After 8 days in Buenos Aires with my Habitat for Humanity Argentina family, it was finally time to say goodbye and part ways. I hadn't traveled alone like this since my two week trip to Poland and Greece back in 2012 when I studied abroad in London. Nevertheless, I was excited and ready for a new adventure.
My first obstacle was Retiro Bus Station. I've never been to a bus station or train station where I couldn't find at least one English speaking person to help me. Even in Poland, there was a person at the train station who was able to translate for me. At the bus station in Argentina, not so much. With hundreds of different bus lines leaving Retiro daily, I figured there definitely would've been at least someone who spoke English. I was wrong. Luckily, with my limited Spanish, I was able to make up a coherent sentence to get a ticket - Buscando comprar un bileta para hoy a la Puerto Madryn y doce horas. Definitely not perfect, but it got the job done! I also wrote down the tickets I needed in my notebook just to be sure I was understood correctly.
When I boarded my bus, I had no idea what to expect. It was a two level bus with seats on the bottom and seats above. I got a window seat, so I was able to conveniently stare out of the window without having to awkwardly look past someone. The seats were actually quite comfy for being semicama. They didn't go back all the way, but they tilted back enough to allow me to have a decent night of sleep - decent enough that I almost missed my stop in Puerto Madryn! Another half hour and I would've had a huge issue!
When we were passing through toward the Puerto Madryn bus station, I looked out the windows in astonishment. The houses and area were not what I expected. To be honest, I don't know what I expected. The houses and everything looked incomplete almost, as if I was in a city where someone decided to just use clay to build parts of the houses and just stop. It was really interesting and at first I felt a little scared and upset that I travelled 20 hours to this place that doesn't seem to be as appealing (or safe) as I thought it would be.
At the bus station, I stopped at the information center and picked up a map. I was tired and dirty and it was too early to check in to my hostel. I got a little lost at first, but I figured out which way the coast was and kept walking until I saw water, then I was easily able to find my hostel. It was in a great location - right on the beach. Along the beach there were a lot of shops and restaurants - nothing like what the city looked like on our way in!
I spent the majority of my first day in Puerto Madryn on the beach relaxing. My tours were scheduled for the next two days. Before I decided to head back to my hostel for the evening, I went out to the end of the pier. I was amazed when I saw three little sea lions swimming around the pillars in the water! It was the best thing ever and made my day. They were so cute!! I could've stood there for hours just watching them play and chase each other from pillar to pillar - they were so carefree and it was just wonderful.
Whales, Dolphins, Penguins, Elephant Seals and Sea Lions
If you love animals and you find yourself in South America, you HAVE to go to Puerto Madryn. I'm an animal lover through and through and I do not regret a single dollar or minute spent in this area.
My first day was dedicated to a whale watching tour on Peninsula Valdes, followed by a visit to Punta Norte and Punta Cantor to see penguins, seals and sea lions.
While we didn't get a chance to see the Southern Right Whales, we did come across hundreds of playful Dusky Dolphins. They kept swimming around and under the front of the boat, jumping out of the water in front of us. Their markings are beautiful!
The highlight of the morning though was when we came across a school of anchovies - there was about a ton of them according to our boat driver. And since anchovies are the prey of many sea creatures, we also came across more dolphins, sea lions, penguins and sea gulls all in the same place. It was incredible seeing all of these species in one place feeding. It was one of those moments that I'm going to always remember - it was so unexpected to come across that!
Later on in the day we came across a colony of seals with a handful of sea lions. It was too early to be breeding, but there was one sea lion pup and its mother and about 5 other male sea lions. The second the male near the female left, all of the other males came in to attack - they were all fighting right on top of the sea lion pup. After the fight, the pup didn't move and the male originally with the female pushed her away and out into the water. It was so sad! We though the baby was dead, but before we left, we saw movement! It was crazy how wild these animals truly are.
I was really bummed that I didn't get to see a Southern Right Whale. But I ended up seeing something just as exciting! On our way to Punta Cantor, we saw tons of cars stopped along the road. It turns out there was a group of three Orca Whales were close to shore. Once we arrived in Punta Cantor, we were able to get some good pictures and even saw one of them beach itself! It was incredible. Apparently they can only beach themselves during high tide, so we were there at exactly the right time. It was unbelievable! More pictures of the Orcas below!
Before the madness with the whales, we stopped at a penguin colony. They were so cute and a bit bigger than the Fairy Penguins I saw in Australia! I love penguins so much - I have no idea why! But how can I resist, they're just too darn cute!!!
All in all, my first tour was a success. I was excited for what the next day would bring!
My second tour was to Punta Ninfas to get up close and personal with wild elephant seals. The day prior, you could only stay on the paths. At Punta Ninfas, you can go right down to the beach and get up close and personal with the elephant seals. It was really amazing. I can still feel the warm, round rocks in my hands and hear them crunching under my feet. It was incredible - the three other people I was with and my tour guide were the only ones on the beach. I live for this type of stuff!
Puerto Madryn was beautiful. Both the landscapes and animals will always stay in my mind. In a way, I'm happy I didn't see the Southern Right Whales - it gives me another reason to go back in the future! In retrospect, I wish I stayed another day so I could've seen the huge penguin colony - apparently it's one of the largest in the world. It's okay though, there's always next time!
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