Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

11. Beach road trip (Mar del Plata, Argentina)

Just had another great weekend. Juan and I had been planning an escape to the beach for the past couple of weeks, and now it had finally come to fruition. A few of our friends (pretty much everyone in the asado pic in my 7th blog entry) had said they wanted to come along but couldn't make up their minds - because of work, or parties, or girls. So in the end it was just Juan and me in Juan's trusty but rusty Ford Taunus (Cortina).

Juan and the road
Having been out on a pub crawl on Thursday night, we set off a bit later than planned on Friday afternoon - leaving Buenos Aires at about 3:30pm, and headed south-east. The highways in Argentina are great, it was a double lane dual carriageway most of the way. The catch was we had to pay tolls to use them but it wasn't too expensive. Like many cars here Juan's car runs on both CNG (remember that?) and petrol; the CNG is cheap but it meant we had to stop every 90km or so to fill up the tank in the boot.
Driving here is completely different to Australia or NZ, in fact it's probably more like the lawlessness of driving in SE Asia. The speed limit is 130km/h on the highways. No one ever indicates when they overtake, and double-yellow lines are pretty much ignored. Juan even overtook a car on a double-yellow line in front of a police checkpoint (since it was a holiday weekend cops were out in force checking random cars' papers) and didn't get in trouble. Because the pampas (plains) are so flat the roads are for the most part long straight after long straight, so everyone is constantly overtaking everyone else. I don't think anyone cares too much about the speed limit, whereas when driving in NZ I'll be constantly checking my speed cos I'm paranoid about being busted speeding.
The first night we arrived in Pinamar which is pretty much the nearest beach town to Buenos Aires. It's as rich and upper class as Argentina gets; I didn't notice too many amazing houses but there was a Mercedes car dealer with models standing next to the cars on this Friday night. We resigned ourselves to an early night because we actually wanted to see the beach on Saturday and not be hungover all day, so we finally found a vacant campground and made camp at about midnight.

Sunset over the pampas en route
The next day we went to the beach, my first time in the Atlantic, whoop. The beach was OK, but unfortunately the weather had turned a bit cloudy. The beaches are brown sand so are not that pretty, and the waves were too rough and messy and unrideable for any surfer. Also, there wasn't much sand to lie on as most of the beach is covered in these little private beach huts which you can hire or buy for a week or so. Row after row of them, blanketing much of the beach. Juan and I went in for a swim, and I'd say the water was a pleasant 22deg. I managed to body-surf a couple of waves but I think the locals must have wondered what I was doing - as none of them seemed to be swimming, but standing in waist-deep water trying to jump over the incoming white-wash like a bunch of kids. Actually, they were hardly locals as most were out of towners from BA like Juan and me. Maybe it was a bit cold for them, but having come from NZ and its 17deg water in January it felt warm enough to me. Unfortunately I dropped one of my tshirts on the way back to the car so now I'm down to one.

Grey skies and brown sand at Pinamar
Next we headed to Villa Gessel, another beach town which is less ritzy and with a slightly nicer beach than Pinamar. No swimming this time though, because we had to hit the road for Mar del Plata, another 120km south.
Mar del Plata is a large city on the coast with quite a few beaches (all packed with beach huts), a large port, and umm the usual city stuff. But the main reason we were coming was to see the English DJ Fatboy Slim put on a free show on the beach. 100 000 people were predicted to show up, but as we pulled into town at 3pm the skies opened and it started pouring rain. Juan and I waited out the storm in the car before entering the show. Well, the show was great, it went for about 8 hours altogether, there was a great vibe in the air, but the big thing missing was drink. There was only one bar which was about a ten minute walk from the arena, and it sold out of booze early on. Juan and I left the gig to get some supplies and had a few drinks in the car. When we went to go back in La Policia stopped us and confiscated our drinks. Juan had thought we'd be able to take them in so long as it wasn't glass. As a sobriety test one of the cops quickly asked me to repeat the number 12545 or something, but I didn't even understand his instruction so just stared up him blankly, until Juan told him I'm from New Zealand. "Aah, Los All Blacks," he said, and waved us through. I get that a lot here. My usual response is "Si, Los Pumas" cos I think that's the name of the Argentinian Rugby team.
The threatening rain probably kept a few punters away, as reports indicate 40 000 people turned up. But by the end of the show I was soooo sick of hearing "Seven Nation Army", I think every DJ mixed that track into their set, much to the crowd's delight.

Fatboy Slim working (image stolen from La Nacion)
We were lucky with the weather, as it stayed dry throughout the gig but as soon as we were back in the car it started bucketing down again. Some local guys asked us for a ride into town with a "Hola Flaco! (Hey Slim!)" and we obliged, and they invited us to an after-party at someone's house. That party was an awesome night, 80 or so people crammed into an average size living room stripped of furniture, DJ cranking, nonstop dancing, and water and lollipops everywhere. The best party I've seen here so far. I was the only gringo so it was good Spanish practice for me, but I was pretty much on repeat mode - Matt from NZ, been here only 3 weeks, great party, blah blah. I slept in the car outside the house at about 6am, I think the party carried on until about 9.

We hit the road at about noon on Sunday, back to BA, stopping in Pinamar to drop off a couple of girls we met at the after-party. Unfortunately we didn't make it back to my house until 3am, Juan's car kept breaking down en-route, so the 4 hour trip took us 15 hours. The battery wouldn't charge so every time we'd stop or stall the car we'd have to get a jump-start. Not much fun in the rain, but we'd usually break down near enough to a gas station to be able to hit someone up.
Still, the weekend was a great road trip and loads of fun!


  • that first photo looks wicked.

    By Blogger Hamiltron Stu, at 3:13 PM  

  • I agree with Hamiltron Stu, the first one is a wicked photo. Would've been a bit shit without the Cortina though.



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 PM  

  • Cheers fellas, it was a magic moment... we'd stopped the car for a pee and a smoke and I realised I was in Argentina's pampas for my first time - real "big sky" country. I'd gone for a walk to check out a farmer's field of sunflowers (grown commercially for their oil) and as I came back to the car Juan was waiting. The shot captures the road nicely too, it's endless straight after straight.

    Keep the comments coming

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 8:02 AM  

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