We board our bus at 3:00 pm, bracing ourselves for eighteen hours of semi-cama travel. It ends up being not only the longest, but also definitely the strangest bus ride I have ever experienced. After just a short while on the bus, a movie begins to play – “The Ten Commandments,” dubbed into Spanish, no less. We fear this will stir up some intense religious conflict, because about half of our fellow passengers happen to be Orthodox Jews, and as such would probably not appreciate Charlton Heston’s take on Moses. The movie stops after a few minutes, and we begin to hear yelling from the bottom deck of the bus. There is a man screaming about el infierno! It turns out to be the bus driver’s favorite fundamentalist preacher on the radio. Joy! With the radio still blaring, a new movie appears on the tv screen:
“Fireproof,” a delightful film which illustrates the importance of staying married even if you hate your spouse so much you’ve stopped sleeping in the same bed and have started hanging out at your parents’ house every day (starring Kirk Cameron, no less).
After nineteen hours on the bus, we finally arrive in Puerto Madryn. It’s a confusing town: picturesque shoreline; tiny, modest houses, some in bad shape; hostels everywhere; and several stores selling high end athletic equipment, furniture, etc., scattered among the panaderías and kioscos.
We’re transported via complimentary taxi to our hostel, which turns out to be (a) quite clean and adorable and (b) full of French people!
We buy some provisions from the supercompras across the street and make PB & J for lunch. A delicious rarity! Then, we board the van to go on our first excursion, to Punta Ninfas.
The landscape is beautiful and bizarre. There are no trees, only small bushes (which reminded me of Iceland) – Zoé informs me that the writer and illustrator of Le Petit Prince was inspired by his time spent flying over Patagonia, and I can see it!
The Patagonian sky is UNBELIEVABLE. I fell in love with that sky. This sounds silly, but you would have, too! I took a lot of pictures of just blue.
We trek down the cliff (?) and get up close and personal with the sea lions! Our guide informs us what to do in case we see one charging at us. We soon observe that they hardly move, and when they do, they sort of just jiggle and flop. We are left wondering what a confrontation would entail.
We return to the hostel feeling surprisingly wiped out. We microwave milanesas de soja and frozen broccoli for dinner and eat alongside our new French acquaintances, who have prepared beautiful culinary masterpieces for themselves. We are embarrassed.
We wake up at 6:30 am to head out to Peninsula Valdés! It is a full day of exploring, with much time spent on our tour van in between. Zoé and I keep falling asleep in our seats, resulting in our guide laughing at us and Gwen taking an excessive amount of unbelievably unflattering photos of us, none of which will ever be featured on this blog.
Our first stop, around 7 am:
Despite having eaten PB&J’s on our excursion, we are starving when we get back to the hostel that evening, and being around marine life all day has given us intense seafood cravings. We go to a restaurant down the block and eat an entire breadbasket before the waiter even takes our orders. We get arroz con mariscos. We’re unable to identify most of the mariscos, but eat them anyway. Yum.
Switching to past-tense. I hate grammar sometimes.
Another 6:30 am wakeup, this time for a trip to Punta Tombo! Even more time on the van this day, which made us go a little stir-crazy, but it was worth it. First, we went on a boat ride, and there were dozens of dolphins that came right next to the boat! They were so playful and lovely. They reminded me of dogs and made me miss mine! We could hear their breath sounds when they surfaced, which was cool.
So excited to see dolphins:
After the dolphins, we went on a walk through a huge penguin colony! Penguins are the strangest. When they’re not doing their famous waddle, they’re napping in shallow burrows or just standing there like statues. We saw some dead penguins as well. They just die right there out in the open! This was clearly not the Disneyland version of penguin life.
That night, after three straight days of PB&J for lunch, we cooked ourselves some actual dinner. Still not up to French traveler standards, but we felt proud.
We sleep in until 8:30. What luxury! With only a few hours left before bustime, we spend the morning enjoying the town. We buy colitas de ballenas – made of chocolate, filled with dulce de leche – and eat them on the pier in bliss.
The second bus trip was so awful, the sheer memory has made me unable to write this blogpost until now. The bus was about two hours late, for one, and the bus crew somehow thought it necessary to play movies continuously: some of the most god-awful romantic comedies I’ve ever seen, along with a couple of delights about cancer and gang violence. The tv screen was right next to our faces, and the sound blared through the speakers. At 1 am, they were somehow possessed to turn on all of the fluorescent lights and start playing some horrible boxing/prison movie. Our seats were also right next to the bathroom. Delightful. I turned 21 on that bus.
Bus horrors aside, it really was an amazing trip. Bountiful beauty, wonder, and laughter of the best kind! A wonderful way to welcome in a new year of my life. As for my 21st, the celebrations continue...more of that to come!