A ride through Chubut province
Location of Chubut Province
Taking the interesting tour with Ryan’s Travel from Puerto Madryn to Punta Tombo, our lovely guide explained us a lot about the history of the place. We crossed a big part of Chubut province so I could find out about the life there and take a lot of photos to show you.
I learned that Argentina is divided into 23 provinces and one autonomous city of Buenos Aires. One of the provinces is Chubut which is the place around the Chubut river, basically the Valley of Chubut River. If you take a ride through the province, you will find a lot of differences between the towns itself, fauna and flora.
Chubut province, part of Argentine Patagonia, was named after Chubut river which is the only river that flows through the province. The nameChubut comes from Tehuelche chupat which means transparent (given to the river for its cleaniness). The river starts from Esquel area due to the rain and ice-melting and than it continues for 810 km around Chubut province to the South. Most of the towns were found around the river to have fresh water supplies.
The area is very famous for its windy weather, especially along the coast which can make it difficult sometimes for the visitors. The wind takes up a lot of volcanic ash around the province so it’s huge amount can be the reason to cancel the flights to and from Chubut province.
Chubut province is mostly visited from August to February. Then March and April are less windy with perfect temperatures but calmer, with less tourists.
History of Chubut Province
There were two main different groups of settlers in Chubut Province. First one of them were Tehuelches (indigenous groups) who came from the Andes to the coast. Those who left their original territory were nomads approx. 180 cm tall, very strong but lived until only around 40 years. They were good fishermen and they used guanacos from the area to get meat, leather, needles from the bones and to make shoes. Guanacos were not domestic animals for Tehuelches unlike in the North with llamas, vicuñas and alpacas.
Tehuelches used obsidiana stones they brought from the mountains and a lot of them, together with the mussels were found around Chubut Province in the caves/hollows were they lived.
The second main group of people who settled Chubut Province were for our biggest surprise the Welsh. First to explore the region were the British, Charles Darwin, Fitz Roy and Parker King from 1826 to 1836. And then 2 Welsh expeditions were sent to Patagonia with the support of minister Rawson. It was in 1863 when they came here on Mimosa ship to conserve the culture and habits of the Welsh people as they were not very wanted back in the UK. So Love Parry with Lewis Jones came on Mimosa ship to the area of Puerto Madryn (now called Punta Cuevas) but because of the lack of water supplies had to move South closer to Chubut River where founded Rawson town as a homage to the minister.
The Welsh founded 5 main towns in Chubut province, Comodoro Rivadavia (now 300,000 inhabitants), Trelew (now 100,000 inhabitants), Puerto Madryn (now 80,000 inhabitants), Rawson (now 30,000 inhabitants) and Esquel (now 28,000 inhabitants).
The Welsh lived in peace with Tehuelches, they brought horses here so taught Tehuelches how to ride horses and make flour to bake bread. And Tehuelches taught them to kill guanacos for meat.
Towns of Chubut Province
Situated at sea level as it is a port, but surrounded by mesetas (plateau) going up to 80 metres. The plateau is of 2 different colours – white and brownish due to the historical reasons. The white parts of the meseta were made around 25 million years ago and a lot of fossils can be found here still nowadays after the rain which uncovers them. The brownish layers of the meseta around Puerto Madryn were created just 11 million years ago.
Puerto Madryn town was born because of natural reasons. Due to big waves at the open sea more South where the Welsh settled, they were loosing a lot of precious things with each ship. So the ships started to disembark in the bay of Golfo Nuevo where Puerto Madryn port was found slowly.
Puerto Madryn grew because of its industry of aluminium in 1970, then ornamental porfido rock, clay which are all exported abroad, mostly to Italy. Puerto Madryn is the best port on the Patagonia coast.
Puerto with its approx. 80,000 inhabitants is now the third biggest town in the province of Chubut and the one within the largest distance from the Chubut River. So the water is brought to Puerto Madryn by an aqueduct built in 1926 as there are no fresh underground water supplies, only salted water.
Nowadays, it’s both the industry and the tourism that Puerto Madryn town lives from.
Close to Trelew, Gaiman is now inhabited by around 8,000 people. It used to be a traditional town which is still felt nowadays. The first house of stones was built in here by David D. Roberts (you can see a sign saying this outside the house now).
Gaiman has its charm mostly because of its houses. The house owners here didn’t have to pay the taxes if they conserved the houses originally from the outside.
In this quiet picturesque little town with weekend picnics and river camping, algae are processed and gelatine is made from them (used in ice cream or some sweats and cakes).
Gaiman is now known especially for its 5 tea houses – casas de té. The first one was opened in 1944 because at that time, all the neighbours used to live far away from each other and they were visiting only on Sundays when going to the church. So tea afternoon with biscuits were some kind of meetings for the families and thus the idea of the tea houses originated. Obviously, it came from the UK.
I visited Ty Gwyn where you can ask for complete service – servicio completo which includes traditional blackWelsh tea with milk, different kinds of bread and cakes. It costs 70 Argentine pesos (around 13 euro) for a huge portion of all this. Definitely worth it if you are a cake, bread or tea lover! I would never expect this kind of treat in Argentina.
It’s not just the traditional stone houses and tea houses showing us the big incluence of the Welsh in the area. Many streets have Welsh names in Gaiman and also names of the places are in Welsh. Gaiman is where the Welsh culture is most visible.
Around Gaiman, the area is mainly used for agriculture. You can find here a lot of different fruit and vegetables cultivated. The water is brought here by canals and little ponds from Chubut river. The ponds – charcas are home of many different birds species.
Now the administrative capital of Chubut province. Boat trips to sea dolphins take off Rawson port.
From tre which means ”village” in Welsh and lew as the abbreviation of ”Lewis” as a homage to Lewis Jones.
The town of Trelew got its importance when in 1886 a lot of Spaniards, Italiand, Welsh, English and German workers came to build up railways in the area of Trelew. The first railway was opened here in 1889.
Unfortunately, the railways were all closed in 1962 (one of the reasons were not enough money to finish) so the biggest part of Argentina have no train transport. However, the original railway stations still exist in some towns of Chubut province and can be visited. They look like from old movies, very cool!
Around Trelew, there are a lot of empty bags stuck on the bushes due to the strong winds that take all the bags in the air. Groups of people are organized to clean up the affected areas from time to time. I just wish it was more often as this nature here is beautiful!
Trelew, now the comercial centre, is not that visited by tourists like Puerto Madryn, for example. So not many great touristy restaurants and hotels can be found in the town. But there is a Paleontological Museum which Trelew is famous for.
My trip around Chubut was done by the travel agency Ryan’s Travel. Once again many thanks for such an unforgettable trip! To find more information, please visit Ryan’s Travel website.