Off to see some whales

After one last Belgian football game with Buenos Aires’ Belgian community, I took the bus that was going to take me to Patagonia, a region I have always dreamed to discover. I wasn’t planning to go that early in my trip though. What I had in mind was to go up North from Buenos Aires to the Iguazú falls and, from there, directly to Colombia. I would do the rest of Argentina at the end of my trip, in November and December, when it gets a little warmer. So that was when I would visit the Península Valdés and its incredible fauna diversity. But what I hadn’t been thinking of is that whales disappear from the Argentinian coast between November and May. So if I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t get to see any.

So there I was on a 20 hours long bus trip. The first of many. It’s difficult to imagine, when you’re from Europe, and especially Belgium, that you might be on the road for such a long time and not even get out of the country. Not even close. Here, it’s just the norm. And 20 hours is not even that bad. You can be trapped in a bus for 2 or 3 days. They tend to be comfortable. Especially if you take a “cama”. But when you’re trying to save some money, what you take is a semi-cama and what you get is also a semi-sleep. And crappy food.

Don't go to South America if you don't like bus rides.
Don’t go to South America if you don’t like bus rides.

As soon as I – finally – got off the “colectivo”, I was welcomed by Lucas. Who was wearing a t-shirt. Just sayin’. I don’t just mention this randomly. The reason why I wanted to postpone my visit to Patagonia at first was because they told me it was going to be so cold. I even added a layer of clothes in prevision. But it was actually warmer than it was in the capital.

We chatted a little as we were waiting for some of his friends. Lucas is a journalist. And a photography teacher. And a History student. He and his class mates were about to attend a presentation of one of their faculty teachers on the Che Guevara, at the local cultural centre. I was offered to join them and couldn’t think of a better way to start my stay in Puerto Madryn.

It was quite interesting. Especially as I could feel that a few people in the audience had a strong anti-European approach.

Before I started traveling, I received “Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina” as a present from a friend. This very well documented book written by the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano describes how Latin America has been emptied of all its natural resources, has been nothing more than a instrument serving the development of the Western world. I have been able to observe how this book is pretty much a bible for every Latin American. Singers and actors claim it to be their bedside reading and politicians frequently hold it in their hands and refer to it when giving speeches. Hugo Chavez was one of them. Although Galeano himself recently had a critical comment on the work he had written at the beginning of the seventies, it is a must read if you want to understand the continent. And how some Latin Americans might feel towards Europeans. Although, in my own point of view, rejection, even as a counter-reaction, is always a bad attitude.

An attitude which was very unlike the one I had from Lucas and his friends, who made me feel very welcome. After the presentation, we shared a meal, had a nice chat, went for a night walk to the beach and eventually went to sleep.

On the two following days, I was able to see my first whales. From quite far away but I felt like a child discovering the sea side or the snow for the first time. From the Península Valdés, there is a boat that takes you to see them closer and I had the firm intention to take it on the next day. Unfortunately, some microbes, who thought my lungs were a nice place to stay for awhile, decided otherwise.

Oberving whales from the beach. Pretty close. But not close enough.
Oberving whales from the beach. Pretty close. But not close enough.

As my whole body had been fighting against the cold for the last few weeks, I guess that the day I started to feel a bit warmer, my defenses decided to take a break. It was nothing serious though. I didn’t even have a fever. But I preferred not to take any risks and, as I am traveling leisurely anyway, decided to stay inside until I was completely cured. Luckily, Lucas proved to be a top class host and allowed me to stay at his place the time I needed to fully recover. Little did he know that he was going to be stuck with a Belgian for two weeks.

The five following days were, therefore, quite uneventful.


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