In Puerto Madryn‚Äôs spring sun glistening off Golfo Nuevo, whales dive beneath the calm waters. Occasionally, one blows a spout into the cerulean sky. Tourists crowd the streets, looking for souvenirs for loved ones who couldn‚Äôt come to this village in Argentina‚Äôs Patagonia. They jot quick Wish you were here lines on postcards showing those stately Southern right whales, sea lions, elephant seals and Magellanic penguins. On the main square a few blocks inland, artisans lay their creations on scarves laid upon the ground. The plaza‚Äôs mobile statues that tinkle in the breeze. Across the street is Iglesia Sagrado Coraz√≥n de Jes√ļs, with interesting murals in its nave and apse.
From the city‚Äôs north side, Avenida Roca follows the coast, passing by the port where cruise ships dock in summer. This avenue is lined with tour agencies, car rentals, first-class hotels and other businesses. Further south, Boulevard Almirante Brown takes over the duty of seaside drive. Along the next several kilometers are Playa Paran√° and other balnearios (bathing beaches). In the bay, kite- and windsurfers ride the zephyrs. This avenue climbs to Punta Cuevas and a lookout point marked by Argentine sculptor Luis Perlotti‚Äôs Monumento al Indio Tehuelche, a giant A√≥nikenk man searching the horizon for whales. Boulevard Brown ends at Ecocentro Puerto Madryn, a marine ecosystem museum. From there, a gravel road heads to Punta Loma, an important sea lion colony. At the southernmost point of Golfo Nuevo is another nature reserve, Punta Ninfas, which has a small elephant seal population (88 km / 55 mi).
Puerto Madryn is most famous for the Southern right whales that come every year. Beginning in June, the vigil is raised for those marine mammals‚Äô return. Thousands of tourists flock to Puerto Pir√°mides on Pen√≠nsula Vald√©s to take boat tours. But the whales also can be seen from the mainland‚Äôs beaches and seaside restaurants and Puerto Madryn‚Äôs pier at high tide. At Playa El Doradillo, breastfeeding females and their young wallow just offshore.
Puerto Madryn‚Äôs region is also a great place to practice wind- and kitesurfing, fishing and other aquatic sports. Its unique climatic conditions, as well as variety of flora and fauna found in Golfo Nuevo, makes it one of Argentina‚Äôs best spots for scuba diving, earning it the moniker Capital Nacional del Buceo. In December is the Fiesta Nacional de Buceo, with an underwater competition.
Puerto Madryn was the original Welsh Patagonian colony. The Mimosa anchored here with over 160 settlers on July 28, 1865. Out of the soft rock at Punta Cuevas, they carved caves in which to live. When they moved south to the fresh-water-rich Chubut River Valley, the caves served to store support supplies arriving by ship. The Gaels‚Äô first contact with the native peoples came in April 18, 1866, when the Welsh were celebrating a wedding. When Roca undertook the Campa√Īa del Desierto to cleanse the Patagonia of all indigenous (1879-1884), the Welsh were caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, as they enjoyed good relations with the A√≥nikenk. A groups of Gaelic women went to Chubut Territory Governor Winter to intercede on behalf of their neighbors, but without success. Despite the heavy overlay of other immigrant groups and tourism, Puerto Madryn still retains some of its Gaelic tradition like the Eisteddfod. Its Welsh sister city is Nefyn, Gwynedd.
For several centuries, the area had been frequented by seal and whale hunters. Out at Punta Cuevas, a mid-19th century shipwreck can be seen at low tide. Later, immigrants came from Spain, Italy, France, Syria and Lebanon. The indigenous community is represented by the Asociaci√≥n Mapuche Tehuelche.
(Altitude: 17 m / 56 ft, Population: 57,614, Phone Code: 02965)
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