Even though the bus ride can be gruelling, a visit to this part of Argentina is a must. The things to see are amazing and the relaxed atmosphere in the towns is really impressive.
From Buenos Aires I took a bus to Puerto Madryn. What I thought would be a pleasant bus trip was in fact really mind-numbing and was a struggle to get through. The landscape outside the window was really barren and there was nothing in the way of natural interest. Just vast grassland very similar to the Karoo. The bus was pretty good. I went with Andesmar from Buenos Aires and had a very luxurious seat, like business class on a plane. The trip was 19 hours, but was not nearly as easy as the one to Iguazu. The toilet was dodgy and there was no soap or toilet paper. Goodness knows if this is common this side of Buenos Aires, but none of the rest-stops had either. A tip for life – bring your own!
After the trip we arrived at Puerto Madryn in the evening. The nice thing about Argentina is that most businesses and offices are open quite late, so getting organised at the bus terminal was easy. Went to stay at a hostel called El Gualicho after a reccommendation by a guy in Buenos Aires. It’s pretty good, but is a very quiet, strict hostel. Still, nothing seems to top the Hostel-Inn. They have a kitchen, but it closes at midnight, people go to bed early to get up early for tours and the internet is not free, but otherwise, it’s clean and pleasant.
I booked a tour to go to Peninsula Valdez the next day. The bus came fashionably late at 08:00 on the morning as opposed to 07:15 as advertised. The trip was over 400Km and cost 140pesos, around US$45, and there is also a national park entrance fee of 35pesos for foreigners.
Because the weather was good the first stop was Puerto Piramide to see the whales. They are southern right wales (the same as in South Africa) and it is now their breeding season (around October I think). They come to the bay here because it is well protected and sheltered (similar to Hermanus). We took a boat trip out to see and were literally between 1m and 5m from the whales swimming and playing in the bay. It was really amazing. They are however very difficult to photograph and when the boat is bouncing up and down it makes it much harder. The boat ride was also great and it was good to be in the sea again.
After that it was off to see an elephant seal colony in Punta Norte. These animals are huge and the males can weigh tons! They stay in groups and the male is in charge and fights off other males to defend his group of females.
We went to another colony of elephant seals and also managed to spot an armadillo. Such a curios creature and quite funny to watch. En route there were gaunacas (camel family, slightly bigger than llamas) and road-runners in the road (surprise)! Also millions and millions of sheep from the days of the Welsh settlers. There is also a small colony of magellanic penguins along the way. They seem to be similar in size to jackass penguins and act quite the same. There is another tour to Punto Tombo where there is a massive colony of over 1 million where you can walk among them, but that tour I will give a miss and instead head off to Ushuaia.
To the end of the world then…