Hope all good back home.
Last time we wrote, we were about to embark on a long journey to Buenos Aires which we just about made in one piece. We had a fun first few days in the capital, and then it was back on the bus down to Puerto Madryn in Patagonia. We´re now back in Buenos Aires for a few more days, so we´ll do a joint entry for here in a week or so. For now though - whales...
We had a brilliant time in Puerto Madryn seeing whales at unbelievably close quarters. It was pretty exciting seeing my very first whale, from the beach, just a few hours after we arrived. Definitely worth the long journey down there.
Up to 2,000 Southern Right whales come to the Puerto Madryn around this time of year to have – and make – babies. Apparently, according to our guide on our whale watching tour, they were dubbed the ´Right´ whales because in the times when they were hunted, they were the ´right´ ones to go for as they came in close to shore so were fairly easy prey and also had a lot of blubber so floated after they´d been caught. Thankfully, those days are long gone and they´ve come back from the brink of extinction and their numbers are fairly stable these days.
They´re certainly no lookers and a feature of this species is the weird lumps and bumps they have all over their heads (which look like big barnacles but have a special name which I can´t remember). They grow up to 17 metres and weigh in at a hefty 50 tonnes – they also apparently have the largest testicles of any animal – one tonne. Hmm, perhaps I´ll leave it with the whale factoids for now...
Aside from spying whales from the beach and pier in town, we also did a boat trip to see them even closer up. En route, we stopped at a little cove just as the sun was coming up where there were half a dozen whales really close to the beach. We loved hearing their weird otherworldly sounds and the noise of them blowing air out of their blowholes – pretty special with just us, our guide and another couple there.
It´s amazing how close to the boat the whales come – had we been allowed, we could have reached out and touched them. We even spotted the whites of their eyes and their blow holes! We saw various Mums with their calves, and also a female ducking under our boat trying to fend off the advances of an amorous and very persistent male. It´s also fun watching the young whales playing and splashing around, and perfecting their tail flips for the camera (which, incidentally, are really hard to snap at precisely the right time...)
The boat trip was really well done – they cut the engine anytime we were in the vicinity of whales so as not to bother them, and never stayed too long with any one whale. The whales are seemingly not too fussed by the boats and certainly aren´t scared of them.
We also saw a few seals swimming around, and a few seals and sea lions at a reserve but not that many unfortunately as it´s not their breeding season yet. Other wildlife spotted on dry land include more llamas, some emu type things, a flamingo (or ´flamenco´as Roland has accidentally called them a couple of times – much more fun!), a skunk, a crested partridge (for your benefit Ben, but too speedy to photograph I´m afraid) and many, many sheep.
Anyway, I won´t drone on about the whales any longer but it really was a very memorable experience which will surely make it into the top 10 for the whole trip. We really enjoyed our few days in Puerto Madryn - aside from the whales, we stretched our legs with some good bracing walks along the coast (loved being back by the sea...), visited a really good local marine life Ecocentre and took advantage of delicious, super-fresh local fish to make a welcome break from the steak (washed down with wine from the vineyard we´d visited in Cafayate!)
So now we´re back in Buenos Aires which is a very cool city – and then onto Iguassu falls later this week where I´m looking forward to some balmy temperatures (with a bit of luck) as well as spectacular views.
Hope you all had a lovely bank holiday.
lots of love
Helene and Roland xxx