Tales of Travel: Puerto Madryn

When Tall suggested we visit Puerto Madryn, in the Patagonian region of Argentina, I shrugged nonchalantly and said, “Yeah, if you want.”

When he said, “We can walk among penguins…”, I grabbed our guide book from his hands and began to plan our itinerary. To say I was suddenly excited is an understatement; even now, I’m struggling to find the words to explain how amazing our few days there were.

So I’ll let some photos do the talking, as well as this extract from an email I sent our families at the time:

day 1: puerto madryn
arrive 17 hours after leaving mar del plata. brains appear to have been left on bus. wander around in zombie-like fashion (however, coherent enough to realise that this town is so much nicer than mar del plata). crawl into bed, exhausted, by 10pm. lights out.

Tree art

day 2: punta tombo
go on wicked tour down the coast. first stop is an hour’s boat ride to see commerson’s dolphins. warned by tour guide that might see 2 dolphins, or might see 50. lucky enough to see about a dozen or so. tiny, predominantly white, super-fast; love playing in the wake of the boats. awesome start to tour. more driving. yawn. arrive punta tombo – penguin time!! spend 2 hours walking amongst (behind, beside…within a metre…) little magellan penguins. perfect timing – hatching season. lots of babies and eggs. amazing to be able to get so close – definitely not shy! brilliant day.

Punta Tombo

Tall discusses the state of the nation with Mr Penguin

Tiny, but fast!

day 3: punta loma ([Tall] only – pregnant ladies not allowed)
one very smiley husband returns from swimming and snorkelling with sea lions. says they wait on the rocks for the boat to arrive and then dive into the water to come meet it; love to play. lay back in water and the little sea lions climb on him and go in for a kiss. bigger sea lions chill out under the water. quote: “awesome. pretty up there”.

Kisses with a sea lion…fishy.

day 4: peninsula valdes (480km of reserve land)
another incredible day trip. start off with boat trip to see southern right whales…expect to see 1 or 2, and from far away. get up close and personal with a 5 or 6 mum-and-bub pairings. one mum approaches and SWIMS UNDER OUR BOAT. water so clear we can see entire mammal – barnacles, individual markings, EVERYthing; beautiful, massive, breathtaking. impossible to describe without gushing. to quote [Tall]: “wow”. watch 2 bubs socialising which is apparently very rare. phenomenal start to day. drive to see elephant seals. see maras (the weird rabbit-kangaroo things) and llama-type things. more driving to see a few penguins (been there, done that!) and more elephant seals. beautiful location; watch a little guy try to take on someone 3 times his size – ultimate elephant seal bullying tactic: lying on the other. cool, cool day.

Up close and personal with Southern Right Whales

day 5: ecocentro
have excessive amounts of time to kill before night bus. nothing open on sundays; windy, crappy day. play cards, drink coffee, [Tall] watches football. get blown along coast to ecocentro – interesting, arty, interactive museum about patagonia’s marine life. get blown back along coast to town centre. sand in ears.

A truly amazing area to visit, and somewhere we could have spent hours exploring. The organised tours are so well done (on our Peninsula Valdes tour, our lovely guide spoke perfect English, French AND German, as well as Spanish, of course!), and such good value.

If you’re ever thinking of visiting Argentina, then do not, I repeat, do NOT miss out on visiting Puerto Madryn and its surrounds!

(November 2009)