It is somewhere in Patagonia, but it’s a Welsh village.
Yes, a Welsh village.
Oh, you might notice quite easily… Maybe the rosy cheeks of the girls, or the broad shoulders of the men… Something proud in their look, a strength they haven’t lost over centuries of keeping Celtic secrets and traditions.
You might stop in for a cup of tea. A well-kept custom, a symbol of hospitality. The moment to take time for each other. And to enjoy long talks and also some silences.
You could get surprised how easily time goes by at this time of the afternoon. Sipping the tea, gazing over the flower garden.
We had ours at Plas y Coed, the oldest tea house in the village of Gaiman. Anna was a wonderful host. It was first her grandmother who opened the place, and Anna kept her grandmother’s recipes for the cakes. She also teaches Welsh in primary schools in the morning.
On the walls, family pictures tell stories of courageous farmers who left their land for the promise of freedom. Freedom to keep their Celtic roots, to speak the Welsh language. Far away from the English government. More than hundred years ago.
It took them 11 years to get the first crop of weat. Without the help of the Tehuelche Indians, the Welsh farmers would not have survived in this extreme land that is Patagonia. So far away and so different to the rainy green hills of Wales. Today, still, everyone is somehow engaged in the agricultural business.
Driving through the village, you would have a glimpse at their daily life. It is a good one, simple, satisfying. With a wit of fun to it sometimes…
You might find shelter at one of the guest houses. We stayed at the house of Diego and Brenda (Gwesty Tywi).
There are many things you can talk about with Diego. Always accompanied by his cup of Maté, he will tell you about the Welsh colonies in Patagonia, about Argentina today, and about how life is so different here compared to Buenos Aires.
But then if you ask him about his red Citroen 2 CV…. Oh, well, then it is another story. You might get lucky and he will show you all the original details of his 1975 model, and he might even take you for a crazy ride in the early evening, in the peaceful neighborhood and you will feel the magic of the moment.
The enchantment went on as we set off to visit the little Welsh museum, which tells the story of the Welsh settlement. There we met Tegai. In a very pure English she tells us all the stories. Her grandfather was one of the three first men to arrive in Patagonia from Wales, in the 1880’s.
She stands there in the museum, her back very straight, her hair very white, her eyes very blue and very young… Nobody actually really knows her age. I believe she stopped having one many years ago. I am not very sure if she is an elegant old lady, or if she is an angel. I do not dare to ask her for a photograph. So, you will have to imagine her. After leaving the museum, I feel very touched by this encounter.
In the evening, we look for some food. Tegai and Anna recommend us a strange little place, with two tables only. We almost don’t dare getting in, so simple and run down it looks. But the Argentinian woman in the kitchen has golden hands and cooks for us the best meal we’ve had since arrival in Argentina… Delicious. Beyond words. Mythical.
Happiness. It is for these moments that it was worse to travel.