Stop #3: Puerto Madryn/Punta Loma, Chubut (4h south of Las Grutas)
As previously mentioned, we began to hypothesize that the further south one travels, the landscape becomes more beautiful and the people more bizarre. This theory was infallibly proved in Madryn, where our campsite was a forty minute walk from any semblance of civilization (lugging groceries uphill through sand dunes is a character-building experience!) and by the time we got to town, everything was closed for a five-hour siesta in the middle of the day. In addition, the ocean smelt weird here!
However, Madryn will forever hold a irreplaceable place in my heart since it was in Madryn that we were picked up in a beat-up 4WD, with our backpacks wedged into some kayaks on its trailer, and drove to Punta Loma with José (a Madryn native) and five other Argentines. There, we paddled our kayaks into the vast blue ocean, only pausing when, after about an hour, we heard the incredible noise of a colony of lobos de marino – sea lions!
Stop #4: Puerto Pirámides, Chubut (1.5hrs east of Madryn)
Just when we thought nature could astound us no more, we found ourselves in this hamlet of maybe 30 buildings, setting up our tent in the middle of a sand dune. We set out on a 5km hike with nothing but a single sign and the hesitant words of the campground guy to guide us. We spent at least half the hike wondering if we were going in the right direction (turns out we were!), but not even caring. From the top of a completely deserted plateau, with the ocean surrounding us on three sides, and the wind making it difficult to walk straight, we felt the sheer power of nature as I’ve never felt it before. And that was before arriving at our destination, where about a half dozen right whales frolicked in the ocean, so close we could actually make out the detail on their faces. It was a truly magnificent experience!