Puerto Madryn Ride, 31 Mar 2010

Puerto Madryn from the pier

The ride at Puerto Madryn started out hopeful, turned disappointing, and then ended as an enjoyable education about this area of Argentina. We could see the large area dedicated north of the port to an aluminum smelting industry. To the south, we could see an extended wide beach stretching for several miles and lying in front of a few ten story hotels. We learned that Puerto Madryn has a fishing industry but more recently has become a beach town for Argentineans, although it lies more than 500 miles from the main population center of Buenos Aires. Behind the ten or so block built up urban area behind the beaches, we could see what turned out to be a very dry, almost desert landscape stretching to the horizon. At breakfast aboard the ship during the docking, we noted what appeared to be a smoky trail over what we expected to be our route. You may also remember that we expected to ride toward the natural wildlife attractions to the north of the port but near or beyond our expected range. We hoped to find elephant seal beaches and/or be able to see whales from a distance from the summit of the pass through the hills on the way to the subject bay.

Signs to the rest of the world from Puerto Madryn

We started out about 930am from the ship and passed through a very small cruise port commercial district onto the road on the coast heading north. We quickly passed out of the commercial part of the town and rode up a bluff along the coast through a new development of about 200 single family homes. They were very attractive and stood over beautiful views of the large bay surrounding Puerto Madryn. On the way back through this area, I noted several families returning to these homes around noon. This seems to be housing for middle class people, probably some of the people to develop the aluminum industry and those expected to develop the tourist industry. A small park at the edge of the commercial district was dedicated to those killed aboard the Argentine naval cruiser after being torpedoed by a British submarine during the 1982 dustup between the British and the Argentineans over the Falkland Islands (or Maldives for the Argentineans). The losses from this single ship numbered many hundred, which is a tremendous one day loss for a country the size of Argentina. Apparently, a large NUMBER OF THOSE KILLED CAME FROM THE Puerto Madryn area.

After negotiating a dirt road through the newest part of the development, we rode onto a straight road heading 4-5 miles toward the crest of a shallow 4-500 foot high hill in the distance. This was route 2, our sought after route toward the natural area. Riding along the paved, but cracked, 4- lane road, we passed through 4-5 large developments of the aluminum industry. By this time, we could see no remnants of the smoke, but we could also see almost no activity in this large industrial area. The area included several large industrial buildings and ore storage areas and included a mile-long covered conveyor leading to a several thousand feet long pier. No ships were moored along or at the end of the pier except for what appeared to be five or six 100-foot fishing boats.

At a few points along the road, we could see the coast and spied what appeared to be a sunken ship along the coast. Then we saw a few more. Then I remembered the NCL captain’s briefing earlier on the public address system, during which he said the tides in this bay were unusually large, 15 feet high or more. Putting two and two together, I realized these “sunken” ships had not sunk at all, but had been deliberately stranded by the tide. Later in the afternoon, I noted from our NCL ship that these ships were now floating.

Route 2 up to the crest of the hill was not too steep to climb, but we rode slowly. Near the crest, we recognized a turnoff for the route 402 heading closer to the coast to our destination. Unfortunately, the road wasn’t paved. It was reasonably wide and almost devoid of vehicles, but it was also soft in places. We passed a few miles along the north side of the already-constructed aluminum industry area and past additional areas with other buildings also under construction. This area was also extremely dry, reminding me of the desert outside El Paso in Texas with sparse dry brush over dusty, sandy soil. We passed behind what appeared to be a school closer to the coast but remarked at the remarkable view of the bay and our ship in the distance.

This road continued to climb as we road 4-5 miles further. Marilyn became concerned about the soft roadbed and began to walk some of the way. I rode ahead to the crest, looking for the bay in the distance, only to find another crest a mile or two ahead. After Marilyn caught up, I again rode ahead to the next crest and finally spied the sought after bay. At this point, we were two hours into the ride and planned to be back at the ship within 4 more hours. I waited for Marilyn and we, together, decided that discretion was the better part of valor. We turned back, planning to have lunch somewhere in town and to try the beach hugging ride south of the docked NCL Sun.

The Belgrano Memorial

The ride back went a little more quickly because it was mostly downhill. Passing through the housing development, I noted how beautiful the beach below really was. We could see the tide coming in and many kinds of birds searching for food at the flat rocky 200 yard deep shoreline. There were ducks and terns and gulls. We also noted something we had missed on the ride out—a rusting hulk along the road. The associated sign indicated this “barco” had sunk in 1935 with some loss of life and had become a national monument. Also at this time of day, teenagers walked and skateboarded along with us, apparently heading for the beach or for some of the attractions used by the tourists.

The tide comes in below the bluffs

Upon passing the NCL Sun we rode onto a cement walkway fronting the beach for several miles. The beach on the left was one of the nicest I’ve seen—hundreds of yards deep and hardly occupied at all. The sand was darker gray than I was used to and the water was shallow quite a bit into the bay, but the length of the beach was impressive. I can see how this could turn out to be a world class attraction. It isn’t one yet, though. The street fronting the beach contains relatively new shops and café/restaurants. It soon turned into buildings I assumed to be beach rentals, 2-3 stories high, most built in the last 5-10 years. We rode along the 5 yard wide walkway to its end, two miles or so from the “Sun”. Along the way we met one of our dinner partners from earlier in the cruise and struck up a 10- minute discussion about the walkway, the town, and the cruise in general.

A chance meeting on the walkway with our dinner companion, Priscilla from Brooklyn

We agreed that this was a very pleasant town and the cruise had been wonderful so far. Soon after this encounter, we reached the end of the walkway and turned around to find a place for lunch. Halfway back to the ship, we found “Mediterraneo”, a clean, bright, modern restaurant on the beach.

The tide comes in below the bluffs

Lunch at Mediterraneo

We ordered the broiled Tilapia dinner and the Caprese salad along with a bottle of Chardonnay and then realized this café had wifi. Many cafes in all of Argentina are so equipped. This finding was very timely. We avoided the 40-50 cents per minute charges for internet use on the ship and spent the next two hours catching up on our email and our finances. We also used Skype to call our children and parents and a few friends. Most useful and convenient. We don’t usually drink a whole bottle of wine in the middle of a bike ride, but we made an exception here. The interlude was very pleasant. The restaurant staff was very accommodating. The view of the bay was soothing. And we made it back to the ship without incident.

Again, upon reaching the ship, we were contacted by 5-6 groups of people asking about the bikes and remarking about how good an idea it was to bring bicycles aboard the ship. Many on the ship were not what I would call “in bike riding condition”, but many also remarked that they rode bikes at home and would ride on a cruise if they could make it happen. Maybe bicyclecruising will help them.


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