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Orcas and Welsh Tea April 10, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Argentina, culture, Patagonia, South America.

Orcas at Peninsula Valdes

Leaving the mountains behind for awhile we headed off to the East Coast of Argentina with our friends Mandy and Tom, who had just completed another GVI expedition near Bariloche. 

Puerto Madryn

Our first night in Puerto Madryn surprised us by not being too like the brash seaside town we expected and after finding a fantastic hotel at a discount rate courtesy of Tom, we headed down to the Eco Center.  Puerto Madryn quite fancies itself as “the Ecological Capital” of Argentina, and the Eco Center is a museum come art gallery that houses informative displays regarding the marine wildlife of the area.

Having learnt all there was to know (or all we could digest at least) about Orcas (Killer Whales), dolphins and the like we picked up a hire car and drove out to Peninsula Valdes the following day.  Peninsula Valdes is a mushroom shaped peninsula stuck onto the side of Argentina´s coast.  It´s famed for the amount of wildlife it attracts and boasts colonies of sea lions, elephant seals and penguins.

Elephant seal slowly making for the water

On Peninsula Valdes, apart from the typical sightings of penguin and sea lion colonies, we were treated to a magnificent display from the Orcas one morning.  A number of Orcas were swimming just off the beach as the sea lions basked in the sun and the pups played in the surf. As high tide approached, the Orcas repeatedly swam right up to the beach and launched themselves out of the water onto the beach in an attempt to catch one of the sea lion pups, whilst the sea lions sat there seemingly oblivious.  The Orcas were huge and it was quite an exhibition. 


That afternoon we drove back to Puerto Madryn in time for an early morning start the next day as Tom, Mandy and I were going diving with sea lions! The dive was pretty shallow and close to the coast.  Before we were even in the water there were loads of sea lions swimming around the boat, and on diving in they are very curious to see who these strange new fish in the sea are.  They swam right up to us, looking us straight in the eye with their big puppy dog eyes and playfully biting our fins, hands and even attaching themselves to Tom´s head in a somewhat comical way.

After the diving, we stopped for much needed refreshment at a cafe-bar on the beach, and then drove out to the Welsh villages south of Madryn.  Strangely, the only other place that Welsh is spoken outside of Wales is in a remote corner of Patagonia, Argentina!  We were immediately disappointed by the un-Welshness of the Welsh villages.  There weren´t any garish council estates or pregnant 16 year-olds in sight! 

Darwin´s Rhea  Orcas  Hairy armadillo

We stopped in one of the Welsh tea houses for a “Welsh” tea, the like of which I´ve never seen anywhere else in the world, especially not in Wales!  We had to send half of it back!  It was enough to feed an army.  With only a half portion, we were still stuffed full from the 8 different types of cake plus scones, jam, sandwiches and homemade bread.  If only I could find a tea like that in Wales, I swear I would give up travelling for good.

We stayed the night in Gaiman and visited the impressive dinosaur museum in Trelew the following day.  The sandy expanses of Patagonia have yielded an impressive collection of dino bones in recent years which has put Argentina firmly on the paleontology map.  Included in these finds are the new discoveries of the huge Gigantosaurus and Argentinosaurus (I love those names).

Jase dwarfed by dinosaur femur

Some of these fossils have been painstakingly pieced together and are on display in the museum.  It is most impressive to see so many dinosaurs skeletons together in one place.  When Jase stood next to a real life femur of the Argentinosaurus he was totally dwarfed by it.

Sadly that wrapped up our brief visit to the east coast and we were back on the overnight bus to Bariloche that evening.

Wildlife photos courtesy of Tom Rogers



1. Orcas and Peninsula Valdes » El Sur: Travel Guide to South America » Blog Archive - May 25, 2007

[…] posting Orcas and Welsh Tea is, you guessed it, about their trip to Peninsula Valdes and the nearby Welsh towns. Before having […]

2. Annette Strauch - July 12, 2007

I wish in Wales they would do these Welsh teas. Unfortunately not!
All the best and king regards from Machynlleth.

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