I'm about to catch a bus to Ushuaia, a city which calls itself something like the city on the edge of the world. It's about a 30 hour bus ride, assuming I make my connecting bus at 5am tomorrow morning. Hopefully it's an hour or two late so I don't have to wait a long time in the bus station, but not so late that I miss it.
Puerto Madryn was amazing. I spent more money than I should have on tours. One was to Punta Tombo, biggest penguin colony in South America. Penguins as far as the eye can see. SO many penguins. Then I got peer pressured into paying for a boat trip to see the smallest dolphin in the world, the "delfino oscuro," which looked to me like the porpoises we have in the northwest. Supposedly there were orcas in the area, which eat porpoises, so the porpoises were making themselves scarce. We saw some, but it was kind of unimpressive.
Yesterday I went to the Peninsula Valdez, which was awesome. The roads were all gravel and posted at 40kph, and our guide was tearing down them at 120. We went whale watching, and at first we didn't see anything. Then there were a lot of whales a long ways away. Then a whale and her calf got RIGHT next to the boat and stayed there. Then my camera battery died. (Fortunately I was able to turn the display off and go old school using the view finder, and then it worked for the rest of the day.) The mother drifted next to the boat, with her calf staying a little further back, inquisitive but cautious. The mother would surface, blow air and water on us, kind of drift down under water so you could see her, then come back up. At one point she went under and blew water up making a huge plume of bubbles, and it seemed that she was doing it all for our sake. The whole thing was very moving.
Pictures can be seen here:
We also saw elephant seals, more penguins, including a baby. Along the road were mara, a Patagonian rabbit sort of thing that isn't actually a rabbit, rhea, more guanacos, including a baby, a skunk or grison or something, an armadillo, a cuis, and a huge tarantula.
Per Nat's suggestion I've been keeping a bird list, although I've only been listing the ones I'm positive about. This means I've been relying on the guides a lot. For some reason, as I was packing in Seattle at 4:30 in the morning to catch my plane, I decided I didn't need the extra weight of my binoculars and so didn't bring them. Very stupid. Anyways, here is the list for interested parties. It's embarrassingly short and imminently listable: Nandu (lesser rhea), Chilean flamingo, turkey vulture, white-tailed hawk, caracara, aplomado falcon, southern lapwing, patagonian mockingbird, elegant crested tinamou, sharp billed canastero.
Lastly, I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to the park Torres del Paine in Chile. It looks similar to US parks, and I'm wondering if it's worth a trip or if I could see the same thing in Yosemite. I wouldn't be able to do any serious trekking, it would be a day or two at the most of simple day trips. I might prefer to save it for a time when I could do real hiking. Has anyone been there to tell me if it's worth a trip?
Now to the bus.