There’s only so much mate you can drink before you realise that at best — at best — it can only ever be the second-best leaf-based caffeinated drink. Sometimes you just want a nice cup of tea and a sit down.
It had been twelve days since my last cup of tea. That must be some sort of British record. For Nadia it had been two-and-a-half months. That doesn’t bear thinking about.
If only there was some colony here in Patagonia. Perhaps populated by people from the British Isles. With a strong culture of afternoon tea. Then maybe we could look forward to a nice cuppa.
Croeso i Cymru
In 1865, roughly the same time the American Civil War ended, 153 Welsh men and women finished a seventeen-day voyage upon landing in Patagonia.
Fed up with English domination they had asked the government of Argentina for land. The authorities agreed — although they made sure the Argentine flag flew over the colony to arrest any ideas of forming a new country.
For the first few years the settlers struggled to survive. Starvation was their biggest enemy — barely any among them were farmers. But with the help of the local Indian tribes, the Tehuelche, they managed. Their language and non-conformist religion bloomed.
Back to the future
Nowadays, Welsh Patagonia is represented by some distinctly non-Spanish place names, statues dotted here and there, and a few thousand rosy-cheeked, wiry-haired folk who speak the old language.
Oh, and the tea rooms.
We were in Gaiman, a dusty old Welsh town in the Chubut Valley. We waited for an hour for a tea room to open, and then we stuffed our faces.
They take their tea seriously. For less than five pounds (twenty-seven pesos; expensive by Argentinean standards) we had unlimited tea and endless amounts of cake. I managed five cups of tea before I realised I had an hour-and-a-half bus journey before me. And we ate eight cakes. Each. And they offered us more.
On the bus I did the only thing a Briton can do after tea and cake: I had a nap. There should be more Welsh colonies around the world.