You know you’re in Patagonia when …

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see flamingos.

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see guanacos.

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see an armadillo.

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see southern sea lions.

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see elephant seals.

You know you’re in Patagonia when you see Southern right whales.

You REALLY know you’re in Patagonia when you see a mara ( http://tinyurl.com/4yhl2nf).

Well, we saw ALL of these in ONE DAY (pics below, and at link), our first full day in Patagonia exploring the Peninsula Valdés, near Puerto Madryn.  After a night in Buenos Aires, we drove (14 h!) due south to this coastal city.  Actually, our friends Esteban Balseiro and Beatriz Modenutti drove us and we arrived to PM on Friday night.  After a great seafood dinner at the normal Argentinian dinner time of 10:30 PM, we had a great meal (featuring king crab, “centolla”, and other sea food) and collapsed for a night’s sleep.

On Saturday the weather was fine and we spent the day driving the peninsula.  We spent more than an hour at beach where we saw at least a dozen Southern right whales, mothers with calves, right off the beach.  That is, about 20-30 m from shore!  Unbelievable.  During the rest of the drive we saw sea lions, dozens of guanacos, and a fleeting glimpse of an armadillo crossing the road.  Finally, we ended at Punta Norte, where there were elephant seals with pups.  (This is the only continental location in the southern hemisphere where elephant seals reproduce.)  The only thing missing were penguins (they will come to nest here later; these are Magellanic penguins, aka “jackass” penguins) and killer whales.  The latter are particularly cool here.  If you have seen videos on TV with killer whales eating penguins and seals in the surf and coming right up on the beach, then this is where they were filmed.  Alas, none were seen but maybe we will come back and try again.

Monday I gave a lecture at the Patagonian Center of CONICET (Argentinian NSF) and we tried for another trip to the beach.  But the wind was blowing steady at about 35 mph (gusting to 50 I’d say; a light breeze in Patagonia) and all the whales were hiding.  So, we spent the rest of the day shopping and resting.

The next day we left for Bariloche and after an 9-h incredible drive across a landscape that first looked like Baja México and then (within several hours) northern Arizona then Wyoming then Montana then Alaska and then like nothing else other than  the Patagonian Andes, with massive lakes and beech forests and snow and many adventures to come.  Plus some science and, of course, “buena onda” (good vibes).

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