November 28, 2018
(later in the day)
It didn’t take long to get to Trelew but we passed on by, stopping at Gaiman. It’s the heartland of Welsh immigration in Argentina and a lot of their descendants still live there. But the Lonely Planet said the town “offers little diversion” and that was unfortunately true.
It was too early for Welsh tea so instead we had lunch in the best restaurant in Gaiman. The food and service were really excellent. The proprietor was a Welsh descendant and told us that he could speak Welsh and that many people in the town could. Unfortunately he didn’t take Visa, which meant that our cash was running dangerously low.
We headed back to Trelew to check into our B&B for the next two nights. La Casona del Rio was a few kilometers outside of the town; it was a big old house by the Rio Chubut, as its Spanish name says. Our room had a very pink bathroom with rather old-fashioned features.
After a while we went out, to Trelew town centre where the Paleontological Museum is. It was a new-looking building, right next to the park near the centre. But also in the centre was a street full of banks. So Karen headed over to the museum and we headed for the banks, hoping that one of them would accept our debit card and give us cash. The first three wouldn’t. But then we tried BBVA and it would! It wanted a service charge of 395 pesos for 2000 pesos cash—ouch! But at least we now had enough cash to get us to the end of the trip.
At the museum we first watched a movie, a BBC documentary by David Attenborough about the discovery and excavation of the world’s largest dinosaur (so far). The movie was pretty interesting and in the background we could hear some Rufous-collared Sparrows calling continuously! Then we met up with Karen and joined a group tour through the exhibits.
They were a fairly good set of exhibits but rather small. However everything, as far as we could tell, had been collected locally. That was a good feature. The world’s largest dinosaur, of course, wasn’t in the collection, but outside there was a big hole in the ground next door. Perhaps this was to be the building which would house the replica which the documentary had mentioned.
Our lunch in Gaiman had been quite large so we went to the museum café and bought sandwiches for our dinner. We took them back to the B&B and ate them there, along with some tea.
November 29, 2018
We had breakfast at 8 am, a nice breakfast with locally-made cherry and plum jam. Then we headed off down the road to Punta Tombo and its Magellanic penguin colony.
There was about an hour and a half of driving through featureless Patagonian steppe before we reached the entrance of the reserve. From there it was another 22 kilometers of gravel road to the visitor centre. The visitor centre was quite new-looking and it was very well organized. The displays could have used more English translations, though.
After going through the visitor centre and its gift shop we drove down to the shore, where the penguins live. We showed our tickets to the ranger and headed out onto the boardwalk through the penguin colony.
Unlike the Antarctic penguins, which breed on stony beaches and bare rock, the Magellanic Penguin digs a burrow and lays its eggs there. So you don’t get the impression of acres of penguins. And our path started in the good part of town, where each nest was under its own bush. Farther along there was a barren field with a lot more burrows.
Karen didn’t want to walk the length of the boardwalk, so the two of us set off on our own. This was the time of year when the chicks had just hatched, so we could hear chicks peeping and we could see a few, nestled under a parent’s wing usually. Only in one nest did we see chicks standing up and looking out of the burrow.
It was slow going having to look in every burrow for chicks, and sometimes we had to stop to wait for penguins to cross the boardwalk. Penguins have the right of way! And they are so cute!
There weren’t many predators—a couple of Chimangos, a couple of Skuas, and a few Kelp Gulls. Maybe there will be more when the chicks start to come out of their burrows. We also found a White-headed Steamer-Duck, an endemic species we’d been hoping for, right at the end of the boardwalk.
There was a little café at the beach entry point so we had a choripán there for lunch before heading back.
Once back in Trelew we turned off towards Rawson and Playa Union, to see about boat trips for Commerson’s Dolphins. It was very windy and there were a lot of whitecaps out in the bay, but we didn’t see any dolphins from the shore. Not surprising really. At the other end of the beach was the port where the boat trips departed from, but anyway we didn’t want to go out in a boat with this much wind.
Back at the B&B the two of us went for a walk around the property before dinner. The river was immediately behind the house but it was running too rapidly for any birds to be found, and the rest of the property didn’t have anything out of the ordinary.
We had ordered dinner at the B&B tonight, to save having to drive into Trelew and back. It was a three-course meal featuring steak and potatoes and the price was very reasonable.