sunshine in puerto madryn

  • puerto pyramides sea lion mirador
  • checking out the swell
  • cool sign
  • the beast
  • armadillo
  • armadillo 2
  • pensave
  • chilled sea lions
  • sea lion slide marks
  • stoner rebel sheep on beach
  • fat bastard elephant seal
  • anna on the waveometer
  • no comment
  • the splash in the distance is a whale breaching

On Tuesday the 10th of November at 5am we boarded a bus in Ushuaia, to start the first leg of the mammoth journey back north to Buenos Aires. The first major stop would be Puerto Madryn about halfway up. After several border controls, jumping between Chile and Argentina, a ferry across the Strait of Magellan’s we arrived in Rio Gallegos some 12 hours later. Our next bus to Trelew would leave at 7pm. The next morning we swapped to another bus and arrived in Puerto Madryn at about 1pm, some 31 hours after leaving Ushuaia.

Puerto Madryn was totally different from what I expected. Firstly, it was a lot more lively and much more picturesque, and best of all, it was warm. The layers got put away and out came the shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. We checked into the El Pasajero hostel in the suburban part of town. It felt kinda weird being in an area where you felt part of the community rather than being in some big hostel in the middle of tourist and gringo heaven. That afternoon Anna and I were both shattered from the trip and pretty much slept 'til the early evening, after which we went for an early dinner and then a walk along the beach front.

The next day we just hung out, walking along the sea front and trying to organise a rental car so that we could do the Valdez Peninsula about an hour from Puerto Madryn. The national park is well known for Orca sightings, sea lions, elephant seals, Magellan penguins and migrating Southern Right Whales. We eventually found a rental company that had a car - a little 1.3 litre Fiat Uno Fire, not quite the ideal car for burning up the 300 odd kms of dirt roads on the peninsula.

The next morning we picked the car up and headed out to the peninsula. First stop was Puerto Pyramid, the only village on the peninsula. We stopped for a drink right on the sea front, and while sitting there looking out at the sea, we saw a huge Southern Right Whale breaching several times. It was a spectacular sighting and made me quite glad that we hadn't coughed up the 30 odd pounds to take a boat out to see them. Later that afternoon I saw one of the whale watching boats out there and I was even happier that I didn't go out on one - they just get too close to these beasts and follow them around, which I think is not healthy for them.

After that we drove about an hour up to Puerto Norte where people often have Orca sightings depending on the season. The drive was a slippery dirt road and at one point Anna started losing control of the car but in a very calm, some-what too calm, “Woooaaaah” managed to get it back on track. We walked down to a view point and bumped into a couple from Singapore whom we've bumped into several times since Puerto Natales. While chatting to them we looked out into the distance and spotted an Orca breaching. I was stoked as this was one of the main attractions for me. Walking back to the car we also saw an armadillo - one of the weirdest creatures I have ever seen, it's prehistoric looking shell makes it look like something out of a sci-fi. We had lunch we had cooked the previous day and then headed down to Caleta Valdez.

The road down to Caleta Valdez was spectacular. This whole peninsula reminded me a lot of the Western Cape (as I pointed out several times), with its dry feynbos terrain, ostriches running around and wild winds eroding the sand. For about 20kms, to our left was a massive stretch of water that was separated from the sea by a narrow (relatively speaking) sand dune. We pulled over and saw that loads of sea lions make the trek over the sea dune and then hang out in this "bay". Funniest bit of this is that you can see their slide marks on the sand dune where these lazy bastards, after climbing up from the sea side of the dune, simply just slide down to the other side, a bit like sand boarding tracks. At Caleta Valdez we watched a penguin colony. I wasn't expecting to have such an up close view and Anna was pretty excited as this was the main attraction for her, having never seen penguins in the wild.

After this it was another few kilometres on to Punta Cormet, where we watched some massive Elephant Seals. The photos take don't really do their size any justice, and as much as I asked Anna to walk along the beach and stand next to one so I could get a shot that showed some perspective, she just wouldn't do it.

Our last stop before heading back to Pyramides was Punta Delgada, another elephant seal colony. This was roughly 50 kms of dirt road away from Cormet. The views from the top of the cliff were beautiful even though the elephant seals were a bit too far to see properly. We had a bit of a photo session up there, one photo of Anna leaning on a fence pole looking out at the sea, paid particular homage to some events in Mancora, Peru. There was a spot at the hostel where you could stand on a wall and look at to see what the surf was looking like. Anna says it was pretty funny watching us strutting up to the wall, leaning on the fence pole, staring out at sea looking all deep and pensive and then turning back looking disgruntled when the surf was crap. I explained to her that in reality all we were doing was going up there to strike a pose with sucked in bellies, arms flexed and then saying stuff like "Dude, do you think that blonde girl round the pool is eyeing me out or what?". Also, one girl there asked once what it was about the pole that would tell us what the surf was like - not realising that the only reason we held onto the pole was so we wouldn't fall off the wall.

After Punta Delgado we drove the 70 odd kms back to Puerto Pyramids. The drive was a long, really slippery dirt road again and I had a similar experience to Anna’s earlier where the car just started going all over the place. Quite exciting, a bit like being a rally driver. We spent the night there in a small, cheap hostel and in the morning drove back to Puerto Madryn.

We spent another day in Puerto Madryn just chilling out and went for dinner at a very cool seafood restaurant, where the combination of happy hour and a very good, cheap selection of white wine to accompany the great seafood got the better of us both.

On Sunday the 15th of November we hopped onto a bus to Buenos Aires. The bus took 21 hours and was probably one of the crappiest overnight buses I’ve been on during this trip.