12th January 2004 - Peninsula Valdes
Today would be a short drive to Puerto Madryn on the coast and the starting point for the Peninsula Valdes, one of South Americas finest wildlife reserves. Arriving in town we parked up near the beach and headed off to find the tourist information office, get some details about the Peninsula Valdes and camping, stock up on food and catch up on emails. We still needed to chase the shipping of the landy home and were not having much luck in getting replies. Hopefully we would have some replies today.
Having completed our chores, we grabbed some lunch and then decided to head out to Valdes and camp for the night. The park entrance is about an hour's drive from Puerto Madryn (RN1 followed by RN2). The entrance fee is paid at El Desempeno (25 Pesos/$7.50 per person), where there is also an interpretation centre.
25km on, we reached Puerto Piramides, a tourist village and the only place you were officially allowed to camp on the whole peninsula.
The reserve is home to sea lions, elephant seals, rheas, guanacos, penguins and lots of other wildlife.
We stayed at the Camping Municipal - $4 per person per night. You have to pay extra for a shower and are given tokens to use the showers. Check the hours for the showers before you buy the tokens as the showers are only available at certain times of the day irrespective of whether you have bought tokens and the tokens are non-refundable. Fire pits are also dotted around, as are tables, but you will need to share as the tents are really packed in tightly together. There is another campsite over the road behind the police station.
The campsite itself is huge but it was still packed when we arrived. It was still early in the afternoon and rather than stop for the day, we decided to drive around the peninsula first. The whole area is incredibly flat and barren - not that interesting on the vegetation front. We headed north-east out of Puerto Piramides to Punta Norte. This is where the killer whale hunts sea lions and elephant seals by breaching themselves and grabbing there prey off the beach. We were here at the wrong time of year for that but we saw lots of sea lions - and even saw one giving birth and a couple of others having a fight.
From here we drove on to Caleta Valdes, where you should be able to see elephant seals on the long gravel spit and magellenic penguins. There isn't anywhere to stop very easily along the road and you need good binoculars to see them properly.
The next stop along the road was Punta Delgada, in the south-east corner of the peninsula, 70km from Puerto Piramides. Here there is a lighthouse and again sea lions to be seen.
All in all we found the peninsula fairly disappointing as we had not seen much wildlife. Maybe we were here at the wrong time of year. We had managed to see the peninsula in a few hours and didn't feel that we had missed anything. Heading back into Puerto Piramides, we entered the campsite and hunted around for a suitable pitch. It was really full, but we found a spot eventually and settled down to cook some dinner.