I’ve been looking forward to visiting the famous Peninsula Valdez for about 2 years. It is most famous for whales. We’ve heard tales that in the right season, they are breaching 15 feet from your free campsite.
Well, it isn’t the right season (June-Dec). But, we came anyway because we heard the orcas may still be here eating baby sea lions right off the beach.
We’d been camping on the south side of Puerto Madryn. That’s where I’d wiped out on a see-saw surfing competition. I had to jump off and landed on the side of my foot, my left ankle swelling to about the size of a baseball. Still, Bode gave me a score of 5 and I came in third place.
I couldn’t walk, but we decided to go to the park anyway. I’d missed the part in all the guidebooks about the steep entrance fee, collected 20 miles before the first and only town in the park. $18 USD per person– which wouldn’t be that bad, except it is a 1 day only pass and we arrived at 4pm.
If you stay in Puerto Pirimides (the only town) you can get a receipt and the entrance fee is good longer. Camping was closed for the season. There is no camping anywhere else in the park. The park is 1400 square miles.
We thought we could still find somewhere to park, but the wind was really blowing and the sand was making it impossible to even stand outside of the car. OK, we’ll get a room for tonight, see the park tomorrow. Oh, but the electricity is out in the town. No one knows when it will come back on, but probably not soon. In the end, we found a small, decent cabana and pulled out all our headlamps and candles. I still couldn’t walk, but the owners lent me an ice pack. Of course, in the bus we’d have light– but the wind was unreal. Sand was blowing all over the roads, signs were coming down and we were glad to be out of the wind.
We’d been told to be at Punto Norte, the farthest point in the park at 11am, so we left early and got there about 10:20am. Good thing, there were some killer whales (or as Bode likes to remind us, “orcas are really just big dolphins”. Whatevs, they are cool.
We were hoping to be a little closer to the sea lion colony so we’d get an up close and personal breakfast, but of course they were really far away. Still we could spot the orcas’ dorsal fins swimming around nearby. Since they were there when we got there, we expected things to get better as we waited.
Nature doesn’t always want to cooperate, and even before high tide at 11:30, we saw the fins of the 2 orcas getting farther and farther away. Bode gave up and went to the car. I waited.
Cute little sea lion pups were swimming in the shallow waters below. They looked just like a big Jimmy Dean sausage and I was yelling “look how tasty!”. No more orca.
This hadn’t exactly been the experience we’d been hoping for, so we took the long way round the park to see some penguins. Yep, there were 6 behind the fence. Another one of those, “this would be cool if I hadn’t already been to Cabo Dos Bahias at sunrise and sunset” moments.
Last stop, elephant seals. This one required a hike, so I let the boys go while I made lunch. I They came back after a long time a bit disappointed. 220 km through the park. Beautiful, but filled with signs saying we couldn’t get out of our car, no picnicking, no stopping. Finally back to Puerto Pirimides to find there was still no electricity. We filled up with our spare tanks (no electricity at the gas pumps either) and headed out of the park. It was cold again, so I tried to roll up the window. Why does the handle always break with the window is down?
We drove another 300km against the wind that afternoon… Someday, we will return in the right season.