Argentina: March of the penguins
Funny how 18 hours on the bus doesn’t even phase us anymore…seemed like we just left Bs As and we rolled into Puerto Madryn. It’s always luck of the draw to see what they play for us on the buses and we had 3 good movies this time. The best being The Sound of Music!!! What – no blood, profanity and sex??? Lani and I were ecstatic. The gaggle of men on the bus however, did not share our enthusiasm, and they groaned in torture at the thought of having to sit through that for 3 hours. Lucky for them, the bus driver decided to only play the first cassette, so we are left wondering how the second half goes, as it`s been ages since I`ve seen it. We also got to play Bingo and guess who won? No, not me…I never win anything. For the Denver girl`s night girls, in addition to gingerbread house making, pumpkin carving, egg dying, etc…you can now add bingo winning to Lani’s extensive list of trophies. I didn’t complain because the prize was a bottle of wine that we got to enjoy at our hostel last night. On all future bus rides while I`m busy asking the important questions like, are our seats far from the bathroom? and is there dinner?, Lani will be asking, do you play bingo??
Sometime during the night, we crossed into Patagonia. Patagonia is known for being vast, windy, treeless and it covers everything in Argentina south of the Rio Colorado. It is also known for its beauty and natural wonders. Our first Patagonia stop was Puerto Madryn and the nearby Peninsula Valdטs can be clearly seen on any map of South America, or the world for that matter, as it juts out from the mainland about halfway down the Atlantic coast. There is really only one reason to go there, and that is to see the marine wildlife. Which reminds me, DAD, I never commented on your comment about my failed future as a marine biologist. For your information, I think I’d be one fine marine biologist…fish after all, can’t crawl on me. In the area, depending on the time of year, you can see elephant seals, sea lions, Southern right whales, orcas, dolphins and penguins. We had a tough decision to make when we arrived, as we were only planning on spending one day here and there are 2 main excursions. One went to the Peninsula Valdטs to see the sea lions, seals and possibly, if you are lucky, an orca. In March, the orcas tend to come to the share to attach baby seal pups playing in the waves. This would have been amazing to see, however, you have to be damn lucky to actually see anything so National Geographicky….and I`m no bingo winner. The other excursion was to the south to see the largest Magellenic penguin colony in South America. At the peak season, there are over 1 million penguins here and 200,000 mating couples. After much debate, we decided to go for the penguins. My favorite exhibit, and one which I can sit in front of for hours, at the Henry Dorley Zoo is the penguin aquarium, so, I knew I was going to love going to the colony.
After making our tough decision, we decided to go to the marine info center to load up on knowledge of what we were going to see. I won`t bore you with all the fascinating factoids I learned there, other than that I know understand all the “save the whales” stickers around here. It`s unfortunate that there isn`t one time of year where you can come and see all the animals at once, but then again, nature doesn`t exactly cater to tourists. In the morning, we set off for our excursion and were quite bummed that it was raining. Before getting to the penguin colony, we were supposedly going to get to stop and go out on a boat to see torina dolphins, a species that is striped black and white. But, the rain ruined that. Fiddlesticks. The good news was that this left more time for the penguins!! We arrived at Punta Tombo, a nature reserve, and were able to walk freely amongst the penguins. You couldn`t help but smile as they waddled their little walk all around us. At this time of year, the adults are molting and the chicks are losing their baby fur and getting their permeable feathers for the first time. After this happens, they learn how to swim and then take off to the seas until next years mating season. So, many had already left for the year, but there were still thousands to watch. They come back year after year to the same mate. They all look exactly the same so I don`t know how they can figure out who your baby`s daddy is, but our guide says they recognize each other through smell. All in all, GREAT day trip and a wonderful way to segue out of the city and into the vastness of Patagonia.
And once again, we gear up for another long haul….seems to always be the case huh? It`s interesting, after spending so much continuous time with a person there tends to be a lot of comfortable silence, but we also have plenty of time to ponder the great mysteries of life, such as: what is a magpie exactly?? Be thankful you aren`t a fly on the wall of our bus!!