After spending a lovely morning with the Punta Tombo penguins, we headed inland along a very dusty unpaved road to Gaiman, Argentina, a Patagonian Welsh town famous for its fabulous teas. Now, being a Brit, we take our teatime very seriously, especially when it’s served with thinly sliced buttered bread, jams and copious amounts of cakes.
There were a few places in town that served tea, but we opted for Plas y Coed, the oldest tea shop in the village (and one that doesn’t cater for large coach tours from the cruise ships). It felt rather odd enjoying tea and cakes surrounded by Welsh flags and other paraphernalia in the heart of Argentina. The walls were decorated with Welsh love spoons and tea towels, and the staff were speaking Welsh (well, Welsh with a distinct Patagonian dialect) to each other.
So, Why Are The Welsh In Patagonia?
The Welsh first arrived in Patagonia in 1865. Almost 200 from all over Wales set sail from Liverpool on board the tea-clipper Mimosa and arrived eight weeks later in what is now known as Puerto Madryn. They left to start a new life and protect the Welsh culture and language, as they believed Wales was losing its identity to England.
In fact, our waitress at Plas y Coed said her great-grandfather had arrived on the Mimosa.
The town of Gaiman was actually founded in 1874 by David D Roberts. You can still see his house today. It’s a museum now, but it wasn’t open when we were there.
The name Gaiman isn’t actually Welsh, nor is it named after one of the first Welsh settlers in the area. It comes from the language of the indigenous Tehuelches and means ‘sharp stone’.
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Feeling somewhat stuffed from our tea, we decided to walk off the enormous amount of calories tea we had just consumed and take a little wander around the streets.
I Think I Might Be Welsh
We popped into the local museum, which is housed in the old train station that used to run from Gaiman to Trelew. The friendly museum owner greeted us in Welsh, and we stared back blankly; he tried Spanish, and we replied in Spanish, ‘Ah, you’re English,’ he says.
Guess our Spanish is as bad as our Welsh, then. He began to show us around, and his enthusiasm was infectious. We found ourselves wanting to know more and more about this cute little town.
He showed us the original town plans that showed how the land was divided. One area was for David Pugh. ‘Hey, my mum’s maiden name was Pugh, and I have a David Pugh as a cousin,’ I exclaimed. ‘Well, then you must have Welsh in your family,’ he remarked.
My mother would have been horrified at the thought of being Welsh (don’t ask me why that’s just the way she was!), but I was rather partial to leeks and Welsh tea, so I was quite excited by the prospect.
We continued our stroll through the town, popping into the tourist office to pick up a map along the way. The young guy in the office was equally enthusiastic about Gaiman and telling about the Welsh in Patagonia.
We followed the historical path to the old railway tunnel, passed the First House in Gaiman, the old chapels along the river and admired the original Welsh homes along picturesque Michael D Jones Street.
Gaiman was only a twenty-minute drive from Trelew, where we were staying. If we were to be in this area again, we would probably base ourselves here. It was quite charming in its sleepy little way. Plus, if we had had more time here, we may have visited the Bryn Gwyn Paleontological Park which is just eight
How To Get To Gaiman
Gaiman is easily accessible by paved roads from Trelew, Rawson and Puerto Madryn. It’s a great place to visit for afternoon tea after seeing the penguin at Punta Tombo, as we did.