In Patagonia

Tuesday, 13th September 2005

Valdez peninsula Gravel road Atlantic coast

guanacoSouthern right whales cavort in the Bay of Valdez, sleek killer whales zuzz in menacingly towards the shore, a lazy elephant seal bull the size of a transit van basks on the beach with his flipper around the smaller female, a guanaco runs through the scrub then leaps across a cattle fence.

This is the Patagonia I'm used to seeing on wildlife documentaries, accompanied by a thrilling orchestral score and the hushed, urbane tones of Sir David Attenborough, but here's Philip Harrison, our secretary at Wakefield Naturalists' Society showing his slides and telling us in an informative, down to earth way about his trip there last year.

seal and orcas


Suddenly Patagonia doesn't seem so remote and unattainable; it's somewhere that ordinary people like you and I could go, find a small hotel to stay in, get a meal in one of the local restaurants; no big deal, you don't need tents, a fleet of Land Rovers, a local guide, a team of divers and the latest high tech wildlife filming gear. You only need to take the trouble to get out there to enjoy this wild coast. And, of course, I'd take my sketchbook.

Philip tells us the way to drive your hire car along the rough roads across the pampas without sinking into the loose gravel, where to go to see the whales without taking a boat ride from the beach and where to go birding in downtown Beunos Aires (they've created a huge new wetland nature reserve where the docks used to be).

I drew in the dark as Philip showed the slides. I've forgotten most of the names of the birds but I did make a note of one:

'This bird lives in the rushes and it looks like a wren,' explained Philip, 'so they call it the wren-like rushbird.' Next Page


Richard Bell,