Welsh tea cakes
Trip Start Sep 22, 2007
21Trip End Nov 10, 2007
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Unlike the dry and arrid landscapes of Puerto Madryn, Trelew is irrigated by the Rio Chubut. Its warm and sunny and I can understand how after the Welsh arrived in Puerto Madryn they soon moved down to the lush and green valley to make this place home.
There is still lots of evidence of the Welsh here. The people are tall with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. We have heard that the Welsh teas served in the nearby town of Gaiman are legendary.
I instantly like the town becaues the people are very friendly
Red brick buildings bear the Welsh flag and we pop into the Hotel Touring Club for a morning coffee. This 1920s hotel has a huge wooden bar which houses a giant collection of ancient bottles. There are large mirrors and there are old postcards and pictures decorating the walls. Gentle music plays in the background which we soon realise are church hymns. The hotel has an oldy wordly feeling and it feels as though we are stepping back 30 years in time.
We visit the Paleontological musuem. Here there is an outstanding collection of skeletons of mammals and dinosaurs, which are probably more diverse than the Natural History Musuem, London. We watch a BBC Horizon presentation of an important find some 300km from Trelew which has produced some unique fossils from the mid-Jurrasic Period. A time when not many fossils have been found.
107km south of Trelew is the home of the largest Magellenic penguin colony in Patagonia. Unfortuately it seems that the only way for us to reach the penguins is to join a tour. Our minibus trundes along a rough road for 2 hours until we reach a small hut at Punta Tombo. From here its just a short walk to see the penguins lying on their nests. Most of the nests consists of just a burrow, or small ditch in the dry soil, sometimes protected by a few twigs. A pair of penguins mate for life and every year they swim from Uruguay and Brazil down to the peninsular, always returning to the same burrow.
The whole area feels quite touristy with man made bridges crossing over the penguin paths to the sea
Spurred on by the Paleontological musueum in Trelew we take a short taxi ride from Gaiman to the middle of nowehere and the Bryn Gwyn Paleontological park. The taxi drops us off and as it drives off leaving us standing beside a small hut, I wonder whether the museum is open and how we are going to find our way back.. We meet the caretaker who tells us that the last visitors were 3 days ago. Its easy to see why not many tourists visit as our education involves a 1.5 hour hike up a cliff face. I somehow assumed that we were going to an indoor museum and its quite hard work walking in the afternoon heat. However the landscape of rocks looks prehistoric and it is an interesting way to present fossils from different eras amongst the layers of rocks. There are armadillos and dolphin bones displayed in glass pyramids. I am most impressed by the 1 meter thick layer of giant oyster shells. The shells weigh more than 1 kg and are larger than my hand.
We are exhausted by the time we get back to Gaiman
We sit beside dark wooden coffee tables with doily table cloths. Tea is served with a huge teapot covered with a crochet tea cosy. Not something very usual for South America. We tuck into bread, butter, scones and then a plate of 7 different tea cakes. Not sure whether the Dulce de Leche cakes are 100% Welsh but they certainly tasted pretty good.
Later we meet a Welsh guy: Phill, a teacher travelling through South America. He finds the whole Trelew and Gaiman Welsh experience tacky, distasteful and outdated. Its a bit like the image problems Scotland suffered from 50 years ago: all tartan and shortbread. Scotland and Wales are not like that anymore. The tea rooms of Gaiman are theme-parks celebrating life in Wales in a time long gone. Well worth visiting as long as you´re not Welsh.