Before we came away, I was given a brilliant book of Traveller’s Tales including one by Don George called “The Culinary Chaos Principle”.
In it he describes his fond love of turning up at a restaurant abroad and ordering crazy-sounding dishes like Frooty Coostard Frayed Kek and Mixt Intestine Bean Luck – a feat with which we can certainly empathize (May I interest you in a South American ‘Toast with Briefcase’? Or perhaps an ‘Airport’?)
But this trip hasn’t just exposed us to kooky cuisine, sometimes it’s grabbed us by the ears and dragged us right through the Travelling Twilight Zone.
We’ve heard locals speaking Hebrew in Morro de São Paolo and German in Filadelfia. Now, in the tiny Argentinian village of Gaiman we are surrounded by – what else? – Welsh.
During the 19th century a number of Welsh settlers made the arduous boat journey across the Atlantic to set up a ‘home from home’ on the soil of the southern hemisphere.
They took pains to preserve their own language and traditions, which have lasted through the decades and have won their descendants awards for cultural conservation.
As a result you can now cosy up and enjoy a mouthwatering traditional Welsh tea with all the trimmings, perhaps after visiting the tiny local museum that showcases original photographs, antiques and memorabilia brought over by the first immigrants.
Gaiman is a hop, skip and a jump away from the tourist gateway of Puerto Madryn, where Phil and I enjoyed a brilliant New Year’s that comprised a bunch of travellers from all over the world, tasty Patagonian lamb and seafood and lots (and lots) of champagne.
From there we journeyed to the wildlife reserve of Peninsula Valdés and gazed upon huge, lazy elephant seals relaxing on the pebbled shores alongside newly born sea lions, whose protective mothers would defend them against hungry seabirds that eyed them up from a few feet away.
But the most awe-inspiring experience came from hiring a car and driving three hours down the coast to Punta Tombo, to see the biggest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of Antarctica.
I’d always imagined penguins to only live in snow and ice, but here they were in landscapes that could have been plucked out of English coastal moorlands.
We were visiting in breeding season and found ourselves literally surrounded by the feathery little fellas as they chose a mate, guarded their eggs, fed their fluffy chicks or waddled past us down to the sea, from where they’d swim out up to six kilometres away to find food.
At one point some particularly curious ones even had a peck at Phil’s shorts and at my hat. Either that’s how penguins investigate weird things, or they couldn’t be bothered with the schlep to the sea and were trying out their own form of Culinary Chaos…