First stop on our Patagonian adventure was Puerto Madryn. The city lies just north of the welsh settlement area of the Chubut Valley and enjoys sandy beaches with views across the huge Gulfo Nuevo to the Peninsula Valdez.
Almost all of Patagonia is in the middle of low season with mid winter falling in July / August – however, Puerto Madryn was just gearing up for one of it’s biggest seasons of the year – whale season! The Southern Right Whales visit the Gulfo Nuevo after the month of June and stay there to mate and raise their young. We couldn’t wait to see them!
The other reason for visiting the area was to witness the bizarre but entrenched welsh culture of the area. Puerto Madryn and surrounding towns are famous for the influx of welsh settlers several generations ago. They are famous for the afternoon tea and we could hardly contain our excitement at the thought of a proper cup of tea and slice of fruit cake!
Fortunately the weather was on our side during our entire stay which made viewing whales from the beaches and the town itself easy (no whales in these low tide pictures though!)
We took a brief trip to the ‘museum of man and the sea’ to find out about the connections and interactions between the two in the area.
However, we couldn’t wait long before our first whale based excursion. We took a public bus out to Puerto Piramides on the protected Peninsula Valdez and explored the surrounding area while waiting for our boat trip out into the bay.
Then it was time!
We had only strayed out a few metres into the bay before we saw our first whales and they started to show off for us (Southern Right Whales are knows for their showmanship and friendliness, which is nice!)
It was absolutely breathtaking. So many whales and so close to the boat – at one point we got covered in their spray from their blow hole and smelled their breath (not nice at all!) Here is a little compilation video of their antics…
The next day we decided to have a break from whales and headed inland to Trelew and Gaiman, two small towns famous for their welsh heritage.
Well, Trelew is famous for something else as well….dinosaurs!
In 2016 the largest dinosaur fossil ever discovered was found near to Trelew. The newly named Titanosaurus was 40 meters long and 20 metres high and weighed the equivalent of 14 African elephants. Surely only the vast expanses of the Patagonian plains could have been home to such a creature. The Titanosaurus joins the multitude of dinosaur fossils found in this area and we visited the very interesting Museum of Paleontology in Trelew on our way through.
We also stumbled across some festivities in Trelew as the town was celebrating 200 years of Argentine independence. This meant free food (hooray!), music and dancing. The traditional costumes seemed part Argentinian and part welsh from what we could make out!
After our free lunch we moved onto to the neighbouring town of Gaiman, supposedly the most obviously welsh of all the areas, where 1/3 of the inhabitants are reportedly direct descendants of the original welsh settlers who built the town.
Despite being a very quiet and sleepy town, the welsh theme was very evident!
We even visited a exhibition about the railway the welsh built, housed in the old railway tunnel. With all explanations in Spanish, English (in a welsh accent) and, of course, welsh!
Our visit was topped of by visiting the oldest welsh tea house in Gaiman, run by welsh descendants. The shop was crammed full of everything welsh and also served as a small but fascinating museum about the history of the town. The tea and cake were also amazing!
The following day we decided to see what the whales were up to again…. this time we cycled 40km on dirt roads to a beach which is famous because the whales come within just a few meters of the shore.
We were told that the whales come in so close so that the mother whales, who are nursing their young, can rest for short periods on the shingle sea bed, having a breather and letting their calves play. We probably saw around 8-10 mothers and calves playing up and down the beach during our couple of hours there – beautiful!
Oh – and some penguins too!
Back into town for yet another festival with a few free food samples…
The following day we decided to visit a elephant seal colony at the other end of the gulf. It was quite a scary climb down the 80 meter cliff!
Walking past whale bones as we went (apparently a 2 million year old whale jaw bone was found here after a cliff slide a few months ago)
Then it was time to lie down and spend a couple of hours pretending to be an elephant seal. It was pretty relaxing just lying in the warm sun and hanging out with our new seal friends.
Safe to say the beautiful wildlife, scenery, history and weather in Puerto Madryn had us hooked. We were sad to leave but excited about the next leg of our trip… all the way down to the ‘Fin Del Mundo’ (end of the world) town of Ushuaia – the most southerly city in the world!