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Dinosaurs, black and white dolphins and Welsh tea in Trelew

ARGENTINA | Tuesday, 30 December 2008 | Views [1995] | Comments [1]

In 1852 a number of Welsh settlers arrived in Puerto Madryn and worked their way south and west before they got to the Chubut valley which they decided was the spot for them and promptly irrigated, We arrived in the heat of the mid afternoon and took a taxi, asking the driver if there were any hostels as there were only hotels in the guidebook. The first hadn't opened for the season yet but the second was fine. We dumped our bags and looked for a restaurant to counteract the previous day's not so festive fayre, ideally a parrilla but they had all closed ... our timing needed work. Eventually we found a 1920's style saloon, full of faded elegance and charm for a picada and a sandwich.

Patagonia had cranked up the temperature a notch and the stiff breeze blew warm giving no relief. Claire took a nap while I finished off Bruce Chatwin's “In Patagonia” and waited for it to cool a little. Once it did we visited the nearby museum of paleontology. A major paleontological discovery was made near Trelew in the eighties: A prospector looking for radioactive substances in the vast wilderness heard his geiger counter bleep and instead of finding uranium particles unearthed a large dinosaur bone. This was the beginning of a bone rush of sorts and a large number of well preserved dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes from the crucially hitherto unscratched mid Jurassic period. This period about 150 million years ago was at the same time as the supercontinent, Pangea split apart to form the precursors to the continents we know today, South America thus became isolated until islands joined to form the isthmus of Panama millions of years later. Thus species developed independentally to huge proportions: the Argentenosaurus 15m long and 30 tons in weight, horse and bear like dinosaurs, megatherium and myolodon – enormous sloths. The complete skeletal structures of many of these giants were displayed in action stances and very striking.

We finally had a fine belated chritsmas dinner of patagonian lamb and asado de tira for lunch the next day before meeting up with Jolly and her boyfriend Santiago, who grew up in nearby Rawson, capital of Chubut province. They took us to Union beach, a long gravelly, windswept beach about 2km from the town with a busy strip. We met some of their friends and supped mate but the wind now cut through us all and the water was freezing so we called it a day, They were off to the aforementioned musuem and picked up his niece on the way back. Her grandfather was the man who found that all important first bone. When we got back to the hostel Claire saw something unusual outside our bedroom – a fire in a concrete bin in the patio. I pointed it out to the manager and asked if it was normal. He shook his head and I put it out with the garden hose as he stared, actionless. He seemed thankful, but not as much as I would have expected.

While at Union beach we arranged a boat trip for the following morning: to see Toninas (Commerson's Dolphin), one of the smallest of the dolphin species and unusually marked black and white. The skipper found a school soon after leaving the harbour and, although less inquisitive and more elusive than other varieties i have seen before a few did frollick about to provide some opportunites for us to take some snaps. One poor lady didn't heed the advice to look at the horizon in the choppy waters and ended up face down in a plastic bag beside us during the collective oohs and aahs from her fellow passengers. I had never even knew Tonitas existed a few days previously.

Three local buses later and we were in Gaiman. Further in from the coast, past Trelew and the town where Welsh language and culture has survived most. Plus they do a Welsh tea, whatever that is – we guessed a bit like an English tea but with Welsh cakes.

The town was in full siesta mode so we wandered around, curiously crossing a rope-bridge over a river beside a road bridge. We picked the “oldest and most traditional welsh tea house in Gaimian” and expectantly hoped for some nice cucumber sandwiches and such like as we took out seats. What was brought was one generous serving (EACH) of the following: home made bread and butter, plum and apricot jam, scones with cheese, normal scones, Welsh cake, carrot cake, grilled biscuits, cream cake, lemon cake, lemon roll, chocolate and banana cake and apple tart to be washed down with a big pot of leaf tea dressed in a knitted tea cosy. We hadn't eaten in anticipation but this was an entire meal of cake. A completely absurd amount of cake to match the bizarreness of the setting – tea towels of welsh castles and love spoons, a welsh tenor for mood music, all totally in Spanish. Claire left half of about half her cakes. I finished my own, as if set some perverse challenge. We both had the cake sweats as we finished our tea, followed swiftly by a sugar hangover on the bus back to Trelew.

The hostel had kept our bags for us so we picked them up and spent the afternoon on the plaza along with what seemed like the rest of the town, playing football, drinking mate. 2 clowns came along with a big beach ball to entertain the kids. As it grew colder we moved ourselves and our bags into the bus terminal to wait for our next night bus. It was an entertaining wait by all accounts. As we played cacho the local crazy person shouted, laughed and joked at everyone who walked past, ignoring him. A very tall, heavy set man who had been on the boat trip with us, barked at a girl who lit a cigarette beside him in the terminal. She put it out and went elsewhere to smoke, embarrassed. A man on crutches started smoking near him and he blew his top, shouting that it was illegal (which it is not in Argentina) in English with a thick Scandinavian accent before screaming for the police and unsuccessfully trying to engage the terminal security. Eventually he picked up his things and walked out in a huff.

Tags: cake, mad people, museum, tea, wildlife




Glad to hear about your linking up with old friends. I'm sure everybody had changed a lot - 10 years is quite a long time. Blogs are great. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

  Jack Jan 1, 2009 10:13 PM

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