A family Christmas with the Elephant seals
Trip Start Apr 02, 2009
123Trip End Sep 09, 2010
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Where I stayed
Our Christmas residence was fortunately not this estancia but a lighthouse hotel on Peninsula Valdes, a vast, remote and barren area in the middle of Atlantic Patagonia
Debbie & I left spent the early evening in the company of several hundred elephant seals whilst the kids retired for a siesta. The elephant seals are very smelly, never more so than at this time of the year due to the molting process that they go through after the mating season. The seashore it littered with females who are pregnant. They have a pup each year from the age of maturity, 2, until they are too old or knackered to have any more, around 20. In addition to the mums, there are equal numbers of pups who are now abandoned and alone for the mum is only maternal for 3 weeks
Alongside the smells is the noise of fighting mums, the male pups practicing their alpha dominance and crying pups who haven’t realized Mum has gone and they have to now fend for themselves. Given the speedy desertion pups gain 4x their birth-weight in 4 weeks for survival and amazingly the fatality rates for the pups is only around 2% - they learn quickly.
Christmas Eve turns out to be quite a party with most of the guests being Argentinean and they, like the Spanish, celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts in the evening of the 24th. We exchanged a few hugs and kisses with some of the group, played darts and retired to bed telling the children to be good otherwise Santa would not come
It was just like being at home!! Daniel and Lauren joined us in our bedroom, we opened up some champagne, stockings were handed out and we all took it in turns to open a present. This actually took longer than expected. Daniel had arrived with heaps of presents from the family which we just hadn’t anticipated. We had enough champagne to last the day so we just stayed in the room, kept ourselves very private from the rest of the hotel and only emerged for lunch and the regular afternoon walk to blow away the cobwebs and prepare our bodies for more food and drink. It was a fantastic and relaxing day in a very oddly beautiful part of the world.
An added Christmas bonus and real treat for us was the sighting of 7 Orcas in the bay that came in under the tuition of an adult male Orca training the youngsters in how to attack and kill seals. They swam in 2 pods searching out individual seals that were not resting on the beach. These seals were isolated by circling the animal before attacking it, tossing the body around and then discarding the animal after it was dead. 2 of the Orcas practiced 'beaching’ and disappeared back out again
The rest of our time passed in very much the same lazy fashion – walking riding, reading, resting eating and drinking. A couple of other notable highlights were Debbie enjoying playing darts – and unfortunately rather good at it!, the riding and watching Daniel and Lauren revert to being children by having running races up the sand-dunes and who could throw their water bottle the furthest.
Sadly all good things come to an end and Daniel’s departure came around all too quickly. The kids left us on 27th to return to Santiago for New Year and we spent 2 days slowing wandering back up the east coast to our estancia for New Year.