Just down the coast and slightly inland from Puerto Madryn is the Welsh colony that was formed in Patagonia in the second half of the nineteenth century. We´d heard rumours of all-you-can-eat tea and cake so the pull was just too hard to resist. So off we set on one of the local buses for a change (which were really quite decent coaches!) to explore the tiny town of Gaiman.
As it´s a pretty small town and a bit more off the tourist trail, there wasn´t any way to prebook somewhere to stay so as the bus left us standing on the abandoned plaza, in the middle of siesta time, we plodded off to try and find the tourist information that surely would be able to help. After walking in a circle with all our luggage, we were directed back to about 20m from the spot we were dropped off to a little garden shed, in which was the information centre. And the guy was extremely helpful in pointing us in 3 totally different directions. No matter, it´s a small town, we thought. Not so much, when you´re carrying two rucksacks each, a handbag, the food bag (which still contains a massive tin of fruit that we had been craving two weeks ago but never got around to eating) and countless other ultimately useless but staggeringly heavy items. Having trekked to nearly every hotel in the town and having not one single door opened to us (we were beginning to think the town had been deserted), with James about to give up, I said: NO. JUST ONE MORE! So we slowly trudged to the last one. Rang the bell. Nothing. Rang again. Nothing. Walking away…not really knowing where we were going…James saying I told you so. And just then James turned around…and the woman came out!!!! One free room…ensuite…great price…with a courtyard…yes please! It was like a movie, I swear!
What she failed to mention was that she had a screaming baby, but nonetheless it was a lovely little place and served us well. And Gaiman was so cute. Not much going on, I´ll grant you, but had an amazing little museum of Welsh artifacts from the first settlers, the first house built in the town, people speaking Welsh everywhere and a charming feel to it. And we did have tea. And it was all you can eat. I think in one day I counted we tried no less than 15 different cakes (including the three varieties served at breakfast).
So after all that excitement, we headed back to Trelew, another town not far away, went to an AMAZING dinosaur museum (I came out questioning the meaning of life) and staying at a slightly run down but pretty stunning old hotel (where we ate the tinned fruit for lunch – woo hoo), we decided that the time had come to cheat. Enough of these 24 hour bus journeys…so we caught a 2 hour flight down to El Calafate. We have now been here three days and it´s a gorgeous town, if pretty touristy – but in the right way. It´s small enough to walk around, and big enough to while away a day. But most importantly it´s only 80km away from the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Which brings me to today. We have just got back from potentially the “Best Day So Far On Our Trip”. We set off at 9am to the galcier front with a small group of people from the hostel (a complete mix of ages and nacionalities) and I was not prepared for the sheer scale and beauty, not just of the glacier itself but of the landscapes, flora & fauna. It was absolutely up there with the most incredible views I´ve ever seen. We had a couple of stops en-route to observe a flock of around a dozen eagles resting by the road, and later to walk down to the opaque “glacier milk” of the most enormous turquoise lake surrounded by glowing red moutains from the calafate bushes and their snow capped peaks. As we rounded a corner, we finally got our first glimpse of the glacier. It is enormous, and glows white & blue from the compacted snow that forms it. It was absolutely breathtaking. We then set off on a boat trip to get even closer to the enormous sheet of ice that is encroaching on the lake and passed by numerous little icebergs. The wind is icy cold as it blows off the glacier but I made James stay on the open deck for the entire time to take in the beauty and soon as everyone else got too cold and went down below we were practically the only ones left on deck. It was magical.
The glacier is advancing at a rate of 2m per day (and apparently is one of the few stable galciers currently in the world – ie it is not receding like most glaciers in the world) which means that you get to see the parts at the edge collapse every now and then if you´re lucky – which we were! Following the boat ride, we set off on a walk to get closer on the viewing platforms from where we saw numerous collapses – the noise is terrifying – the crack like a gunshot and the roar as a piece of ice the size of a 20 storey building hits the water is both eerie and thrilling at the same time. We sat for nearly two hours, just watching it and eating our sandwiches before returning to Calafate and practicing our Spanish with one of the older ladies on the bus. What a day.
So tomorrow we are off to Chile! Our first land border crossing down to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine.
I hope all is well is England and you are all still enjoying the sun!