Here’s something unusual in Patagonia close to Puerto Madryn: Gaiman is a small town with the largest Welsh community outside of the UK.
In the nineteenth century, Welsh communities in the UK were experiencing attempts to curtail the use of their language, and so they set sail for Argentina. At the time Argentina was a very welcoming country for immigrants who were keen to work on the land and create new communities.
These Welsh settlers founded Puerto Madryn along with three other towns in the area, including the town of Gaiman, which has now become a little centre of Welsh culture, here in the middle of Patagonia. The local primary school has introduced Welsh as its second language, and there is a constant demand for Welsh teachers to go and work there.
You can easily see the town in a day or even half a day. You can get a bus from the main bus station in Puerto Madryn, or sometimes it is tagged onto the end of tours going to the penguin sanctuary.
Wales is always a place with strange connotations. So many English people will tell you horror stories about childhood holidays in Wales, normally in a caravan owned by an aunt, where it was freezing cold and rained the whole time and there was no telly and just a pack of cards to protect you from having to talk to your family.
One thing Gaiman is famous for is Welsh tea houses. You can go in and drink tea served in a pot with a knitted tea cosy, set out with ham sandwiches (complete with the crusts cut off) and a huge selection of cakes brought to your table.
The teahouse I visited was the most famous of them all, having been visited by Princess Diana shortly before her death. La Lady Dee is well known in Argentina; whether they love her or hate her they normally have an opinion.
‘She got photographed with the cakes, but she didn’t eat them because she was anorexic’ somebody told me. ‘She’s the princess of Wales and yet she’s not Welsh, she’s English’ somebody else told me, completely baffled by the whole British Royal traditions. (Don’t worry; we don;’t understand them either).