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Patagonia Part I: Peninsula Valdes

The King of the Sea is a Dolphin?

sunny 27 °C

Overnight Stays: Somewhere between Buenos Aires and Puerto Madryn; Puerto Madryn (2 nights)

DW - We arrived into the sunny, dry and deserty Puerto Madryn a couple of hours late and took the $3 taxi to our hostel. There we were met by the strangest and most unwelcoming owner who immediately did all she could to extend our stay. She explained to us that it was a long weekend and that everything would be shut or booked out, and we wouldn't be able to do anything at all. After asking her if we should just get back on the bus and leave, she booked us a tour for the following day without a drama in the world, and due to the inconvenient bus schedule to our next destination, we booked an extra night, certainly one (1) more than we wanted to in this odd-ball's company. Sadly all the day-tours leave early in the morning so we really had nothing to do all day, in a pretty nothing town that lives for its surrounding tourism (there's nothing to do in Puerto Madryn, it's all out either just north or south).

Before a decent Italian lunch we booked our further bus towards the south for a couple of days, and spent the most part of the arvo relaxing in the hostel. Loz managed to lock herself in the toilet, a hugely comical debacle. After several minutes trying to get the lock to work on her own, she then emailed me from the toilet, saying she was stuck; an email I didn't receive until hours later. Luckily I heard her cries for help before getting the email and managed to let her out, a knight in shining armour.

Upon recommendation we headed to Cheers Bar and Restaurant for dinner where we smashed a 400g steak and veggies, with a bottle of Patagonian Malbec for less than $40, God I love Argentina.

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Our tour picked us up at the spritely 7am and, in a 22-seater surrounded by young travellers we knew it was going to be a good day. The guide, can't remember his name, was a trooper and had been doing the Peninsula Valdes tours for nine (9) years or something, day-in / day-out from June to April, seven (7) days a week. Somehow he still brought incredible enthusiasm and passion to the entire bus, and really made the day as awesome as it was.

Peninsula Valdes National Park is 100 or so kilometers north of Puerto Madryn, and shares much of the same climate as the entire East Patagonian coastline, dry and deserty, but with amazing wildlife both on land and in water. Our first major stop was to disembark and board a boat led into the water by a tractor, time to see some whales. Loz had never seen a whale before and was super pumped, her expectation at dangerous levels, ready to be toppled if she didn't see a whale jumping out of the water and creating a splash bigger than Jaws (the surf-break, not the shark). As we made our way around the first headland we were not disappointed, as in the distance we saw a big whale showing off, breaching, jumping enormously out of the water, creating a splash, not jaws-like, but impressive all the same. Excitement levels on the packed boat rose immediately, this was going to be good. We soon changed direction for some closer beasts, getting within metres as they gently tucked in and out of the water, amazing creatures, although the top of them kind of looks like a barnacled rock. One (1) fella came right up to the boat, almost close enough to pat, incredible.

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Back on land we snacked some delicious burgers and beers before bussing again, continuing our search for more stuff (specific I know). Along the way we saw flamingos, emus, llamas, mice, armadillos, and mares (a good mix of kangaroo and rabbits, which we called between ourselves 'rangaboos'), all in their natural environments, unfarmed, wild, awesome. Seeing animals in zoos is great, but seeing animals in their natural environment is something else, a true unforgettable experience; and there aren't many places in the world where you'll see so many amazing creatures in the same place, so close. When we reached the water again we walked down towards a beach saturated with elephant seals sunbaking on their backs, burping and farting as they please, very cool to watch. Every now and then they'd flick some sand on their belly to cool them down, the coolest and laziest creatures where everything appears to be a struggle. Towards the south end of the beach we also spotted two (2) sealions, male and female, about to do the wild thing, lion style. This soon became quite the spectacle and crowd-pleaser, as the male burped, farted and grunted, all without turning his mate off, still managing to procreate in a freaky act of nature at its' best.

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Still a little scarred from what we'd all witnessed, our next stop was penguin central, some of the coolest animals in the world. We spotted our first penguin in the wild only weeks before in Ilha Grande, Brazil, on his lonesome, but this was an onslaught on these suave creatures, in their scores, wandering, chilling, swimming, posing (seemingly).

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There was only one (1) creature left to see, the grand pubar and king of the ocean, something spotted only rarely, not daily; the killer whale (or Orcha as the Argentinians know it). Turns out the killer whale isn't actually a whale at all, it's a bloody dolphin would you believe? But despite its' friendly, personable cousins, it is in-fact the top of the sea food-chain, not to be meddled with, fierce and feared, yet majestic to those lucky enough to spot one (1) from land. All energy at the next few stops was put into the search for the unicorn, the killer whale. And just when all hope was lost, while we were photographing a dead gecko, our tour guide shouted at the top of his lungs, "KILLER WHALE!!!". From all angles, people grouped and watched as these beautiful black and white fish crept above the surface, only to then dive and show off their elegant black tails. It really felt like a very moment and as they slowly left fur view to the north the entire group sprinted for the bus, following our energetic guide. The driver hit the gas and, adrenalin-filled, became a group of killer-whale-hunters, hoping to get another glimpse as this marvel, two (2) of them, heading straight for the penguin colony.

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As we arrived back at the penguin colony they (the penguins) were incredibly disappointed to find that no-one was interested in watching them anymore; secretly we wanted to see a killer whale approach the water's edge and eat one (1) whole. Before long the beauties came back into vision and we watched for several minutes as they circled just outside the penguins, whilst the little tackers begged for our attention, playing the cute card and screaming which actually sounded a little like a bugle calling 'The Last Post'.

After 472 photos, sunburnt as hell, and incredibly satisfied with one (1) of the Wombat Tour's greatest days, we hit the hay like a sack of potatoes, hoping never to forget what we'd witnessed, wondering what was going to beat that. Our first Patagonian experience was nothing short of unforgettable.

Posted by Team W 00:39 Archived in Argentina

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