For all you hardened travellers out there, I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
Sometimes that bible of yours – your most treasured possession; the guidebook – can be wrong. So very wrong.
Strangely enough, in the event that led me to this discovery, my friend and I were relying on both a Lonely Planet and a Rough Guide. Their crime? Both advised us that we should spend at least an afternoon in the pleasant Welsh town of Gaiman with its ‘decidedly lovely cottage gardens’.
I’m half Welsh and I knew my dad would be stoked to hear I’d spent my first Chrstmas day away from home revisiting my roots. The plan was to pop into a Welsh tea house for fruitcake and freshly brewed tea. With no turkey and mice pies to be found, it sounded like a good compromise.
Of course, it was Christmas day, so we weren’t sure if anywhere would be open, but a lot of places in Puerto Madryn, where we were based, were serving, and the guy on the hostel reception recommended we chance it. After all, Gaiman was such a quaint and flowery town, it would be lovely to spend the afternoon there, even without Welsh tea.
I should point out that we’d just been on a 29-hour journey involving two buses and a long wait in a station, all the way from Puerto Natales in Chile. They’d made no effort to even acknowledge Christmas on the bus, let alone open the skylight for Santa, and Christmas day was already half over when we finally rocked up at our hostel.
After showering, skyping the family and nipping out for a quick meal that turned out to be a long wait to get served a hunk of dry chicken (the chips never materialised), we only got to the bus terminal at 6pm. It was a 3-hour round trip to Gaiman, involving a bus change in nearby Trelew.
At 7:30pm, we rocked up in Gaiman. There was no bus terminal, only a shelter. We almost missed the stop completely – returning to Puerto Madryn without even disembarking. In hindsight, I wish that’s what had happened!
The first thing that became very apparent was that there was not a single place open serving Welsh teas, or food and drinks of any kind for that matter. We took a stroll down to the river. It was nothing special. For a while, we rested on a park bench, which, bizarrely, faced away from the river and towards a parked articulated lorry. My friend Bex and I turned to each other and toasted Christmas day with a chink of orange juice bottles.
But we hadn’t come all this way to sit on a park bench. It was time to explore. We wandered down some ugly streets. Sure, we saw one or two rose bushes, but when surrounded by junk and disintegrating buildings, the beauty is somewhat lost.
In the spirit of Christmas, we tried to see the funny side. I took heaps of photos as though I was having the time of my life. There’s the jumping shot in front of a warehouse…
The one of me kissing a graffiti monster…
Bex’s attempt to shelter under an inflatable mushroom…
A random penguin on someone’s roof…
And a big pile of crap in someone’s back yard….
But the highlight for me had to be when I made Bex clamber up a big mound of dusty soil and broken bits of refuse to get 360 degree views of the whole town in all its glory. Are you ready to be blown away by Gaiman’s understated beauty?
Hold your breath…
Ahhhh, now that’s really something.
Apparently Princess Diana went to Gaiman in 1995. I can’t imagine a more unfitting place for royalty, or for Christmas day, or for anyone trying to enjoy their travels through Argentina come to think of it.