Land of dinosaurs and penguins
We barely scraped the surface here but we knew we had to make our way to Rio by 10th January so a quick whistle stop tour would have to do for now, and I’m happy to say that we have since returned.
So we landed at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport at 3am on Christmas Day and our departing flight from AEP departed around midday, so we spent Christmas Day morning sat in EZE arrivals hall nursing a can of coke between us. After about 5 hours of doing this we headed over to AEP by cab to check in for our connection and to skype the families on Christmas Day. To our amazement past security and boarding gates there was a tiny duty free shop so we managed to pick up a bottle of sparkling wine and a toblerone to make our Christmas complete. Just as well as our Christmas dinner was tuna pasta, a backpacker staple!
Arriving into Trelew airport we quickly realised how naive we had been about arriving on Christmas Day, soon our self congratulations about the cost of the air fare were forgotten as we waited for over an hour for the one taxi driver to return again and again. We eventually managed to persuade someone to share with us to cut the cost for them and the waiting time for us.
The main purpose of visiting Trelew was not to visit the bizarre Welsh village, but instead to see the largest Penguin breeding colony outside of the Antarctic. Only as it was Christmas and then the weekend everywhere offering tours was shut! I spent Boxing Day at the supermarket whilst Joey trudged around the town looking for somewhere to open, we repeated this on the 27th and did strike gold, thankfully. So after booking for our last day in Trelew, the 28th, we set off on a bus to the Patagonia Welsh Village. There’s not a lot there, or there didn’t seem to be at Christmas save for this tea room.
The next day was definitely the highlight of our time in Patagonia, our trip to see the penguins in their natural environment! Penguins are my fourth favourite animals (numbers 1, 2 and 3 are cats, dogs and hedgehogs- thanks for asking) so it was a dream come true to see them actually doing their thang in the wild and to get so close to them.
After Trelew we flew to El Calafate on the Southern tip of Argentina. The main purpose for this point of call was to see the truly mind blowing glacier Perito Moreno. It’s huge and huge chunks of ice the size of cars thunderously fall from it on a regular basis.
El Calafate is also where the largest in tact dinosaur bone was found, which is now on display in the town’s museum. The bone has now sadly been broken in three to be displayed but is still an impressive sight – I mean this is just his leg!!
El Calafate cashes in on the links to the glacier by having a slightly overrated ice bar, but who can resist the temptation to dress like an Eskimo?
El Calafate was also where we spent New Year’s Eve, which was definitely the oddest NYE either of us had experienced. We found a bar and grabbed a seat, we had to share a table with a couple of pleasant enough Americans, but when it came to the main event there was no countdown, no big cheer and only the realisation when phones were checked that it was indeed now 2015.
We were still on a mission to get to Rio by 10th January in the cheapest manner possible, so using Skyscanner we found the cheapest flight out of El Calafate, which happened to be to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Uruguay hadn’t been in our original plan (and read why we wouldn’t go back here) but we consulted the map and it looked relatively easy to travel through and onto Brazil.
The worst part of travelling for us is always being ‘homeless’ for the day. This is when you have a late transport booking or an early arrival into a town. Sometimes you strike gold and the hostel will let you into your room early (Cusco you were amazing) but at other times all you can do is leave your luggage and roam the streets looking for somewhere open to shelter (McDonalds is your friend people).
Our flight from El Calafate wasn’t until 2am so we had 12 hours to kill from check out. We always try and wait until the last minute in these circumstances, but this particular hostel were hustling us out even before check out time – they were in our room stripping the beds!
So we made up a lunch of our South American favourite, chicken and egg fried rice and headed off for a walk around the lake. The lake area was very marshy with very large puddles to navigate. Joey, having been a hurdler in his youth, had no trouble leaping across these puddles. I decided to approach using my tried and tested running leap of faith. I missed and my left foot ended up soaked and stinking of, well swamp. Of course this would happen on a homeless day when our luggage is locked away for the day. And this why Joey now calls me Swamp Princess.
We continued our walk with one squelchy Becca to the banks of the shore, and sat down and I took my shoe and sock off to try and dry in the sun. We encountered a stray dog and as we always did if we saw a stray and had some food, we gave him some. Only this was the fussiest stray dog we’d ever encountered and he didn’t want anything! Maybe he just didn’t like egg fried rice?
My sock and shoe eventually dried off and we sauntered on for a bit trying to kill time but not each other. We gave up in the end and headed off to the airport 4 hours early thinking that we could at least get a drink. Nope. Everything was shut when we got there so it was same story of waiting, just in a different place. We landed in back at AEP Buenos Aires at around 5am and our connecting flight wasn’t until noon so we tried to get some sleep on the airport floor.