Aug 17, 2005
|Yet another cama bus overnight to Peninsula Valdes. The landscape in this area of the country changed dramatically from mountains to plains and desert. Dry and flat - They should call it Flatagonia! (hee hee!) We went to Puerto Madryn for one reason only. And I am proud to sum this up in 4 simple words. WE FINALLY SAW WHALES!!!!! The tour was part of the package from the travel agency. We figured we'd give it one final shot before we threw in the towel and admitted it was not meant to be. We left early in the morning for the tour which took us to an area called Puerto Piramide, so called because the rock and sand formations look like pyramids. It is also well known for the population of Southern Right whales that live there from June to December. We boarded a boat which took us out into the ocean. It was teeth-chattering, ice breaking cold weather and of course we were under-dressed. But that didn't matter once we were out there. The boat stopped and the swell was so strong from the waves we almost fell in the water.
Within the first couple of minutes, we saw the first tail. Then another, then another. Then we saw one jump out of the water, which caused a chorus of oooohhs and ahhhhhs. We were numb by this point but were so mesmerized we didn't seem to notice the cold anymore. Quite a sight. We watched them show off for a good 30 mins and they came so close to the boat we could see them blowing water from the blow holes and make out almost the entire bodies, which were about 8m long. Absolutely breathtaking and well worth the wait as well. We both decided we would not have seen a better spectacle in the other venues where we just missed them.
If that wasn't enough, just down the road, we stopped by the side of a cliff, hiked down about 50m and visited an elephant seal colony. They migrate from the sea once a year to mate on the shore. We first saw some juvenile seals that weighed about 300 lbs each. The we saw a group of adults who were about 5 times the size! To me they moved as if they had legs tied up in a bag. Could have stayed for hours to watch them play in the water, play with each other or in the case of most of them, just sleep and be lazy, but the wind was really strong and we had to move on. Quick stop for lunch and then back into town.
Our itinerary said the next day we were scheduled for an ''Ecobikes`` tour. Not much explanation there, but we were a bit hesitant considering the temperature. Figured we'd give it a shot, though and turned up at the bike place at 9am along with one other guy, Chris. Turns out the Ecobikes were nothing more than mountain bikes.
Once again we were saved because Chris spoke Spanish and the guide spoke no English. He told Chris that we were going to ride 17K (10 miles) each way and end up at an overlook point to see whales. Piece of cake -- after all, I did the MS bike tour in NYC years ago and rode 30miles! It was cold but we figured it wouldn't take long to warm up.
It started off easy. Nice, leisurely ride along the sea. Then we turned off. Nothing ``Eco`` about this part. We rode along a highway for a good 20 mins. At that point I was already a bit tired when the guide said we had gone only 5K. Then we turned off onto a dirt road, which was hard to peddle through. And we were on this for another hour or so.
Did I mention that I never learned to properly ride a mountain bike? Why would I need to? I grew up in a city, where it`s flat! I knew about gears but I never learned to properly use them. It was only when we went through a huge dip and the 3 guys looked like BMX pros and I fell off the bike in the dip, that L asked me what gear I was in. Apparently I was meant to be in a low gear or something to clear the dip. Then L gave me a crash course, and I realized up to this point it could've been a much easier ride. Oh well...
We finally got to the destination where we rested for a few minutes. We could see whales in the far distance but after the previous days'experience, it didn't do much for us. I was more impressed by the flock of pink flamingos that flew by. I didn't even know they could fly! That was cool!
After a few minutes rest, the guide asked if we wanted to go an extra few k's up to the lighthouse for another whale viewpoint. We figured since we got this far, what's another few k?? So we rode and rode and rode and finally arrived. This was a more impressive viewpoint and we saw about 8 whales a lot closer up. Would have been more enjoyable but I kept wondering how I was going it make it all the way back.
So we started riding and riding and riding more. We took a different route back, which included several steep hills. I may know how to ride a mountain bike by this point, but I was nowhere near prepared for the grueling course that we faced. We huffed and puffed the whole way up. And just when I was about to throw in the bike and walk the rest of the way, the guide gave me a push and helped me up the rest of the hill. L managed to make it himself but he later admitted he was at the end of his rope as well...
So we rode an rode and rode some more on this dirt road and finally reached a turnoff point back to the highway. HALLELUJAH! I thought we were at the end but turned out we had another 5K to go. Well at least this part was paved...
All in all we think we rode about 45K and we were quite proud of ourselves after it was all over. Another one of those cases where if they had told us what to expect, we might have thought twice about going. But I guess that was all part of the adventure. And we needed the exercise after all those long bus trips.
We celebrated our victory at a cafe on the beach, then wentback to the hotel, where the woman was nice enough to keep our rooms open for us to shower and rest before getting on the next bus.