Puerto Madryn, Argentina

SAT FEB 29 to SUN MARCH 1 DAY 35/36……..

Stop 19

Well we had to make a few changes since our last stop in Ushuaia. The winds got strong so we could not leave the port… the plan was to travel around Cape Horn and stop at the Falkland Islands……but the captain decided otherwise…. “abandon plan”…. I suppose that’s better then “abandon ship”

Diverted Plan

The weather in this region is windy on its best day so I now understand you never really know if you’ll be able to go around Cape Horn … “The Horn” is considered by seamen as “the most dangerous ship passage in the world.”

So unless you have several days to wait for better weather … you need a backup plan… ours was to stay docked for an extra night in Ushuaia.

Early the next morning we resumed our voyage, …abandoned the Horn and set sail for the Falklands… that plan didn’t last long… swells over 10 ft…..we were rockin and a rollin. You could not walk the hallway let alone try to get on and off a tender.

Tendering in Los Cabos

…a tender is a small boat that takes you from “mothership” to shore….it is used in small areas, like the Falklands…places with no port or not enough depth for a large ship to dock.

So plans scrapped…we bypassed Cape Horn and the Falklands. It turns out “The Horn” is actually a place…. I had no idea…..it’s not just a piece of land you navigate around …there is a “Horn Island” ..a tiny island with no inhabitants… after our little adventure with a modern ship…I can understand why sailors lost their lives trying to make there way around “The Horn”.. where two oceans meet…the seas are SO rough it is amazing anyone makes it.

So no wonder The Magellan Straits were such a big deal.

Cape Horn

The interesting part was as we sailed for the next two days, about 800 miles, the temperature change ….from snow capped mountains in Ushuaia to 80F and desert in Puerto Madryn…

So here we are two days later

Entering Puerto Madryn
…..welcomed by a Porpoise on the Pier

Puerto Madryn is 56’ above sea level ….the bay is 300’ deep….the water surrounding the beach is shallow and the water temp is only 53 degrees… despite warm land temperatures at this time of year

Madryn is the midpoint between Buenos Aries and Ushuaia ….880 miles from each port and the northern end of Patagonia….

I had know idea we were still in Patagonia.

Map of Patagonia

Or that Patagonia is primarily in Argentina…..

it consists of five regions and covers over half of the country.

5 Miles of Beach that looks hard as a rock

So the port of Madryn is 5 miles beach, 2 blocks of city and lots of desert…

Desert and more Desert

The desert came about 13 million years ago ….volcanoes erupted from the Andes and covered most of the land in the region….creating the 7’th largest desert in the world.

Desert Shrubs

The desert is rocky with “scrubby”drought tolerant shrubs and plateaus…. plateau is a flat elevated plain. The weather is more extreme then other climates of Patagonia ….and it has almost no rainfall … 3/4” per year…..

…temps in the summer months range from 80F to 110F and in the winter 20F and 25F. The summer season is from December to March and winter from March to December…. just like everything else… it’s all backwards to my thinking and I still can’t quite get my head around it.

Schools are closed in the summer months with a mid winter break in July for 15 days. Madryn does not get snow because of there close proximity to the water.

Commemorating the Tehuelche Indian
Rocks are indigenous to the Area

Madryn is a relatively young city….it is named for a hill in Wales…after a saint. It was originally inhabited by the Tehuelche Indians but in 1865 three welsch immigrants came to the area …. they were looking for a new land for the Welch people after suffering religious persecution by the Brits.

The conditions were harsh…..it was extremely difficult to build a life in Patagonia …they did have a peaceful coexistence with the Tehuelches trading fur and biscuits in exchange for hunting lessons.

…but the vast desert meant they needed a source of drinkable water ….they walked 42 miles looking for a water source….eventually they found a river…the Chaboute River…they settled on the west side of the riverbank in a village called Gaiman

Chaboute River provides water to Madryn

This river became the primary source of water for Madryn …..pumping water from the river up into a steep plateau with large drainage rocks on top. The water is stored in the plateau and flows downward into the city. The amount of water that is released is controlled by a damm.

The Argentines gave the Welch land and cattle to colonize the area. They established the village of Gaiman a population of 10,000 today. The community was built around Welch cultures and traditions …the Welch language is still taught today and many of the traditions have been kept.

Welsh Tea House
Welch Tea Ceremony

A traditional Welch tea ceremony

David Roberts first house built
in Gaiman 1874

The Welch were later joined by Spanish and Italian immigrants and a railroad was built in 1899 to transport goods to Madryn. Railroad development stopped in 1915 after roads were established connecting the areas.

Tunnel for the railway

A Welch statue stands at Puerto Madryn commemorating 100 years of welch descendants….depicts a Welch women Looking inland “she sees a new starting point in her life”

Welsch Woman Commemorating 100 Years

Madryn population today is 120k….this is less then 2 people per kilometer. The economy is based on aluminum, fish, tourism and wool

Aluminum production started because of the natural resources….clay in the soil. If you were to ask me the whole beach looks like clay.

The chute transfers the aluminum from land to sea

An industrial port for aluminum export was built in the center of the city… a large conveyer belt was installed to move the aluminum to the cargo vessels.

Miles of Desert

Behind the 2 city blocks is the desert…. it looks like a Wild West movie set…without the cowboys and Indians …

And unfortunately today …there are no longer to many Indians….but Argentina does have its own cowboy … the “gaucho”….

Gaucho sheep herder

….this guy could stand to lose a little weight.. a gaucho wears a wide brim hat to keep rain away from his face…. travels by horse with a dog and his knife for days at a time … today the gauchos primarily herd cattle and sheep

Sheep are one of the few animals that do well in an arid climate …..They can adapt to extremes and have complex digestive systems allowing them to eat tough desert plants…. so a cheap lawn mower

So cute…their life span is 7 years if they don’t become someone’s dinner

There are over four million sheep in Madryn …….. and each farm sheers between 200 to 250 per day…. that’s a lot of haircuts…and a lot of wool. ….each sheep get sheered twice a year

Sheering a Sheep

…In this case the gaucho sheered the sheep….

The shorter wool from their legs is used for carpet….the best wool comes from their back and is used for finer clothing….most of the wool is exported to Europe, Asia and in particular Italy.


Madryn is known as the scuba diving capital of Argentina and the coastline with its steep cliffs, bays and rocky crevices is a natural safe haven for sea life

Bay that attracts Sea Lions

Valdes, a peninsula extending from Madryn is a UNESCO World Heritage site…a nature preserve for conservation of marine life

Peninsula Valdes

. The peninsula is 2,200 square miles and is a refuge for endangered species of Patagonia.

Protected habitat for penguins and sea lions

The area is focused on the protection of Marine life …an Eco center was built in 2005 to educate and protect Patagonias natural habitats …in particular species indigenous to the area..

Southern Right Whale a species indigenous to the area

….the southern right whale ….the elephant seal, sea lions…..and numerous seabirds …it is also a natural habitat for penguins.

Whale tail welcomes you as you enter the City

100 miles south of the port is a penguin preserve with 800,000 Magellanic penguins ….they migrate to Madryn every year to have their babies… returning to Antartica from April to October.

Magellanic Penguins

Today there are 265,000 sea lions… though it sounds like a lot… it is actually down from 800,000…. the loss due to hunting, tangled in fishing nets and water pollution. (Detergent)

Deep coves with Steep cliffs protect the Elephant Seals

Well summing it up Madryn was a surprise. We came into port early…I did a quick walk through the town and not much was going on… took some pictures of a few statues that had no meaning ….and walked back to the ship with an unfavorable impression…

….having come from Ushuaia… this is going to be a long 2 days … I went on a couple of prebooked tours but had trouble understanding with the language differences … but the tours peaked my interest so I did some research … was surprised at all I found out…

For Argentines, Madryn was the forgotten city… it had all this unwanted desert … was a long way from “Ushuaia… The City at the end of the Earth” and “Bruno’s Aries”…. the cosmopolitan capital city.

That is why the invite to the Welch to colonize the area …. Hard to imagine the Welsch and European immigrants coming here and making something of this daunting desert. … had to be a very tough life.

….today it is a vibrant growing city …the economy is strong …supported by aluminum production, wool, fishing and now tourism. … and surrounded by amazing marine life that they are protecting.

Port Madryn

Just another dimension to the complex puzzle of Patagonia…so much to offer….and little did I know that the statues I saw yesterday told their story.

Patagonia has been a real eye opener… a lot more then just ski jackets.

Next stop Buenos Aries

9 thoughts on “Puerto Madryn, Argentina

  1. Hi Julie, Were you a history teacher/major in a past life?! I’m learning so much from you! What an exciting and fascinating trip. Always look forward to your next chapter! 😘 BB


  2. Hats off to the Welch settlers 2 hrs in a bus to get Tea and Crumpets was a long haul
    Can’t imagine what the IRA journey was like to settle Garmin as their Argentina community


  3. Was Puerto Madryn your last post? I was worried that we haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope all is well. How is the coronavirus affecting you and the cruise?


    1. Hi Peggy … the last post should be from yesterday and is Buenos Aries … I am bummed to say they have Just decided to stop the cruise so getting off in Rio. May spend some
      Time there and then figure out what is next. Hope you are well


  4. Wow! These are crazy times. I don’t see the post from Buenos Aires, but maybe that’s me. I hope you enjoy Rio. I’m so sorry that your trip of a lifetime has been canceled.


  5. I’m sorry it’s been cancelled too but seems like you have had a picture perfect trip up to this point. Breathtaking views for someone who creates beautiful spaces for people to live in! Thanks for sharing!!


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