Puerto Madryn is a windswept, semi-arid steppe in Argentine Patagonia. Our first encounter had some surreal echoes of home with the grey and freezing weather, Welsh-speaking people and fish & chips on the coast.
In the 1860s, Welsh nationalists encouraged around two hundred settlers to relocate to the Atlantic coast of Argentina, to create a cultural colony to preserve their heritage and language. We felt sorry for the first people to arrive from Wales, who had been promised paradise but found a barren landscape, no water and some small caves for their first shelter.
The wildlife seems to like it though. There are sea lions, seals, magellanic penguins, orcas, and in the right season (which of course it wasn’t), southern right whales.
Leila had her first ever scuba dive – and with sea lions! A memorable experience. She was, as expected, a natural. The sea lions were like puppies: inquisitive and playful.
The penguins were predictably comical. Punta Tombo, just down the coast has an enormous rookery of c.500,000 breeding pairs.
They were in the middle of their moulting period, which lasts around ten days. They can’t return to the water until their fluffy feathers have totally shed, so they have to stuff themselves with fish in preparation.
The combination of bloated bellies and patchy feathers is not the best look.
Some of the cooler kids already had dashing new suits…
These hairy armadillos were a pest, continually trying to steal our food.
And (trust me here) these two black spots are a pair of Orca. Sadly they weren’t hungry enough so stayed a long way offshore.
Despite the rocky start (literally – haha) the Welshies stuck about. Several schools continue to teach Welsh, there are music and poetry festivals and a sense of pride about the history. There are also lots of people named “Jones”, “Roberts” and of course “Griffiths”.
We went to a Welsh style tea-house which, whilst not a patch on the Ritz or Dorchester, served up a pretty decent and plentiful afternoon tea. It was lovely to have our first proper cuppa in months!