August 31, 2007

Rawson and Patagonia

The day started out on the wrong track, but I have a smile now. I woke up early and to be safe, I took a taxi about 15 miles to the coast where I thought I’d catch a boat to see dolphins. I was told the ride would be 17 pesos but the driver assured me it was 37. I thought he was taking advantage of me because he even covered up the fare amount. However, once I arrived, multiple people told me that the price was 37.

The company I wanted to go out with to see dolphins was on a port which only ran about 2 blocks. When I arrived at 9:30, the street was dead and the doors to the boat place were locked. The sign said the tour was at 10 but no one was around. I walked up and down the street and all I found were stray dogs. Eventually, a tour bus with 6 people showed up for the same tour I wanted to take, and they joined me outside. At 10:15, we got word that the boat was broken but to please wait. I didn’t feel too safe about going out in the ocean with a broken boat, but I paid a lot to come to this port, and I didn’t want it to be for nothing. Finally, at noon, we were instructed to go on the boat.

The tour was well worth my $20. First, we saw some penguins swimming and then we followed around a group of dolphins. I was happy even though the animals were too quick for photos; the ride itself was fun, especially to think the view I was seeing was the Magellan saw 500 years ago (there isn’t much development along the coast). However, we got really lucky when we encountered 2 whales on our way back. We watched for about half an hour. This was fairly rare. Apparently the whales like the water farther out and to the north.

We got back on shore at 2, and I decided to save some money by taking public transportation back. The bus took longer than the taxi, but was only 4.5 pesos ($1.20). Plus, I got to see more of some cities. The cities of Patagonia are very ugly. It is a dessert with only shrubs. For this reason, the cities have no landscaping and are all dirt. There are a few trees in the cities, but they are so bare and must require so much effort to maintain, I doubt it’s worth it. The people here definitely aren’t affluent enough to lay sod and constantly water it. Trelew is rather poor. I saw no out right shanty towns (it’d be too cold probably), but all the buildings seemed to be crumbling. The cars are all also pre-1980 and unlike Buenos Aires where the drivers maneuver around pedestrians, the drivers here will plow right through you. Apparently the cars may not start up again if they stop for you.

The street food here isn’t too impressive either. Buenos Aires had the best street food I could safely eat. Here, all the vendors just sell “Panchos.” All the sings claim the Patagonia special food is the pancho. For this reason I bought one and was rather pissed off that it was just a pale, boiled hot dog. I am now waiting in the bus terminal for my ride south. I talked to the bathroom attendant (all bathrooms here have attendants, the bathrooms are very clean but you have to buy/tip toilet paper, soap, towels). He was excited I was from the Estados Unidos because he had heard about hurricane Katrina. He offered me some mate, but I had to decline.

Photo Info:
1. A view of the Rawson harbor
2. An up close movie of one of the whales we watched (southern right whale)
3. Another movie of one of the whales
4. Big animal floating in the water (not a whale)
5. View of Patagonia from Atlantic Ocean
6. View of Patagonia, just flatness

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