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Day 3 In and around Esquel


We left Gualjaina after having been allowed a short lie-in! It's only 100 kilometres over the mountains to Esquel, which is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains. We stayed at the Hosteria Angelina, a small family-run hotel famous for its hospitality and great breakfasts. After Gualjaina and Gaiman, Esquel felt like Los Angeles! It is a lovely Andean town with broad avenues and mountains everywhere. In the winter, it is a ski resort, famous for its powder snow, and in the summer, the fly fishing capital of Patagonia. It is also the jumping-off point for the Southern Lakes area, similar in beauty to the Lake District around Bariloche to the north, but with far fewer visitors.

After lunch, we drove 5 kilometres into the mountains to Laguna La Zeta (Lake Z, in English), which lies in a pine forest surrounded by Andean peaks. Jeremy told us we needed to walk around the lake to build up an appetite for a special event later that afternoon. But the Patagonian weather had its own ideas. Within 15 minutes, we had just about every type of weather imaginable: rain, wind, sleet and glorious sunshine. So we drove most of the way around instead and saw just why this lake is such a favourite of birdwatchers. We saw tiny humming birds, fly catchers, cormorants, flamingos and all sorts of birds of prey. They didn't seem to care about the weather, and neither did we.

We drove back into town for Jeremy's special event – a Welsh tea with Esquel's Welsh society. As we walked into the Welsh Community Hall (Canolfan), which doubles as the Welsh school, I couldn't believe how many people were preparing tea, sandwiches and cakes. Everyone I spoke to, from youngsters to adults, spoke excellent Welsh, and some of the younger people weren't even from Welsh families. They had learned Welsh and some of them were now teachers and assistants in the Welsh school here in Esquel and in Trevelin, just over the hill to the south. When we sat down, I was surrounded by people who had very little idea of who I was, but it didn't matter to them. I was a Welsh-speaking guest and made to feel extraordinarily welcome.

I had a long chat with Clare Whitehouse, who is responsible for the coordination of the Welsh teachers in Patagonia, and she told me how they are struggling to meet local demand by not being able to afford more teachers. The Welsh Assembly grant has rarely been adjusted over the 14 years of the programme and it is becoming ever more difficult to make ends meet. This year, there is no full-time Welsh teacher from Wales in the Andes. She showed me around the children's classroom and it was obvious that the wild Patagonian weather was taking its toll on the school roof. Clare told me that they had received a quotation for repairing the roof, but did not have the funds at present to do anything other than a very temporary fix.

For more information on Ysgol Gymraeg yr Andes in Esquel and how you can help them, please follow this link.

For more information on learning Welsh in Patagonia, click here.

After fortifying myself with a few cakes and cuppas, I stood up and told everyone, in Welsh, who I was, why I was there, what I had done in my life and how grateful I was to share a tea with them. They even laughed at my jokes! Jonathan, meanwhile, was being fed by the ladies like a turkey before Christmas. Neither of us could move when it became time to leave.

Back to Day 2                  Forward to Day 4

 

Esquel, town centre with Mynydd Llwyd behind

Esquel, the magic of Laguna La Zeta

Esquel, flamingos in Laguna La Zeta

Esquel, outside the Welsh school, next to Capel Seion

Esquel, taking tea with the ladies of the Welsh society in the Canolfan

Esquel, with Clare Whitehouse, the co-ordinator for Welsh teaching in Patagonia


Esquel, a typically small Welsh tea

     


 
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Esquel - Chubut - Patagonia - Argentina - Email: info@welshpatagonia.com



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