We arrived back in Buenos Aires after taking the ferry from Colonia. It was a day filled with logistics, trying to get everything done before heading to Puerto Madryn. Our bus leaves at 9:00 p.m. and we arrived back in B.A. around 10:30 a.m. We spent the morning updating the website, and then discovered how to use Yahoo Instant Messenger and my parents were on-line. Dad called Travis’ mom as well to see if she could get on-line, too and eventually it worked. We were excited to be talking in real time and not waiting for emails to go back and forth. Eventually my dad hooked up to a voice conferencing thing that Yahoo offered. There was a headset at the internet café we were at and when I put that on and pushed a particular button, both Jeanne and my dad could hear me talking. It was very weird. Unfortunately, it was a one-sided conversation, but they typed in their questions and we just talked back to them through the headset. We haven’t been successful at receiving telephone calls from either of them, so perhaps this will be an alternative. We spent a lot of time there, just excited at being able to talk. My mom missed it as she was at an appointment, but I’m sure we’ll be able to do it again later.
After finally leaving the café, we got our laundry done for $1.30, washed, dried and folded. We got some late lunch while waiting for the laundry at a place called “La Americana”. We ordered a ham and pineapple pizza, but what we received was a pizza with baked tomatoes, cheese, and an olive on top of each slice. When we asked about the pineapple pizza, he said we ordered this one. We said we didn’t, but he said he didn’t understand us the first time and clarified what we wanted. When Travis said yes, apparently he was saying yes to this kind. The funny thing was that we ordered a “crocao” and what the man brought us was a “napolitana”. Not even similar sounding. But, he insisted that was what we ordered and it was our fault. So, we took off the tomatoes and had our cheese pizza. Oh well, live and learn! Travis was bitter for awhile about it, though.
After picking up the laundry, we decided to get to the bus station and just wait the couple of hours remaining to board the bus. You really have to be on top of things, because it doesn’t seem that they make too many announcements. Anyway, we were in the last two seats on the bus. Actually, we were in separate rows, but a nice guy switched with us so we could be together. That was fortunate, because I was leaning on Travis a lot and the space was very small! The bus ride was quite uncomfortable. It didn’t really recline as much as it seemed to advertise. It was a good thing I had the motion bracelets as they really helped when the bus was swerving so much. Nobody else seemed to notice it, but one time it woke both of us up, it was so swervy! So, that was how we spent our 8th anniversary. Pretty romantic, huh?
When we arrived in Puerto Madryn around 6:00 p.m., the weather was incredible. Cool winds, but with bright sunshine. We found our hotel and then set out to make reservations for a tour of the Valdes Peninsula (which have to be made the day before, because they pick you up first thing in the morning). We strolled around the beach front area and found it very touristy. We located a sea food restaurant two blocks from our hotel, and it was my turn to have menu misinterpretations. I thought I was getting shrimp, but ended up with fried calamari (squid). It was okay, but I could only handle the texture for so long. The waiter explained to us that there was no lobster or shrimp to be had right now as the season was not right. I was sad to be so close to the sea, but not able to order anything like that.
We went to bed early since we had to be ready by 7:30 for the nature tour. We discovered that our bed frame was broken and the mattress sagged into the middle, which was pretty uncomfortable. Also, there was no shower curtain, so you had to hunch down and try not to get any water anywhere. It was disastrous! Although we had asked to see the room first, we realized that we need to do a little more thorough checking before accepting it!
The mini-bus came to pick us up right on time and we enjoyed the tour very much. There were about 20 of us on this tour and the guide spoke English, so I didn’t have to translate everything for Travis. It was actually good, too, because there were several words about marine life that I didn’t understand. Basically it was a peninsula that only had gravel roads. We had to pay $2 each to get into the preserve and then drove about an hour each time before stopping and looking at some wildlife.
Along the way, we saw some wild llamas just right next to the road. The terrain is very flat, with no trees at all and just some short bushes. It seems pretty desert like. First, we stopped to see the sea lions. They were lying about on the beach, with lots of little pups playing in the water and learning to swim. They stay close to the beach, though, because the whales can come right up and catch them for lunch. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales. The sea lions were making quite a commotion, too, talking to each other. It was very funny listening to them. At times, it sounded like the pups were whining to their mothers, much in the same way children do. At that place as well, we saw a little fox and a very tiny, hairy armadillo. There was also a small bird in a tree that was singing a beautiful song. We were able to record it on our camera, along with the noise the sea lions made. We stayed there for about half an hour before continuing on to the next stop. The next place had more sea lions and sea elephants. The sea elephants are quite a bit bigger with bigger mouths and snouts. We saw some of them play fighting, but most were just laying there. They are so fat that it seems they are too tired to put much energy into moving!
Our guide, Mauricio, gave us very interesting tidbits and when I kept asking about the penguins, he took us to a small colony where there were about 50 of them. One was very close to the fence and just posed for everyone to take pictures. Later, he got into a little hole that had been dug, similar to a rabbit hole. But he was right at the entrance, so you could take more pictures. They were very cute and my favourite. It was here that we met a family with a 7 year old son who was from Oregon. They were the first people we had encountered who were Americans. They are travelling for a year and have been on their trip for about 8 months already. That was about all we learned before having to get back on our bus and we regretted not getting their names or finding a way to meet up later. We wanted to know what they recommended for the places we were planning on going that they had already visited. Later, we got to the place where we were going on a boat tour and they showed up a few minutes later. I decided to do the boat portion, but Travis stayed and he got to talk to them for awhile and got some good tips.
The boat trip lasted about 2 hours and one portion was snorkelling. I didn’t do that, but they let the ones off who weren’t doing it at a little area that we could walk around while waiting for the snorkellers. As we were getting off the boat, there was a single penguin right there, very close. We all furiously started taking pictures, and then he started walking toward me. I could have petted him, I was so close, but they don’t want you to do that. Anyway, I asked a man to take my picture with the penguin, which he tried to do until I figured out why it wasn’t working. It was out of batteries. It was unfortunate, but there was nothing I could do.
I just decided to enjoy the view and walking around looking at many different fossils that one of the guides was pointing out. A girl asked me to take her picture and we started up a conversation. We decided to “take in the sun” as they call it, while the others hiked up a little hill. We chatted for awhile and had a good time. She works in a copper strip mine with many men. I couldn’t imagine doing that, but she liked it. When we were leaving, it was here that I discovered I only had one of my motion sickness bracelets. I looked everywhere for it, but could not find it and the guide was telling us it was time to go. I am very disappointed, because I am anticipating that I won’t be able to find something similar here. I know I have been mentioning these bracelets frequently, but they are a life saver for me, since I get sick on any mode of transportation! We got back on the boat and visited other little points along the way, seeing the sea lions extremely close. I tried the camera again, and this time it worked for a few pictures before turning off. Sometimes it rejuvenates a little bit, so I was able to get a few more pictures. The tour advertises that there will be dolphins, but we were unsuccessful at seeing any this time. I understand there will be many other opportunities.
We got in the van once again and made our way back home. Along the way, we encountered a small grouping of reahs that ran away as soon as the car came too close. We did get a few pictures, though. Although it was a lot of driving on a gravel road, it was well worth it. Both Travis and I enjoyed seeing all the different wildlife, but we were exhausted with so much travelling around. We then went to the bus station to check into travelling to Rio Gallegos. Apparently, it is a very popular destination because when we checked with two bus companies, neither of them had any availability for the next four or five days. The third one only had 4 spots left for Saturday, so we hurried to pay for that before they were all gone as well. We then went for dinner, before calling it a night.
Friday was just another logistical day, getting ready to take off for Rio Gallegos on Saturday. Finally in the afternoon, we rented bikes and went for a ride along the beach. It was fun watching all the little kids play in the water and we watched a guy try to fish, but he didn't come up with anything. On the way back to the hotel, we came across several skateboarders and watched them for awhile. They noticed us and we talked with them for about a half an hour. They were mainly curious about US culture and wanted to know if we liked Eminem. They also tried to impress us with their knowledge of cuss words, which they picked up from the Internet and, guess who, Eminem.
We take a day trip to Trelew tomorrow for a quick look around, and then pick up the bus there for another long ride to Rio Gallegos.