Puerto Madryn was our last stop in Patagonia and our last new city before returning to Buenos Aires (and then home). After the winds and mountains of inland Patagonia we were looking forward to the ocean and warm breezes. We got the ocean, but until this morning those warm breezes were blowing pretty cold!
On the bus to Madryn we met up with our Swiss friends and made plans for visiting the two sights near town – Reserva Faunistica Peninsula Valdes and Punta Tombo. Upon arrival, tour bookings was taken care of by the eager staff at the hostel and we were off!
Reserva Faunistica Peninsula Valdes
This peninsula is located about an hour north of town and is home to a variety of marine life from birds to seals to whales. We´d booked a bus tour which included an English speaking guide and a chance to spot some marine life close up. Like all tours we´ve taken, this one involved a lot of driving, a few angry Spanish people and an extra long lunch stop at a very expensive restaurant (which we avoided by eating sandwiches on the bus). But we did get the chance to get close enough to elephant seals to touch the ugly monsters (not that we did, the sign warned ¨puppies may be squished¨!). We spent over an hour sitting on the beach within spitting range of a hundred large elephant seals, watching them lumber around and listening to the farting sounds they make when they sneeze. The seals are there in large numbers right now, just sitting on the beach, waiting for their fur to molt off. Not a bad way to pass 5 weeks or so…
After the seals we went to see the real stars of the peninsula, the southern whales. We´re pretty near the end of the whale season, and its possible that we spotted the very last of the whales in the bay. They come to the area to mate and to raise their young before heading back south for the summer. The majority of the whales had already headed south, but we did get close up views of a mother and her calf – close enough that I could have touched them from the boat.
The elephant seal pups from last year (looking cute).
Momma whale poking her head up to see us.
Punta Tombo is the largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins in the world. Its a couple hours south of Madryn, but we couldn´t stomach another tour (which always include a stop we don´t want to see). Instead, a car was rented, a picnic packed and Jon got behind the wheel to drive. Because we didn´t leave at the same time as the tour buses, we arrived late enough in the day that the hoards of tourists were leaving as we arrived and we had a couple hours of almost just us and the 170 000 penguins. You can get amazingly close to the penguins and its really a pleasure to watch them waddle around and even swim in the ocean. Penguin chicks were just starting to hatch, and furry babies could be seen sitting on their parents feet.
Penguins as far as the eye can see. Each hole is a nest and in each nest are two penguins…
Stretching after a good grooming. Penguins spend a lot of time cleaning their feathers…This guy was enjoying the peace and quiet after the tours left. He may also have been working on his tan…
Puerto Madryn is a sleepy little town but after touring for two days we were happy to sleep in, try and locate our laundry from the laundry service and enjoy amazing icecream. We´ve walked the beach, dabbled our toes in the Atlantic ocean for the second time this year and gotten our fill of browsing stores filled with whale decorated t-shirts. With only another 1/2 day in town we´ve got just enough time for our laundry to be found (hopefully) and another few icecream flavours sampled before we continue on our way.