Nestled on a sheltered harbor facing the Golfo Nuevo, Puerto Madryn is Argentina’s second-largest fishing port. In the mid-19th century, the Argentine government encouraged European Emigration to remote Patagonia territories. You see, what was happening is Argentine (recently declared independent from Spain) was trying to push south. It had well established towns and cities in the northern part, including Bueno Aires, but needed more population farther south as Chile was also trying to push east over the Andes mountains toward the Atlantic.
In 1865, Welsh immigrants arrived in Puerto Madryn on the 27th of July, settling a hundred square miles of land along the Chubut River. Italians and Spaniards soon followed, surpassing the Welsh in number. But the heritage of the original immigrants lives on in the region’s distinctive windmills and chapels. Several towns, too, have retained their Welsh names; Puerto Madryn was named for the estate of Sir Love Jones-Parry, one of the colony’s founders. Today, the city is the gateway to the scenic Valdes Peninsula, an important nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today we decided to travel somewhat south form Puerto Madryn to Punta Tombo, home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world. About a half-million penguins come here each year to breed, hatch their eggs and raise the chicks resulting in the colony to nearly a million. This a about a five-month process in the months of October through February. We are here the beginning of March, so it’s the end of the season, but we still see an impressive number of penguins (in all their Tuxedos).
We also saw a few other animals, birds and critters along the way: Lumas, Emus, Flamingos, Condors, Southern Crested Caracara, Cometocino, Armadillo, and various roadkill. But the story of the day belonged to Gail, who went to the restroom, locked the stall door, and then could not get it unlocked. Try as she may, the stubborn lock would not give. Finally in desperation, Gail starts calling “Help, I’m lock in the stall and can’t get out”! Fortunately, there was a lady that was the restroom attendant that had a special key for just such circumstances, so she came to the rescue… or at least Gail thought so. But the lady’s key would not open that stubborn lock. As a last resort, they called the maintenance department and had the guy with the Super-Special key come and Gail was finally rescued. We thought for a while we would have to leave Gail in Puerto Madryn, but we decided to wait it out and bring her along home.
At any rate, we had a great day with our guide Victor who was born and raised in Mexico City. He is a teacher in the Hospitality and Event Management school here, and then leads tours on his days off in the summer. He was VERY informative on the history, fauna and flora of the area.
So, for today, I guess you could say we were Americans of German heritage guided through Welsh settlements in Argentina in a Japanese car by a Mexican Guide… yeah… that’s it!
(If you are on a tablet or computer, click to enlarge the pictures)