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You can take the girls out of Wales.......

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

In 1865, 153 Welsh families travelled all the way to the East Coast of Argentina to make a home in Patagonia. They created a row of Welsh towns; Puerto Madryn, Trelew and Galmain. We arrived in Puerto Madryn expecting it to be grey and windswept, but unlike Wales it was sunny with blue skies so we went to check out the sea. Having been spoilt with the idyllic beaches of Parati and Rio in Brazil, we were happily surprised to find a genu-wine, authentic, proper Welsh seaside. Admittedly it was nowhere near as pretty as the nationally acclaimed beaches of the Gower; It was more like Swansea seafront, complete with seaweed, litter and an undeniable stench of cockles in the air. To reiterate our point, please see the below photos and try and identify the beach from Puerto Madryn.......

Yes, that’s right. It’s the one with the dirty sand and the tractor on it. People even had deckchairs and flasks with them for Christs sake. It couldn´t be more Welsh. As if our backpacker diets haven`t been unhealthy and unbalanced enough, we felt we should celebrate being in our home away from home with some deep fried seafood. We headed to the squid lady on the promenade and for 20 pesos (about 4 pounds) bought a tub full of the most delicious calamari imaginable. And don`t even get us started on the seasoned King Prawns which we nailed later.

People don`t tend to visit Puerto Madryn for the grubby beaches, but instead they flock here for the town`s easy access to Peninsula Valdes. Peninsula Valdes is a huge barren landscape with the occasional salt lake, which people visit to witness Sealions and Elephant Seals in their natural habitat. In fact it´s so huge, it´s 3625 km squared to be exact (thank you Wikipedia). Unfortunately we didn`t visit in whale watching season, but we were told that we would have a 3% chance of seeing Orcas- we didn`t love those odds. The only thing brightening up our horrifically early start to the Peninsula was Tom and Aiden a couple of Bristolian jokers from our hostel who spent the first half of the bus ride busting out an inappropriately loud rendition of Ronan Keating´s Mum-favourite, `You say it best when you say nothing at all`. Their Bristolian heritage sparked a new obsession in us and since we met them we have been struggling to not switch between our own voices and an over exaggerated Justin Lee Collins West Country accent, much to Robbi´s annoyance. Unlucky. The day trip consisted of a lot of bumpy driving, some cheeky naps, a lot of stopping to look at Llamas, and a visit to the Elephant Seals and Sealion colonies.

We caught a glimpse of uber-cute sealion pups through the binoculars- a mesmerizing moment only interrupted by the sound of Tom and Aiden next to us “Yer, right, wouldn`t it be like amaaazing to see an Orca come up on the shore and rip one of those seal pups in haaalf, right,” (please imagine this with a Bristolian twang). As we mentioned earlier we had been told we had a 3% chance of seeing Killer Whales, so we weren`t overly disappointed when none appeared- that was, until we found out that the tour group who were a mere half hour behind us had seen a herd of Killer Whales in the distance shortly after we had left the viewpoint. It still hurts to think Free Willy was so near, yet just out of our grasp. In one day we saw enough wildlife to make David Attenborough`s eyes water- perhaps the most impressive of this being an inconspicuous little number which everyone was peering down a hole to catch a glimpse of. Seeing the group stop and peer down a hole, we ambled over (getting told off for treading on the plants as we went) and got our faces really close to the hole as we tried to work out what all the fuss was about. “ Yes, so this is the black widow spider,” says our guide as we managed to pull focus and make out the shape of the tiny but deadly arachnid. Great, how about you tell us that before we shove our massive heads in there? We have a photo but it´s not up to much because it was taken mid girly scream and with our eyes shut.

Apparently one day of wildlife had whetted our appetites for more animals, so the next day we got up even earlier and headed to Punta Tombo, a 3km peninsula home to the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins in South America. And my God those little rascals were worth waking up early for. Once there you have the freedom to walk around with the penguins, the only rule being no touching (damn rules). Tay tried to push the boundaries by going in for a Penguin snuggle after she misread the look in its eyes as wanting some affection, and soon found the rule was there for a reason as the Penguin aggressively lunged for her. There´s always one and all that. The experience of seeing the Penguins so close and watching as they cuddled up to each other was one of the loveliest things to see and so worth the trip.

After Penguin heaven we stopped in on Galmain, a small Welsh village where we saw the first high school built in Patagonia and an array of pretty gardens and Welsh Tea Houses. Not so pretty however, was the extortionate price tag attached to the Welsh Tea Houses, and we had to stingily pass up on the delicious looking Welsh cakes because we actually fancied being able to afford to eat for the next week. We amused ourselves with a little wander round and a visit to the playground where Tay caused a scene on the slide by misjudging the near-vertical gradient and her screams echoed around the village. The local kids looked on in amazement as she emerged at full speed with an embarrassing near-stack which involved a hurdle over the barrier and a triple-jump style landing.

That night we went to a local club with Tom and Aiden and newbies Dutch Renee and Guido, who to everyones confusion are NOT a couple and are just two single friends who don`t have feelings for each other. Yeah right. Tom`s quote of the evening came when Guido and Renee went to leave together and he winked at Guido and said`, “Renee, I hope you get bonafide by Guido when you get home.” Classy guy. His second best quote of the night must have been when he suddenly turned to Jodie, eyes popping out of his head and informed her, “Oh my God, your breasts are ennnnoormous.” (Again, a West Country accent is essential here) Great genes Mummy Cooper!

Now down to El Calafate to see some glaciers… x

permalink written by  JodesAndTay on February 25, 2010 from Puerto Madryn, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Well Miss Cooper you have learnt more history on the 5 weeks you have been over there than the whole time in school! I'm very impressed. You tell those Bristolians (don't think that's a word) to stop looking at your Bristol Cities!! Love you xxxxxxxxxxx

permalink written by  Mummy Cooper on February 25, 2010

Love the travel log, very entertaining. Glad you're having such a good time.

The tan looks amazing, and what do you mean about Wales not being sunny, it was this afternoon after a heavy rain shower this morning!!

Happy St David's Day for Monday, I'll be thinking of you as I eat my Welsh cakes. Talking of food, with all those amazing steaks just as well you're not a vegetarian!

Stay safe, love you lots, Auntie Carol & co.

permalink written by  Carol Rowden on February 27, 2010

Tay I thought you learned your lesson from that squirrel in New York - when will you ever learn not to stick those little fingers out to wild animals!!!

Love to you all
Mum T xxxxxx

permalink written by  Pat Taylor on February 28, 2010

I hope that no pilchards were hurt in the making of that penguin film!

permalink written by  Father O'Doode on February 28, 2010

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