Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dame los Pinguinos

From The Trip, pt. 6: Argentina
The most noteworthy thing that happened to us when we were in Puerto Madryn was our failed attempt to ver los pinguinos (see the penguins) at the Valdes Wildlife Reserve. We read in Lonely Planet that as an alternative to the $50 tour, you could buy $10 local bus ticket to get out onto the reserve´s peninsula and you could buy the $15 tourist pass there at the bus station. On the way out there, a park staff person boarded the bus and started charging locals $1 to enter the park and we realized there is quite a discrepancy in the local vs. tourist price. I also realized that this kind of discrepancy doesn´t really exist at our national parks or anywhere else for that matter. It is strange to imagine museums or other tourist attractions charging tourists more for admission... I imagine that practice would promote the belief that all tourists are much more wealthy than the locals, which is not necessarily true in Argentina. So our bus dropped us in the tiny town of Puerto Piramides and that´s when we realized that Lonely Planet did not tell us that while the local bus will get you into the park, once you are there you will have no way of getting around the Point Reyes-sized peninsula... thanks, LP! So we explored our options, contemplated joining the $50 tour (no), attempted to hire a collective taxi (none to be found), thought about renting bikes or ATV´s, but the pinguinos were located 40 miles away. A tourist information lady told us about a ¨hike¨ we could do to see some elephant seals and as we trudged along the dirt road, we were picked up by a nice Hungarian and his mom who took the rest of the way to see the seals in their rental car. While looking at the lobos marinos and their pups, we saw a lone pinguino fishing out off the shore and it inspired us to try harder to find a way to see the rest. We started walking back, planning to get to the junction of the road back to town and the road to the pinguinos to try to catch a ride, but we were picked up by a ranger who told us the penguins were far away and took us back to town against our will. So as soon as he was out of sight, we started walking back up toward that junction and we had just made it to the top of the hill when he drove back past and gestured with both arms wondering what the heck were we doing. I thought we must be like the turtle that Tom Joad catches and wraps in his shirt in the beginning of Grapes of Wrath, the turtle that tries so hard to escape but keeps getting wrapped back up in the shirt again (unfortunately John lost te novel somewhere back in the lake district so we will never know what happened to the turtle). The ranger, however, scolded us. He told us it was too late in the day to hacer un dedo (make a finger) to see the penguins and catch one´s bus back at 7pm. He drove off as we peered at the long dusty road to the penguins in the distance and we decided he was probably right. We had to be satisfied with our one pinguino and drink a beer on the beach. Sort of disappointing, but also sort of a funny day.
From The Trip, pt. 6: Argentina

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