Wednesday 16 November, 2016: Los Altares – Trelew
We left Los Altares after a basic breakfast in the ACA cafe and drove east towards the Atlantic. Today was not supposed to be a wildlife day, but after a couple of hours driving we came across a herd of guanaco in the distance and then two splendid animals quite close to the road. A lovely sight, and a first for Caroline.
We stopped for a second breakfast in Las Plumas, where we were yet again served undrinkable coffee and made a note to carry coffee and filters with us in future. Perhaps expresso machines are expensive for smaller establishments like this.
On our way to Trelew we made a short diversion to see the huge Dique Ameghino dam. We drove over the top of it, not without a sense of vertigo, and looked cautiously down into the valley below.
The water in the reservoir and also in the stream below was a beautiful clear greeny-blue, although to save time (we seem to be always on a tight schedule!) we didn’t drive down to the small settlement at ground level but turned round and back to the main road east.
Soon we were in the Welsh town of Dolavon, where we had a huge lunch at the El Rayo restaurant, perhaps (?) the only restaurant in town and at least the only one we could find. Welcome beer and good wholesome food put us in a good mood.
We drove around Dolavon, which was an attractive if sleepy town, with (apparently) a Welsh butcher …
… and more than one pretty bird (though Martin is rationed in his bird shots on this trip). This little beauty is a red-crested cardinal (Paroaria coronata), his gorgeous headgear a perfect match for the painted kerbs of Dolavon.
Irrigation streams ran through the town in Dolavon, some with quite ingenious mechanisms for raising water (see here for video clip).
The Welsh belt, especially in farmland alongside the river Chubut around Dolavon, Gaiman and Trelew, is known for its Welsh chapels. Above is one we saw on leaving Dolavon for Gaiman.
In Gaiman we asked a student the way to the railway museum; she is wearing a teeshirt that comes from a school where Welsh is taught. In Gaiman the teaching of Welsh is on the increase, but funding is precarious and the future seems uncertain.
The young lady directed us to what had in another life been a railway station, but now was the local museum and housed many photographs, documents and artefacts of settlers who had come to the region. Here we met Fabio González, who has curated the collection for the last six years; his aunt Tegai Roberts had done this previously and was there when Martin visited in the 1980s. Fabio was a wealth of information and a pleasure to chat with.
Obviously there was a Welsh dresser in the collection, along with harps, harmoniums, cooking utensils and a wealth of other items, together with scores of fascinating photos and documents.
On one wall in the museum was a map of Wales; the extract below shows the area Caroline and Martin know so well – Martin through childhood and university days and Caroline also through some thirty years living there as an adult.
Gaiman is perhaps the most Welsh of the towns in the Welsh belt, and there is a real Welsh feel; many of the people simply look Welsh and would not be out of place in the streets of Machynlleth. Yes, we were definitely in Welsh Patagonia now, and enjoying every minute of it.