Day 18 - Penguins in ProfusionJanuary 15 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.Read more