Peninsula Valdes - lots of sea animals

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Rivadavia, Trelew

Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

Well our stop in Welsh Colony of Trelew (Place of Lewis in Welsh) was mainly as a base for a few wildlife trips. All this area of Argentinian Patagonia is full of penguins, sea lions, sea elephants, killer whales, dolphins (toninas), ņandu ostriches, guanacos, foxes and other sorts.

The town of Trelew has little to offer, but has sufficient restaurants and shops to enjoy the evenings after long animal watching tours - even 2 Carrefour supermarkets...

Our hotel was well selected (Hotel Rivadavia) and is the cheapest yet ($96 pesos = approx 20 euro) with private bath, satellite TV and cleaning each and everyday (new towels every day...a luxury not enjoyed until now!). Luckily we chose it via telephone and not from its exterior aspect. The red light sign would have put us off at night had we not known it was so nice inside...with a book exchange service also.

At reception there is an old man (family of the owners) which spends his whole day there. The poor chap suffers alzheimer or similar so each time someone arrives he points at the door and says "there are no rooms left" independently of whether you have a room or not. The first 3 times we explained that we had a room until we realised he wasnt realising who was who.

Nice part of the room is the old style roof fan. Nice, not because its decorative (because it isnt), but because the heat is still hitting Argentina strongly with days of 30 degrees celsius and over, with no wind.

Enough of hotel talk then...

Another early morning for the super adventurers in order to join the "packaged" wildlife tour. We both so very much hate tours organised by agencies and similar, but there was simply no other option to get to Peninsula Valdes except the tours. We could get to the main entrance with local buses at a tenth of the price, but then there is an additional 200 kilometres with no public transport except taxis - so not a real option.

We therefore joined a bus tour, with guide included (she was very good - probably given her German education and blood...her grandparents emigrated from Germany in 1949 to Buenos Aires). As always there was a couple from...yes you guessed it - "Catalunya" (not Spain), and a German couple which had indulged too much on the sugary side of life (luckily for both of them there were plenty of extra seats on the bus and could occupy 2 each). The rest where argentinian nationals, including an old lady that spent the 12 hours of tour knitting away on the front seat...she never got off the bus. Just some of the reasons we hate these tours! Anyway we have only done 3 of them in nearly 2 months.

The tour involves driving 500 kilometres of pretty rough roads (ripia as they say here - basically unpaved and with small stones all over. All the buses and cars have broken windows up front). There are 4 stops which really make it worth while.

Stop 1: Punta Norte - the colony of Sea Lions. Just hundreds of them, and their recently born little ones. Its difficult to appreciate on the pictures and videos that we have included how amazing it is to be so close to them, and the loud noise of their cries and fights.

Stop 2: Caleta Valdes: the colonies of Magellanic Penguins. They are just loveable. Again difficult to show in pictures (given our simple camera) but it was fun. We also managed to spot a penguin from the Antartic colonies...funnily enough we identified it as in the cruise in Chile they showed the file "Little Feet" (penguin cartoon story about a dancing penguin). One of the characters in the file was a penguin called "Love God" which has yellow feathers coming out of its head! It was the only one and according to the guide it must have got lost in its travels and joined this other colony. Veronika checked in internet and they appear to live in the North of Antartica and Falklands - long distance from there.

Stop 3: Punta Delgada: the Sea Elephants. With the males weighing up to 5 tonnes it is amazing to watch them move and sleep on the beaches. Again in large numbers. The video shows one of the males "hopping" around - probably about 4 tonnes.

Stop 4: Punta Piramides: the main port of the Peninsula Valdes, which lots of tour companies which specialise on whale watching (not in season now). Apparently Lady Di was around there whale watching, though I dont think she took our tour bus! There were more sea lions around the area, with Veronika managing to spot an albino baby one...white baby amongs hundreds of black coloured ones. It seemed to be proud of its status! Veronika was worried about the possibility of the white pup getting sunburnt...not sure if she was serious about this :-)

Interesting fact about the ņandu ostriches in the area. When they lay eggs, they always leave a couple aside, basically to die. When the incubated ones hatch, the parents open the dead ones which by then will be rotten. The moment they are broken the smell attracts flies and other insects to the rot. The young ones then feed off the flies...

We finally did a mini tour of Puerto Madryn (the first place where the Welsh settlers arrived in 1865). It currently lives from the aluminium industry (Aluar company) which practically feeds its 40,000 inhabitants. It recently sold a contract to Japan which will guarantee production during the next 10 years.
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