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Published: April 17th 2014
We left Buenos Aires at 11am for our first experience of the lowest class on Argentinian buses, semi-cama, with a company called Andesmar. The bus journey was great. There were 4 films in a row in English with Spanish subtitles: The Bookthief, The Internship (which a 70+ year old man enjoyed watching the strip club scene), Now You See Me and Snitch. The seats are similar to Megabus in the UK. They're not as big and plush as the seats in cama and we probably would have slept better in cama, but it was fine and we must have slept 6+ hours. Overall the main difference between cama and semi-cama are the size and comfort of the seats, the food is pretty rubbish and not worth the extra money at all in my opinion. Cama seats have a 2 on 1 side of the aisle and 1 on the other, where semi-cama is like most other coaches and has 2 seats either side of the aisle.
We arrived quite fresh at 6.30am, got a taxi to the hostel for AR$21. The hostel was called Hi Patagonia and it was by far the best we'd stayed in. Gaston, the owner, is a hero. He made us a big mug of great coffee when we arrived and had sent loads of information about the various tours available previous to our arrival. Puerto Madryn is pretty much a stop to see a plethora of wildlife. Doing tours is the only way to really see them. Depending on the time of year you are there you can see southern right whales, sealions, elephant seals, penguins and orcas. I love Orcas and this is one of the few places in the world they intentionally beach themselves to catch seals and their pups. I was beyond excited to see this and deluded myself into thinking we would catch a glimpse. We booked onto a land tour of Peninsula Valdes, which would take a full day, cover 400km and cost AR$550 including the National Park entrance fee per person. Thankfully Gaston had managed to sort this out for us with an hours notice, so we set off at 8am. There was a small group of 6 others, they all spoke Spanish so the guide had to explain it in Spanish to them and then in English to just us 2. We passed relatives of the llama and ostrich on the first stretch and a tour in front had spotted a tarantula scuttling across the road. It was a good hand span big but it was still a great spot. First stop was the visitor's centre which had great information about the wildlife and plants we would see. We went on to Punta Norte where the sealions breed and the orcas beach themselves. The conditions have to be perfect for them to do it and of course they have to actually want to, so sadly (I was gutted) we didn't see any orcas. The sealion pups were funny though and we saw a long haired armadillo, also funny. Another hour or so on the bus we stopped to see the penguins. They were there to change their feathers and it wasn't the best time of year to see them. You quickly learn that you would have to stay a full year in Puerto Madryn to have a chance of seeing all the animals due to their breeding patterns and migrations. The fourth stop was to see Elephant seals. It was just the females and their young as the males had gone to sea a while ago. The elephant seals could very well have been dead! They barely move and just bask in the Sun. Luckily the views of the beach and surrounding area are lovely and the weather was excellent, 24 degrees and blue skies. The last stop was lunch in Puerto Pyramides at the classically Argentinian time of 3pm. There are few restaurants and we paid AR$175 for a cheese salad sandwich, a cheese and ham toastie and a Pepsi. They just hike the prices because of the isolated nature of the place. Take your own food if you can. The tour was good though, a little pricey but the only real way to get to see everything.
Returned to the hostel around 5.30pm and decided to join the hostel BBQ for AR$80 each. Even though some of these BBQ's at the hostels can seem pricey in Argentina and Brazil they have been totally worth it. We were grateful for a good shower and went for a nice walk along the beach then waited until 9pm for food. Worth the wait. There was rice and salad and a lovely pile of beef and chicken between the 6 of us. The meat from these BBQ's is incredible. They cook it for hours but it is really moist and exceptionally tasty. There was another British couple eating with us who were really nice and had come from Peru, Bolivia etc so we chatted to them and got some tips for the future.
The 4 bed dorm we had to ourselves was lovely. Clean, comfy beds, feather pillows and wardrobes as lockers for USD$13.68 each. (Sorry about the dollars but we didn't write it down and hostelworld confirmation emails use dollars). Excellent hostel, probably the best so far and we highly recommend it.
Had a bus booked to Rio Gallegos for 13.40, so had a leisurely morning with a stroll around Puerto Madryn and a trip to the supermarket to stock up on food for the bus. Annoyingly we hadn't thought of getting up to watch the sunrise, which would have been amazing considering Puerto Madryn's position on the east coast and the stunning bay.
Onto our next 20+ hour bus journey down Argentina.
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