The Joyurney here almost deserves its
own entry. If blogged, it would have been called 'Ode to an
Argentinian Bus'. On second thought, considering I slept nine hours
straight on such a bus, perhaps a Sonet or a new Psalm is in order,
if there's still room in scripture. For those uninitiated, the
deceptively long distances and a decaying British-built train system
here have created the need for a mind-bogglingly enormous bus
network. The people have answered, and in style; but unlike the
super-elite world of business class flights, style here is within
guards at Buckingham Palace
Enter the “Super Cama” bus seat, for which I admit a
certain level of affection. I love thy180 degree recline. I love
thy unlimited wine refills. I love thy magical suspension. I love
thee. I digress.
Conveniently sandwiched between a pair
of 18 hour buses, Puerto Madryn was my first stop on the way south.
Technically Patagonia, I gleefully awaited the magestic scenery
promised, nose pressed to the glass. Instead, I discovered why
Patagonia is often as sparsely populated as the Saharah: it's mostly
desert... endless, endless desert. Had I done even a modest amount
of research before leaving, I would have discovered this; but not to
worry. You see, it's also part of the backpacker's credo to “just
buy your ticket and go.
sea lion colony #2 of 5
.. figure it out alog the way,” and so far
I've embraced this strategy. Besides, with Super Cama buses, who
Despite the desert locale and
lackluster city center, multiple shoreline reserves surrounding
Puerto Madryn host a smattering of wildlife as exciting as any in
Patagonia, and enugh entertainment for two soild days. I made a
decision early on to get my penguin visitation out of the way early
and all in one go, despite the penguin mania currently afflicting the
female backpacker population. So, with three female backpackers, we
set out in a rickety rental car for the biggest pengiun colony in
South America: Punta Tombo. Though not the bustling mass of birds I
envisioned (offered by some colonies down south, limited to a rock or
two), Tombo was nice. An impressive piece of land has been granted
to some 500,000 penguins, and they happily fill all available space.
Thus, touring this 'colony' is a good hour's walk. The penguins were
on the small side (not that I would know), but the opportunity to
catch them tending eggs, teaching adolescents, and generally being
themselves (at a distance of less than a meter) was a treat.
Watching some old man get snapped at for getting too close was
something hilarious (they told you “no less than a meter”,
compadre). Red rocks on a point were a useful lookout for anything I
secretely hoped might eat the pengiuns, but that was for tomorrow.
Rather, this evening was focused on finding a comically large teacup
in a randomly placed Welsh village en route back home.
Getting used the gravel ('ripia') roads
and the 65km speed limit that cramps your explorer style, we pressed
the car into service again under the time pressure of the next 18
hour bus that evening.
I decided dawdling in Puerto Madryn would
give diminishing returns, especially considering the impending change
of seasons, and my paltry allotment of time to South America as a
whole. So the second full day was my last, and essentially became a
fun-filled wait for an anticlimactic feeding. Armadillos
enthusiastically welcomed us to Parque Nacional Penninsula Valdes,
and diligently waited for anyone to dispense any remaining drop of
sour cream available after lunch. No, we didn't feed the animals,
but watched others and got a great video without the guilt (grin)
(see album). The lunchtime wait was supposedly in a premier Orca
feedking zone, where juvenile sea lions are snatched right off the
beach, as you down your sandwich. Five colonies of sea lions dot
the north point of Penninsula Valdes, two right under a viewing
platform. Waiting around ensures you'll see a fairly interesting
display of sea lion social behavior, but offers only a 3% chance of
catching an attack.
Suspiciously, the one attack (after nearly 4
hours) occurred not at our “prime viewing location.” but at the
$100 per day location, reserved for professional photographers and
videographers who setup camp inches from the action. For us, the
action consisted of a dorsal fin cruising up and down the surf for
hours, then a quick drive into the shore followed by a cloud of white
as sea spray surrounded what may or may not have happened (hard to
tell from half a mile away). Zooming into someone's lucky shot
tennuously “proved” that we were one of the lucky 3%. The killer
whale killed, just in time for me to catch that next bus.