Monday, January 18, 2010

Parents Arrive, Off to Patagonia

On Saturday afternoon I met up with my parents at their hotel in Puerto Madero. It was a nice and simple reunion, and shortly after we met up with Vero to get some lunch and go around Buenos Aires a bit. A parilla lunch was what we got, sort of late in the afternoon, and then we headed up to MALBA to see the Andy Warhol exhibit. By the time we got there we didn't have much time because I had to drop my keys off at my old apartment by 6:30 pm.

Taking taxis almost everywhere, we rushed back to the Microcentro from Recoleta, picked up my backpacks, and moved out. We then had to head back up north to Palermo to finish the deal with the real estate agent and move into my new apartment. It was a full day for my parents, and after getting sort of settled in the new apartment, we got a light dinner and I took them back to Puerto Madero. Then I had to go all the way back up to Palermo, repack a bit with things they brought me, and wake up at 4 am to head to the airport for our 6 am flight to Trelew (pronounced Tray-lay-ew).

In under two hours we arrived in Patagonia, and were transferred to our lodging at Estancia El Pedral. The ride was about an hour and a half, and I quickly passed out for most of it. We didn't have time to rest once we got there though, as we quickly dropped off our things and went off for our first excursion. Going out with our driver/guide/host Wendt (Ben), we took a small rubber speed boat along the coast of Peninsula Valdes.

What's most striking right away is the deep blue water crashing against the rocky beaches and the steep white-washed cliffs. The contrast is blatant and strong, and as we rode in the boat against the heavy waves, it felt like white water rafting on the sea. We arrived at a point with sea lions, maybe hundreds of them, beached on the rocks. I've seen sea lions in the Galapagos, but these were totally different, and I really understand now why they are called sea lions.

The males had large "manes" around their heads and were growling loudly like a lion. They even had the same body frame, but instead of legs and paws they had flippers. The females sat near the newly born sea lions, which were crying loudly. Some sounded like children, and others sounded like sheep. It was a strange cacophony of sound.

Just as my mom started to feel a little sea sick we headed back to the estancia for lunch. I had packed a hat but had to rearrange my bag just before leaving at 4:30 am, so I must have forgotten it stupidly. Obviously, I burnt and didn't put sunblock on until it was too late. So you can still burn badly in Patagonia, in case that was ever a question.

After a great lunch we rested up before going back out in a Range Rover to spot some Magellanic Penguins. A new colony is being formed right by the estancia, and they're still afraid of people, but we were able to see them as they waddled away. We then took a hike along the rocky beach and cliffs, spotting elephant seals from a distance. The wind of the morning had died down, and by now I was given a safari kind of hat to use, so the conditions were pleasant. It was warm but not hot, and far from cold.

After sharing a dinner with some of the other guests we called it a night, exhausted and looking ahead to the morning of fishing.


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