When Mélissa enthusiastically proposed the idea of snorkeling with the sea lions, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t into forced wild animal encounters. I’ve never held a koala or pet a tiger. Posing with animals isn’t fooling anybody into thinking you’re Tarzan: we know you’re just another tourist with money.
I read up on the snorkeling activity–the boat takes you to where the sea lions are, deposits you in the water and if they feel like it, the sea lions will greet you. If they accept you as one of their own, you don’t get back on the boat. I was okay with this idea.
The morning of our scheduled session, the dive shop, Lobo Larsen, cancelled. It was too windy, they said. For who? The sea lions? But complaining wouldn’t have changed the wind direction. We had to find a different purpose in Puerto Madryn.
Rather than tread in water among musky sea mammals, we did the budget-friendly activity that is people-watching from the beach. There, we were approached by peddlers pushing around flip flop carts. Because the beach is exactly where you go shopping for new flip flops? Several of these hucksters specialized in hats, which they’d model simultaneously with a tall stack atop their head. “To wear many hats” means to have many jobs or roles, yet those who literally wear many hats have just that role.
I didn’t take my beach bum role that day sincerely. I kept my t-shirt on and wore a tank top around my neck like an ascot to protect my already badly sunburnt neck. My tiny cap warded off the hat dealers, and I guess I didn’t look flip-floppable to the mobile beach footwear specialists.
Perhaps I function better as a tourist off the beach? Nope.
I can barely show my face in souvenir shops. I loathe them. The Mélissa factor meant I often found myself surrounded by snow globes and assorted locale-branded trinkets. Mélissa visited these shops primarily for her mother who likes to showcase her globetrotter daughter’s destinations in the form of magnets on her fridge. Apparently, her fridge magnet collected impressed her friends so much that they started asking Mélissa to bring them back stuff too, such as coffee mugs and souvenir spoons. They had turned Mélissa into their souvenir mule!
It’s one thing to remind yourself of a former vacation destination when drinking your morning coffee out of a souvenir mug before work, but to remind yourself of your friend’s daughter’s travels? How are souvenir spoons still being sold? Are they targeted at kitschy crack addicts?
Mélissa is a kind person who buys stuff for other people whether she likes it or not whereas I make fun of her mom’s friends. Being souvenir-averse has made me a worse–not a better–person. I am okay with this.
It was between 25-38 degrees Celsius the entire time we were on the Valdes Peninsula and not once did I find myself in the mood for some ice cream. What kind of tourist am I?
I am the type to visit museums. I like learning stuff, and I love dioramas, even shitty ones.
Puerto Madryn Ecological Centre’s clifftop location made it perfect for witnessing a natural phenomenon known as the thunderstorm, which arrived minutes after our arrival at the museum.
It moved quickly. OH MOTHER…
It ended with a flourish.
This museum has an average rating of 4.3 from 1,148 reviewers on Google, yet an average rating of just 1.2 from 112 people on Facebook. I think I’m more in agreement with the Google crowd. The poor reviews on Google appear to be mainly people who think an admission rate of $300 pesos ($10 CAD/$8 USD) is outrageous. The Museum of Vancouver is $20.50 CAD. Vancouver’s Science World is $25 CAD. I guess it’s all relative.
Unlike at either the Museum of Vancouver or Science World (or at the elephant seal colony in Punta Delgada), I was given free admission here. There was a dedicated room for listening to whale songs while being bathed in blue light. Not much of a sensory thrill for someone deaf like me. The other exhibitions were good, and unlike Trelew’s Egidio Feruglio Paleontological Museum, it was fully translated in English alongside the Spanish.
On our walk back to the Airbnb, we watched electricity ricochet from one cloud to another.
We got our boat ride to the Punta Loma sea lion colony the next morning. The loaner wetsuits were a 7mm thick jacket and john combo, giving us 14mm of insulation in the torso and groin area. With the addition of a neoprene hood, snorkeling mask, and fins, we were ready to bob around in the frigid ocean with wild animals.
At that point, I was more neoprene than I was human.
I didn’t think they smelled as strongly from close-up. The snorkel mask had a snout socket, but I had to take it off to defog the glass.
It took about 15 minutes before a few sea lions started swimming beneath us. The water was cloudy and made it hard to see anything beyond a metre. 10 minutes before we had to climb back onto the boat, Mélissa and I were personally asked by a sea lion to give belly rubs.
If you’re the type to need photographic evidence of your animal encounter, this isn’t the best choice. Everybody looks pretty much the same when in full neoprene. When looking through the photos taken by the dive shop, I was not able to immediately identify myself.
On the boat ride back to Puerto Madryn, a pod of dusky dolphins briefly surfaced to say hello. All in all, this outing was worth every centavo. It was a nice way of wrapping up our time on the coast.
The following morning, we caught a flight from Trelew to El Calafate. My favourite thing about small airports is their security screening process. You’d think they’d be more thorough as they have fewer distractions and people to manage. To my surprise, the guy overseeing the x-ray machine missed my keychain-type Swiss Army multitool which has a blade measuring 3.8cm: long enough to puncture a baby’s spleen. Even more impressively is how he ALSO missed Mélissa’s Swiss Army multitool with the 6.3cm blade: long enough for a proper disemboweling.
We both had neglected to move our multitools back into our main luggage. Only when Mélissa remarked having maybe forgotten to remove hers did I remember forgetting to remove mine.
Nobody got stabbed on our 1 hour 45-minute flight to El Calafate. At a latitude of 50.3380° S, we were the farthest south we had ever gone.
Good luck finding that souvenir spoon, Mélissa.