It was pretty cool, although its hard to see how big they are as you mainly only see either a flash of tail, or some of their back. A couple of times the pup jumped up so we could see a little more! We saw around 4 different mother-pup pairs i šn total. One thing that annoyed me was that our boat driver got so close to the whales that they swam off pretty quickly, and so we didnt really get to watch them playing naturally, just swimming away! And the other people on the boat seemed to think it was a performance in a zoo, and clapped each time a whale showed its tail. Grrr! All they wanted was the perfect photo, no one actually seemed interested in just watching them!  I think I've realised I don't like people, present company excepted.

After the whale trip we got back on the bus and headed to Punta Norte, a huge elephant seal colony on the north edge of the peninsula. We went for a walk along the cliff face and saw hundreds of elephant seals lying down on the beach. Actually they looked kinda dead, just all lying there beached. But then every so often one would get up and shuffle to the water. And they are so huge! The males can get to 3500kg. The "daddies" of the seal world are called beachmasters and they control harems of up to 100 females. Pimptastic! We also saw two pups play fighting, really cute, its kind of like sumo wrestling.

The next stop was at a small penguin colony :o) unfortunately it was rather short and there were too many people there again, ug. Whistled and clucking at the penguins to try and get them to turn round for a photo. Stupid people. Luckily no one is allowed on to the beach so you cant get to close and they can escape when they want! They were really cute though, Magellanic penguins dont have any yellow patches like emperor penguins but they do have a black stripe across their chest. They waddled around and sunbathed. Unfortunately its a little early in the year for the babies to come out of the nests. I'd like to see a bigger penguin colony so hopefully going to go see one in Chile on my way south.

Next stop was lunch, and more elephant seals. i went for a nice walk along the cliffs with Judith, a dutch girl in my hostel. Saw some good GCSE geography in action - a peninsular that is gradually closing up due to sea deposits, that will eventually leave a salt water lake in the centre.

And that was about it! We went to a museum on the way back, the most interesting thing for me was a stuffed wild cat from the area. It looked very like an ocelot but with a face and teeth much more like a domestic cat, and smaller paws, but with the same thick tail and coat pattern. I might look up their different evolution patterns at some point. Other than the stops, I spent most of the day asleep! I couldnt help it! Everytime we got on the bus I fell asleep for an hour until the next place, oops :oS

When we got back to town me and Judith decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal - steak! Yum! it was my first argentinian steak so deserved a nice restaurant. We went to a recommended place, and it was really good. i had fillet steak with mushroom sauce and it was so soft and tender and yummy. had some red wine as well which was pretty good. It was expensive for south america but actually only about 10 pounds which is amazing for such a good steak! In Argentina they eat really late so we went out just before 10 and didnt finish eating until mnidnight! Yikes! Didnt want to go straight to bed after that so went for a drink, had a yummy cocktail in a bar that looked exactly like so many London bars. in fact the whole evening could have been in london, a little weird really!

My lie-in the next day didn't really happen as checkout was at 10am, ug. So I spent the morning shopping instead of sleeping .o) Just bought one t-shirt - and wearing new clothes makes me feel like a person not a backpacker! I'd forgotten what it was like...

At 2pm I headed to the bus station with Judith, and an english couple from our hostel, for the loong bus down south to El Calafate. 24 hours, ouch! Read on...

Ciao! xxx
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