Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Puerto Madryn and Peninsula Valdes

Puerto Madryn

Patagonia is big!

This is more or less all we saw for the four hours before we arrived in Puerto Madryn which is nestled inside the Golfo Nuevo and about 90km from entrance into the nature reserve on Peninsula Valdes

Arriving at our hostel (a lovely, quiet place called Retorno) we look at eachother and say, "what do we do now" and a gentleman at reception says, "why don't you rent a car?" and we say, "Okay!"

And we do.

Though rather expensive (equivalent to $60 US for 24 hours and 400km) - we splurge for it since we only spent five dollars in two days in Viedma and would be on a bus for twenty-four hours in the morning. Plus, this wasn't some beat-up deathtrap, it was a 2007 VW.

And, since we arrived we have been talking about the fact that we, as true Americans I suppose, miss the autonomy of being able to get in our car and just - DRIVE! How this plays into larger economic and social systems is a topic for another day, what matters is that we were able to get away from the buses, away from the tourists, and get out into the open country to see things like this:

It took about an hour to get to the entrance for Peninsula Valdes. After paying the rather steap entrance fee, we zoomed off towards the nearest vantage point, Punta Piramides.

Here we found some of the bluest water I have seen in my entire life. Not to mention the sea lions rolling around in the water and waddling on land. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to see any whales, but sitting at the covered vantage point as a thunderstorm swept over the peninsula, alone, was worth the effort.

After 400km the company charges .80 pesos for every kilometer over. Thus, we were unable to venture further out onto the peninsula. However, this did not stop us from taking a little off-road tangent - that was both exciting because it was not my car that we were jostling and splattering with mud, and also a bit terrifying due to the possibility that if we were stuck, we could be spending the night in the car.

Of course, everything went off without a hitch. We made it back to Puerto Madryn in time to have a wonderful fresh meal and beer, accompanied by an extremely friendly receptionist named Sebastian.

The next morning we awoke before six to drive out to the end of the cove and watch the sunrise. Because we could.
Then we returned to the hostel, continued chatting with Sebastian as we munched on pan integral and the richest butter ever tasted - real butter. Then it was time to head off to the bus depot to catch our micro to Rio Gallegos and ultimately Puerto Natales...

..but first..


Merry Christmas Kaitlin, Mom, and Kim!

And serious again..

Though we anticipated a miserable twenty-four hours on the bus, we were pleasantly surprised to have really enjoyed ourselves. The combination of a clean, smooth running bus, genial fellow passengers, and some staggering scenery - made the trip feel more like a mellow slideshow than a thousand mile slog.

In particular, I made friends with a young girl who was traveling south with her sister and mother to Puerto San Julian to visit family for Christmas. At first she mostly smiled and laughed at my poor attempts to communicate in Spanish. Eventually she responded with a "Si" or a nod of the head. By the time everyone was going to bed, she would respond in full sentences, though still perplexed by the eager stranger.

Talking to her was a great relief at the time. Not only because I was able to use her language without any major errors, but because talking to her I felt as though I could have been talking to my own sister. That we were traveling together, to go home and spend the holidays in communion with our loved ones. It was nice for that moment, but her journey ended at Puerto San Julian..and I find myself another eight hours away in Puerto Natales.

Tomorrow we leave for the park. We plan to be there eight to ten days. Though we plan to trek with another couple..and though there are sure to be more backpackers in the campsites..I can't remember being this nostalgic for the holidays.

For the last few years, since our grandmothers became increasingly frail - the traditions we had held since I could remember, began to fade and fade. I thought then that it was okay, that the progression would lead to new traditions, that we would adjust and adapt and create a new family dynamic and tradition. I didn't think about being here. Surely, no one thought both Kristen and I would have moved out of the continent.

I don't mean to digress into the psychosis of my family dynamic, but it is quite relevant as to my musings about my experiences here. How I am coping with this absence - certainly intense during the holidays, but surely will continue to occupy my thoughts as we move on to the farm in Chiloe and are immersed in a completely alien family dynamic.

Alas, problems for another day!

There are tons of photos I was unable to upload (not enough hours in the day!), but this must suffice for now..as we have a full day of preparing for our trek. Not to mention, over a week to spend in the park. Till then..

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