|Got going by 9 - since buses to Trelew go every half hour it's very easy. Today it's overcast and windy (as usual)...amazing to me that the day we arrived in P.M. it was pouring rain, then the day of our tour it was clear and relatively calm, and now as we leave it's cloudy and not at all conducive for a tour. A one day window, fantastic day of whale, orca, sea lion, elephant seals,etc.! We are very fortunate...knock on wood Tim!
At bus station we sit and organize our next travel plans, coming up with 2 nites here then getting tickets onward to Comodoro Rivadavia where we will have to find onward bus towards El Calafate eventually on 17th. Went to a tour agency, Nievemar Tours, where the gal gave us a pretty good deal (still expensive for our budget) to visit Punto Tumbo, where the largest flock of Magellanic penquins have their young, over 2000 they say this year. Jake opts out this time, budget concerns and not enuf interest seeing these guys. I cannot pass it up since I doubt Antarctica is possible for us. Really looking forward to tomorrow...Happy Feet here I come, ha!
Magellanic Penquin Wiki Info Site
Tour of Punta Tombo was fantastic, everything I hoped for but I still wasn't able to pet or touch a penquin, boo hoo.... See pics. Our guide, Roger, a 3rd gen. Welsh fellow has been guiding for 38 yrs...super informative. He was one of the first to take people to P.T., great stories, he is the oldest and longest serving guide still guiding at 54!!
Chubut River is main source of water for this valley stretching 1000km from the Andies. It is thus named meaning ´river of many turns´ in Mapuche language. Tour had only one Spanish guy and 2 Israelis plus us 3 - Jake stayed behind. Area was settled by Welch immigrants who were given permission to live, have land, etc. if they negotiated a peace treaty with indigenous people, the Tehuelches. These were very tall people, thus giving the area they occupied the name Patagonia, ´giant feet´ in Spanish. They were hunters and gatherers, and quite friendly with the Welch who were able to get a peace treaty from them w/in a year. To get title to their land from the Spanish govt, however, took 12 years and 64 visits to Buenos Aires before they finally got titles. Meanwhile, the govt did provide them with seeds and tools and even offered them $$ (which apparently they turned down). This all began in 1865 with 153 immigrants, mostly miners leaving Wales due to persecution by the Brittish. Here are many Jones, Williams, Rogers, etc. The irrigation, towns, and surrounding area is much influenced by these original Welch people. In fact, the name penguin is of Welch origin meaning 'white head'.
These Magellanic penguins weight about 12 lbs. at maturity, they reach adulthood at 4 years and live about 25 years. There are 14 species of cold water penguins and 4 warm water species, all live in the S. hemisphere. This rookery began just over 100 years ago on the Peninsula Valdes and now Punta Bombo is the largest continental reserve of penguins in the world with over 800,000 individuals at its peak in January, as many as 225,000 pairs.
The males and females live separate lives for 6 months and together 6 months. The males arr in August and go to the parents nest to say hello then go to find a space nearby where they choose/fight for space. Two weeks later the females arrive and either go to their previously chosen male partner (they breed together for life), or they find a suitable male who turns around in his space counterclockwise 2 times, scratches his chest and makes a donkey/goose sound with his wings out.
If the female likes him she taps his beek back and forth, the male dances around, stamping up and down whereby the female picks up a stone and leads him away...95% of the time to another location...w/ the male at her side, she drops it where she wants the nest. Again, he must fight for the area and if successful, digs a burrow which takes 3 days. After checking it out twice the female lies flat and the male squirts his sperm on her (no entry intercourse here). Usually, after 40 days, the female lays 2 eggs, one bigger than the other. At some point during this time, the male gets a twig or something and places this behind the female who either accepts it or throws it into his face until he gets it right...another twig or feather or piece of green branch or??. Finally, when the male gets it right after maybe 3 weeks, the male plucks out feathers and sits on the eggs. Prior to this time he has been fishing and gradually adding 2 1/2 pounds of fish in his belly which he lives on, regurgitating it to feed on while the female leaves and feeds. She returns for last week on nest, regurgitating squid for the new chicks when they hatch, usually w/in 24 hrs of each other. The two rotate every 4-6 days feeding and sitting on nest regurgitating food for chicks for 3 months. The last few weeks they each have to go fishing once a day to keep the chicks fed and happy. By this time the chicks have their second layer of feathers which allows them to withstand the wet and cold better. When they are first born and for 2 months they only have short, single layer of feathers and cannot get wet or they die. 80% of the newborns do not reach one year of age!
Finally, at 3+ months at the end of February, the parents no longer return to the nest, and the chicks find their own way to the water, sometimes as much as 1 km away. They join the juveniles on the beach where they continue to fish, swim, and generally learn their way from the other juveniles. By the end of March the male molts and a monthe later the female does the same. All the males leave after molting and the females are all gone by April 15th as well as juveniles. Six months later the pair meet again at the same nest site and it all starts again.
Punta Tombo Wiki Info
Punta & Estancia Perla Info
Leaving the colony, we go to Gaiman (Mapuche for stone to sharpen), where Roger shares his grandfathers town history with us. It is the first town in the region and carries alot of history with it. We then head into the countryside where we go to a cherry orchard and are lucky enuf to get in on the 3 weeks of fresh cherry harvest. Yum!
Gaiman Wiki Info Site
Still having difficulty getting my pics transferred and videos stored to allow more pics. Don´t know what to do. For now I am using the website for storage, that´s why there are so many pics...normally I would screen out half of these but don´t like to lose the videos and pics.