Writer Sadie Whitelocks delights in the familiar home comforts found in Welsh Patagonia, as she writes for the Mail Online

On opening my minibar fridge I was delighted, not by an exotic whisky selection, but by the fact I'd found a Welsh cake. Growing up in Wales these fatty, sugary patties were one of my favourite sweet treats.

But I was more than 7,500 miles away from Wales - in the small city of Puerto Madryn in Argentina.

I quickly learned on landing at the nearest airport - Trelew - and being greeted by a jolly guide, who sported a tan and an odd Welsh lilt, that this area in Patagonia was settled by the Welsh in the mid-19th century and the valley spirit is still very much alive.

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As we take a bus through the arid countryside with the summer sun shining, the guide explains that there's more sheep than people in this Argentinian province with five million of the creatures to 500,000 humans.

So, where did the Welsh link begin?

Well, in the mid-19th century many people in Wales were worried about the erosion of their culture and language due to the influx of foreigners during the coal industry boom.

Tea, Along With Scones, can be found in traditional Welsh teahouses throughout Chubut, Argentina. Photo / UIG, Getty
Tea, Along With Scones, can be found in traditional Welsh teahouses throughout Chubut, Argentina. Photo / UIG, Getty

In 1861, a group of men met to discuss the possibility of founding a new Welsh 'promised land'. There had been previous attempts to land in America but the areas were too well populated and the pressure to adopt English was too great.

The group of Welshmen - headed up by staunch nationalist Michael Jones - decided Patagonia in Argentina might have everything the colonists would need and a relocation plan was hatched.

The Argentinean government granted their request to start a settlement, as the Welsh could act as guardians of a large tract of land that was the subject of dispute with Chile at the time.

In a bid to promote the Patagonian scheme, a Welsh emigration committee met in Liverpool and published a handbook, Llawlyfr y Wladfa (which translates to Colony Handbook), which was distributed throughout Wales and also in America.

Outnumbered 10/1: Welsh sheep are also a familiar sight from the home country. Photo / Insights, Getty
Outnumbered 10/1: Welsh sheep are also a familiar sight from the home country. Photo / Insights, Getty

Towards the end of 1862, Captain Love Jones-Parry and Lewis Jones - a printer - left to scope out a good spot to land in Patagonia. They were driven into a bay during a storm, which they named 'Porth Madryn' after Jones-Parry's estate in Wales and it was here they decided to invite others to come.

The first group of settlers, around 150 people gathered from mainly North and mid-Wales, landed at Puerto Madryn after a pretty epic journey crossing the Atlantic on the Mimosa clipper ship.

Even today it takes a long time to get there.

I'd taken a flight from London to Rome, then Rome to Buenos Aires before hopping on a two-hour internal flight to Trelew.

Admittedly I had nothing to groan about, as it took the original explorers two months to get there by boat from Liverpool.

Each adult passenger paid £12 for the journey - around £1,400 by today's standards - while tickets for children were half that amount.

Rambling around the town of Puerto Madryn - which is peppered with retro architecture - I spot dozens of Welsh flag stickers proudly displayed on cars and motorbikes.

Some of the streets I go past were also named in honor of the first Welsh settlers.

For instance, there is an avenue signposted 'Abraham Matthews'. Matthews, who was a minister from Llanidloes and immigrated to the area with his family when he was 32, was one of the leading figures of the landing party.

More exotic wildlife include Penguins, though the locals will insist on calling them pen gwyn. Photo / Marka, Getty
More exotic wildlife include Penguins, though the locals will insist on calling them pen gwyn. Photo / Marka, Getty

At one point, when several of the settlers yearned to return home and abandon the mission, Matthews persuaded them to stay.

Life was apparently pretty miserable when they first landed and farming in such an arid area proved tricky. Gradually the settlers moved further inland, where the Chubut River provided irrigation to help cultivate the land.

Back to the walk, another road I turn down is named '28 de Julio', honoring the day the first Welsh settlers landed back in 1865.

Then strolling by a restaurant named En Mis Fuegos, I spot on the menu, along with lamb, a dessert taking Welsh cakes to a whole new level.

The sweet concoction features a sugary blend of lukewarm Welsh cake, white chocolate soup finished with a 'savoury citric dressing'. Not sure what Matthews and the original settlers would think to that!

Further encouraging the Welsh link, today Puerto Madryn is twinned with Nefyn, a small town on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales.

Sadly I don't hear any Welsh speakers during the short time I'm in the town but I'm told that I would have to travel to towns such as Dolavon, Gaiman and Trevelin for a real taste of Welsh Patagonia.

These settlements are home to Welsh-speaking schools and locals also hold annual eisteddfods, a traditional Welsh festival celebrating the arts. Many Welsh teachers also travel to these spots to do work placement exchanges.

While the scene in Puerto Madryn isn't bustling, there is a constant flow of tourists who flock to see the Magellanic penguin colonies along the coast.

The orcas that exhibit unusual feeding behaviour on the nearby Valdes Peninsula by hauling themselves on to the beach, are another prime attraction.

I'd journeyed to the small city before boarding a polar cruise with Poseidon Expeditions.

Leaving the port at sunset one evening I looked back towards the silhouetted coastline imagining how the original Welsh settlers must have felt.

From the lush green valleys to a scorched flat landscape, these two places couldn't be more different.

But now, thanks to the work of Matthews and his crew, a common theme bonds these two spots on the map.

Welsh cakes being one of the linking features.