Patagonia – the furthest south I’ve been!

1 Nov

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Happy Halloween to my fellow Canadians! I was a whale-watcher for Halloween *wink!

We just spent several days in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. It’s the furthest south we’ve managed to travel and is considered the beginning of Patagonia, the southernmost region in South America. The town is situated in between Peninsula Valdes (a protected national reserve) and Punta Tombo (the second largest penguin colony in the world!). How cute! It makes for a great base to explore both areas.

When we first arrived in Puerto Madryn, I know it was going to be a special few days. The first thing you notice is the strong salty, fishy air. It didn’t matter how far from the beach you walked, it still smelt as if the Pacific was only a stone’s throw away. It reminded me of the family trips I took to the Azores. The first day, we cruised the beach and some town shops. We met a girl who had just arrived from Bariloche and raved about the hiking and scenery. We also found out that she had been traveling with Sebastian, our German friend back in Bolivia and Chile. It’s so odd considering South America is a huge continent, but everyone is on the ‘gringo trail’.

After some amazing convos with our new friend, we decided to make a side trip to Bariloche on our way up to Mendoza BUT more on that later….

Southern Right Whale, Puerto Madryn

During our second day in Puerto Madryn, we took the public bus to the Peninsula and booked a whale-watching tour. It’s a lot cheaper than booking a tour with private transportation. The area is full of Southern Right Whales – it’s also reproduction season meaning lots of babies, if you can even call them that. They’re huge! The whales look strange with these big crusty, white blobs on their heads. The mothers were gigantic – spanning longer than the zodiac boat itself. Sometimes, the babies would turn on their backs and the mums would just push them along with their head. It was adorable to witness. In the distance, we saw some whales breaching; however, we did see a rare white southern right whale come right up to the boat. Despite our initial reaction, the guide told us it was NOT an albino whale! ha!

Everything about the tour was great, exceptthe weather. It poured all bloody day! The people at the hostel said it never rains and it hadn’t rained in over 2 months – so of course it rained when we arrived. Stefanie and I are rain magnets. It follows us where ever we go! I couldn’t really complain though. I thought, “I’m whale-watching in Argentina – who cares if I’m wet?!”

Who me?

The next day, we visited the penguin colony. At this time of the year, there are over 400,000 penguins, but in January and February over 1 million nest and feed in the area. You need to stay on a marked path because there are nests EVERYWHERE and you cannot disturb them or get too close to the penguins because they bite. Yikes! They smelt really awful, but they were so darn cute. I loved their waddling! So typical.

We were supposed to go on another boat to see the smallest dolphins in the world, but it was too windy and they closed the port. I was pretty disappointed. I really love seeing wild animals, especially marine life. When I saw spotted dolphins in Costa Rica, it was absolutely amazing! It felt really special, just as I did when whale-watching. You always need to take that moment and really appreciate what’s around you, what you’re experiencing.

After a 13 hour bus ride, we are now in Bariloche which is located in the Lake District of Argentina. There are amazing snow-capped mountains and beautiful lakes in the area. We hiked to a lookout today with our dorm mates, which was only 30 minutes uphill. For once, you don’t have to work too hard for the view!

Penguin nests in Punta Tombo

We were all starving when we got back and ate out at a Mexican joint. It’s so funny that you can eat just about anything, anywhere. Tomorrow, we booked a horseback riding and kayaking tour. I’m still not too sure about the kayaking, seeing as I have horrible upper body strength! I’m a weakling.

As a side note, I can’t believe I go back home in two weeks! I’m at the point where I’m starting to think about what’s next on the list of destinations and things to do/see/experience. Despite moving around so much, you definitely get into a pattern of living… even if it’s just out of a backpack. It will feel bizarre when I’m home in Toronto and working. I’ll fall into a different pattern and then the next minute, I’ll be on a plane to Bangkok. We still haven’t booked our flights, but we are aiming for January 1st – March 1st. I hope we can find a flight that isn’t too expensive. I know it will be at least $1300, but thankfully South East Asia is a backpacker’s dream!

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