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Published: February 11th 2016
Saturday 6th February, 2016. Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina
Puerto Madryn is a city in the province of Chubut within the Argentine Patagonia. It is located on the Golfo Nuevo which is formed by the Valdes Peninusla and Punta Ninfas. It is located on the cliffs of a high plateau, which features an impressive view of the South Atlantic Ocean. The City is 1,400 km (870 miles) from Bunos Aires along the Route 3. From June to December Southern Right Wales arrive in Puerto Madryn and these can be observed from the beach or from boats - we were here at the wrong time of year unfortunately. There are also Orca in the area and a large Sea Lion colony. The city is the diving capital of Argentina.
In September 1865, 150 Welsh immigrants arrived at Puerto Madryn aboard a clipper called Mimosa. They arrivd to what is today the beaches of Puerto Madryn. The colonists who were aboard the ship were surprised to find a population made up of wooden huts which were used as shelter by 40 women and 61 children. The early huts have been attributed by historians to the aea of
Punta Cuevas. It wasn't until 1886 that the railway was built and the town of Madryn started to develop. The city continued into the 1950's but then the Patagonian Railway clossed and the Customs Franchises were terminated. Only ten years later a new textiles industry was born here but this only lasted a few years. In the mid 1970's an aluminum plant was located in Puerto Madryn and a significant tourist industry began to develop. The population increased and the city became the main town in the Region.
We arrived at about 12.00 pm but nothing much was going on. The boat was alongside but no gangway had been lowered. While we were waiting we went to have a bowl of soup in the Bistro. Just after 1 pm an announcement was made that we could disembark. We went to deck 8 where the gangway was supposed to be but it hadn't been lowered yet and hundreds of passengers were all in the scrum to get off. Eventually the gangway was lowered and slowly everyone started to disembark. We had never disembarked from Deck 8 before and the steps down were very steep. This meant that the
slowless was exacerbated further as the less mobile passengers were taking forever to negotiate the steps.
Once we were off we were lucky to get on the shuttle which took us to the end of a very long pier. It was grey and miserable and drizzling. When we alighted from the shuttle bus we were given a map. We went over to the car hire place but it was closed for siesta. That scuppered our plans a bit. We crossed over the road and negotiated with some taxi drivers to take us to Punta Loma Nature Reserve to see the Sea Lion Colony - they wanted $90 US to go the 10 miles out. We didn't have enough dosh as we had intended to hire a car. So we decided that we would go to the bus stop and see if we could get to Trelew which is one of the towns with a rich Welsh heritage about 70 km away down the Route 3 Patagonian Highway. On the way there we met a couple of other passengers called Frank and Marylin who had the same idea but were struggling to find the bus station as their
map wasn't as good as ours. We found the bus station and M wheeled out her Spanish at the information desk. She was told (in Spanish) that there were 2 companies that ran buses to Trelew and that both of the ticket desks were further down behind the steps. After establishing how long it would take to get there and the frequency of the buses we decided that this was a goer. M asked for two tickets and then asked for the same for Marylin and Frank. The drive down the highway took just over an hour. The scenery can only be described as unspectacular with low scrub plants with yellow flowers stretching across the Pampas as far as the eye could see. This monotony was only broken by the odd estancia (ranch) and wind terbine.
On arrival at Trelew we decided that it would be prudent to get our return tickets in advance (this turned out to be a wise idea). M did the same for Frank and Marylin. We walked out of the bus station into the Parque Centenario. M asked a lady where the city centre was and off we went. In the centre
of the park there was a monument and statue in honour of the founder of the city of Trelew and the promoter of the arrival of the Welsh.
On the way to the city centre we came a memorial obelisk, which was located in Collectives Square, commemorating the Welsh settlement of Patagonia. Behind this memorial was the Railway Museum which was housed in the old Railway Station Building. We didn't have time (or enough pesos) to go inside but we did look at the outside exhibits which included some old farming machinery that belonged to the Welsh settlers and an old Rodolfo Steam Engine by Orenstein & Koppel, No 12861, Berlin-Drewitz dating from 1936. We found the city centre and went to see the Town Hall before continuing on to Indepencenc Square. We then made our way back to Parque Centenario where we took a different route back to the bus station. This route took us past another memorial - this one was a memorial to all the local conscripted soldiers who perished in the Falklands war in 1982. Each local soldier had their name inscribed on the memorial. The accompanying 2009 plaque paid hommage
to the citizens of Trelew that fought in the war for "Our Malvinas Islands".
M bought a Route 3 FM from a shop in the bus station before we caught the bus back to Puerto Madrin. It was a good job we had bought the tickets in advance as the bus was full. In the bus station there was a mural of a Welsh Dragon with the words "A 150 years of the Welsh in Patagonia" written inSpanish and Welsh.
Once back at Puerto Madrin we decided to go to the Oceanography Museum. This is housed in a building called Chalet Pujol. The chalet was constructed in 1915 and inhabited by Augustín Pujol until he died in 1926. The building was largely constructed from imported materials. The stones used to make the entrance staircase came from Pavia, the floors were French majolicas and hand-crafted Venetian. At its time it was the most prestigious building in the city, located high up with views over the gulf. It was visible to all ships that came into the harbour. The building was donated by Puljol's heirs to be made into a museum. There were three floors in the museum which was dedicated to the local wildlife and native tribes. One interesting exhibit was the equipment used byA Roger Payne, Jim Moore and Chris Clark. These were three scientists who came to the area to study the acoustic repetoir of the whale population in the 1970's. It all looked so dated with reel to reel tapes and knobs - not a digital display in sight! After the museum we walked into the city centre where M procured another FM.
Over dinner Pam told us a story about a Welsh passenger who wanted to see some of the Welsh heritage sites. Apparently she didn't speak any Spanish and negotiated with a lady taxi driver to take her to see the "Memorials from Wales". The taxi driver misunderstood and the poor lady was taken to the peninsula to see Whales (which aren't even here at the moment.) Cost her $90 US too! After dinner we went to see Ross perform 'Hits from Across the Decades' in she show lounge. Then we went to Scott's bar to see Katie in a cabaret celebrating the music of Judy Garland which was fantastic.
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