Darsena D

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2 travelers at this place

  • Day20

    Day 18 - Penguins in Profusion

    January 15, 2019 in Argentina ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    The Eclipse docked in Puerto Madryn about 7:00 with bright sunshine and warm temps - forecast high of 89, today. We disembarked after breakfast and walked the long pier (half a mile) over the shallow harbor. Found our tour and boarded a 20-passenger bus for our excursion. We had a guide who explained things through an interpreter.

    Puerto Madryn was settled by Welsch immigrants in the 1850s. They were fleeing religious persecution and the Argentine government offered free land to Baron Madryn and his followers.

    We headed out of the city south on a freeway through gently rolling scrub plains. No trees, only low desert scrub - a lot like the desert southwest in Arizona. Stopped at a pull off next to the giant herbivorous dinosaur model. The bones of it were discovered about ten years ago a few miles inland. It is considered the largest dinosaur known. Stopped at a modern rest stop/gas station for relief then on through Trelew, a fairly large town on the Chubut River where there were actually trees!

    As we drove south, our guide offered us a sample of mate, a traditional Argentine infusion, in a mate cup. The cup is made from a hollowed out gourd decorated with local designs and chased in silver with a silver straw. Mate is a strong, bitter herb tea that locals drink all through the day. The sky had become a bit overcast with a mild breeze with temps in the high 70s.

    We turned off the (now two-lane) highway into the Protected Area of Punto Tombo. Our destination was the Magellanic Penguin rookery in the preserve, about five miles down a good gravel road. We parked at the visitor's center and walked along the marked paths and boardwalks among the penguins. This rookery is home to some 700,000 penguins! They were everywhere, basking in the sun, sheltering in their burrows, and walking to and from the Atlantic. Scattered among the penguins were small groups of guanacos, a llama-like browser found across the Argentine pampas. We took pics of the penguins and their three to six-month old chicks. Spent an hour and a half exploring and dodging the other 1,000 passengers from the Eclipse who had chosen this excursion. Back on the bus, the tour offered a box lunch before we headed back to the dock, about 115 miles away.

    One of the drawbacks of cruising is that the ship dumps 2,000+ people into sometimes small cities. Although there area usually several different excursions,
    there are always hundreds of people jostling to see the same sights. It can be frustrating. Occassionally another cruise ship is in port at the same time, compounding the problem.

    Back on the Eclipse, we relaxed a bit and watched the ship pull out of port. The evening show was a Russian violinist who gave a rousing performance mixing jazzed up classics with gypsy and modern tunes, a bit like the Celtic women concerts. Had dinner with our German table mates and chatted.

    Tomorrow another sea day.
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  • Day24

    Day 21 - Montevideo

    January 19, 2019 in Argentina ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We docked as schedule in Montevideo. Today dawned grey and rainy as we looked on the port area.

    We met our tour at the port entrance and went for a city highlights tour on a 45-passenger bus. We drove out of the port along the "Ramblas," the coast highway along the Rio de la Plata. The river is over 140 miles wide at its mouth, the widest river in the world. The Ramblas is lined with beaches most of its 400-mile length to Brazil. The tour stopped briefly at several pull offs.

    Uruguay has the highest standard of living in South America and is also the safest country so it attracts many American retirees. Our tour wound through several upscale neighborhoods with homes from $700,000 and up. Our guide mentioned that all large purchases (homes, cars, major electronics and appliances) are made in US$.

    The name of the city comes from the Latin, "monte vid eo" - "I see land," which is what the first Spanish explorers said when they arrived. In addition to the Spanish, many migrants came here from Italy, as well as sizable Jewish population, during WW1 and again in WW2. Home to almost half the country's population, it was established in 1724.

    Our tour continued past the soccer stadium, which hosted the first FIFA World Cup in 1930 (in which Uruguay defeated Argentina for the Cup). We stopped at the carters monument, a nod to the toils of the first settlers. We stopped at the old executive palace and at Independence Plaza. This Plaza has the statue of the country's liberation leader, Jose Artigas, and has the new presidential building (with a glass facade) alongside the old one (in yellow stucco). Underneath the Artigas statue (below ground) is his tomb, which is open for visitation.

    Our tour took us back to the dock. We got out and walked through the Mercado Puerto (Port Market), a bustling place with many parillada restaurants. Parillada is the open grill, all meat barbeque for which Uruguay and Argentina are noted. We had a chorizo sausage and fries with a beer as we watched the griller cut and throw large chunks of meat onto the wood-fired grill. A little shopping and we walked across the street to the dock and boarded the Eclipse. The weather had cleared up and the sun was out. We soon sailed out of the harbor, heading to Buenos Aires.

    The show was fantastic! The performance troupe put on a spectacular song and dance story with full staging and props. It used a reinterpretation of pop songs. The production was of Kennedy Center or Broadway quality. Throughout the cruise, the quality and variety of the live music entertainment has been superb, I can't say enough to praise it.

    At dinner we learned that one of our table mates, Silvia, had come down with the flu and was quarantined- a major bummer.

    Tomorrow Buenos Aires!
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Darsena D