Mountains, Lakes, Mini Wales and no Whales


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South America » Argentina » Chubut » Valdes Peninsula
December 29th 2007
Published: December 29th 2007
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It feels like i am covering a lot of ground in Argentina in a very short period of time. But thats because i am quickly realising its a massive country to try and get around. The distances to cover are fairly immense.

In the last week since leaving Iguazu, i have taken 1 flight and 3 overnight bus trips to stay in 2 different towns. Its a bit crazy and i am forgetting what day is what already as they tend to merge into one a bit.

In the last week i stayed in Bariloche firstly. Its a lovely town in the Lake District of Argentina. The town sits right on a lake, with snow covered mountains surrounding the town. The town has a very Swiss feel about it, with chalets everywhere and it produces the best chocolate in Argentina! I stayed in a great hsotel on the 10th floor of a building, with a balcony looking out over Lake Nahuel Huapi and the mountains behind. I spent one day, with a couple of people i met in the hostel, climbing to Refugio Lopez at 2,000m on a hill near the town. It was a great walk up to
View from Refugio LopezView from Refugio LopezView from Refugio Lopez

Snowcapped mountains all around
the snow line and we even trekked a little further cutting a trail through the snow. Its weird there is still snow up there, as it was definitely warm enough to wear T-shirt and shorts. The only negative of walking in that area at this time of year are the extreme number of horseflies which are big and bite. They are so persistent though and follow you the whole way up the mountain, so you are constantly swatting them away. However, the views from the spot we reached were fantastic.

After a big Christmas dinner and party in the hostel on Christmas Eve, Christmas day was pretty quiet. I think my first day of sitting around in the sunshine, not doing a lot really. Very pleasant in the sunshine. Then a nice big steak and good bottle of Malbec in the evening for Christmas dinner. Bariloche was a lovely town and i was quite sad to leave there.

I then travelled across the country to Puerto Madryn on the East coast. This town is famous as being the spot where 153 Welsh immigrants first landed in 1865. From there they then pushed inland to colonise the Chubut valley.
Monument of the Welsh landing in PatagoniaMonument of the Welsh landing in PatagoniaMonument of the Welsh landing in Patagonia

With "Swansea Bay" in the background (Minus the Swansea slappers)
There is a monument in P. Madryn marking the spot where they landed, and listing the names of all who landed. Now 3 things confuse me about this:

1. Why would any country want to celebrate being colonised by the Welsh? Surely this should be a point of national embarrasment to Argentina and it would be hidden away and not talked about!
2. Somehow, the Welsh settlers managed to arrive in a sweeping bay that looks just like Swansea bay. It even has its own equivalent of Mumbles, the Madryn mile! I am sure the settlers were delighted to stumble across this after months at sea.
3. There were many Jones´ and Davies´ among the list of first settlers, but not a Spuffard among them

Puerto Madryn is a nice town to walk around, but the main reason for my visit there was the nearby Peninsula Valdes which has a huge concentration of wildlife in one area. The Peninsula forms a huge bay with protection from the currents of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to this, Southern Right Whales come to breed during the year, as do sealions, elephant seals and Orcas (Not Killer Whales aparently, as they are
The happy coupleThe happy coupleThe happy couple

Checkout this happy couple frolicking in the surf. The male can have as many as 20 partners in a season, at once!
dolphins) come to catch the young seals as they take to the water. (Remember the David Attenborough footage of them almost beaching themselves to catch the seals?) Unfortunately its right at the end of the whale season, so i only saw a dead one being devoured by birds, which i don´t think really counts as a spot. But there were many elephant seals arriving to breed, along with Penguins and seals. Peninsula Valdes is very bleak and if it were not for the wildlife, noone would visit it. But the bleakness and dry, incredibly warm air adds to its appeal i think. Everywhere, despite all this, it is alive with animals both in and out of the water.

I am continuing my journey South just now, on my way to El Calafate and the land of mountains and glaciers, where i will spend the next couple of weeks. Time to work off some of those steaks with some proper trekking. Very excited.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Happy New Year.

Mike


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Male Elephant sealMale Elephant seal
Male Elephant seal

Generally they are pretty handsome looking fellas. Just waiting for a latino stunner to come along.
Bariloche Evening sunset from the HostelBariloche Evening sunset from the Hostel
Bariloche Evening sunset from the Hostel

The perfect weather to drink beer and watch the sun set
Skeleton of a 2 year old whaleSkeleton of a 2 year old whale
Skeleton of a 2 year old whale

And this is what i could have seen, with flesh and skin!


29th December 2007

colonized
Hi Mike - I have a question re the Welsh colonisation: Did they bring their own sheep or are there argie sheep there already? They do say a welshman without a sheep is like a frenchman without onions (and a stripey top and a beret)
30th December 2007

New South Wales
Mike - I needed to write to correct this horrific racialism. My great, great, great, great Grandfather, Ivor "the Travel" Jones is responsible for the great nation you are now in. Many moons ago, when the earth was still flat, he boldly got drunk and lost his way on a cockle fishing trip. He unwittingly traversed the river Loughor, and the English Channel with it, to discover, gentrify and colonise (via "rapping" - Aiii and pillaging) the country that you are now in, long before Columbus did. He indeed introduced culture to the masses by recreating the legendary mumbles mile but later died, whilst on his own pub crawl, by being eaten by an elephant seal as he searched for a kebab and "Cinders" (the legedary nighspot at the end of the real mumbles mile) which hadn't been built yet. Fortunately, he died before he had a chance to recreate a southern hemisphere version of Port Talbot. I'm glad to see that local culture (males having as many as 20 partners per season) continues. Finally, why are you now finding male seals good looking? How long has it been since you saw Helen last?
1st January 2008

Looks good
Hi Mike, looks like you are having a great time out there. Hope you had a great christmas and new year period. I am heading back up to Norway tomorrow morning, but will try and keep up with the blog. Ali
2nd January 2008

Have you seen any West Country settlements over there? Puerto Wurzel etc? An ancient ancestor of mine started a turnip ranch in the pampas - fell madly in love with a seal (much like Mike) and floated down to Buenos Aires with it, where they shot him. A tragic turn in the continuing story of Somerset's global domination...

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