Sunday, February 5, 2012

Buenos Aires to Viedma (the coast route)

After finally receiving the fridge and getting it installed, we were ready to leave the capital. It took us one week and some fees to get it from customs and storage. I don’t want to bore everyone with the morbid, lurid step by step procedure but if anyone reading wants more info for shipping things to Buenos Aires, drop me an email and I will share the details. Since we have time before meeting Haley in Viedma on February 1st, we decided to take the coastal route (RP11) through La Plata to Mar Del Plata and then to Bahia Blanca and Viedma, a total of close to 1,000 miles (1,660 km). We have plenty of time and our plan is to drive a little each day and stay at a different spot every night. The first thing was a routine traffic stop just after crossing the bridge out of Capital Federal to La Plata. Routine! There were three officials. As one checked our auto permit, another ran a check on our passports. The third handed Tom (who was driving) a packet to open. It was a tip to the breathalyzer control unit he was holding. He showed Tom where to put it and to blow into it. Since it is only 2pm or so, naturally we had had no alcoholic drinks. Our policy is to not have a beer until we are parked for the night. Additionally we also know that Argentina has only a .04 tolerance (one beer max will put you over the limit) and there is mandatory jail and stiff fines attached. Tom blew as directed and the official showed him the results. A Zero! We couldn’t tell if they were disappointed or not. After handing us back all our documentation we were on our way. So, all other travelers beware, Argentina tests! Our first night we stayed in Punta Atalaya at a municipal balneario. Although there were lots of people, it was quiet at night. We got on the road early and drove around Bahia Samborombon. There are many small beach communities and we stopped at a tourist office for campsites. Unfortunately, this is tourist season. During January and February school is out and most families take their vacations during this period. As a result the first couple of campsites we went to in San Clemente and Santa Teresita had a 2 – 4 night minimum stay. We finally found a campground in Mar Del Tuyu that would let us stay for one night. It was filled with families but again we got lucky and through the night it was quiet. The next day, we passed through Mar del Plata, without stopping and went further south to Miramar. Mar del Plata was crazy, wall-to-wall people. Miramar was not much better. On our travels we have seen crowded beaches but this was insane. All the beaches we have seen and passed through since leaving Buenos Aires are so crowded; we began to regret taking this route. The Rio del Plata and then the Atlantic Ocean are beautiful but there is no way to enjoy it. There is, literally too many people. Not one square inch of sand is visible and in the water, people are shoulder to shoulder. In Miramar, the campground was inland so we decided instead to park on a cliff overlooking the north end of the town and beach. After dusk and in the morning were the best. No people. We were able to make our way down steps in the cliff to a beach devoid of humanity save for the occasional surf fisherman and a few others fishing from a jetty. Winston finally got in a good run and play. From there we drove inland to Tres Arroyos and found a terrific posada by early afternoon. It had a beautiful sparkling pool and we quickly cooled off. After sunset, we had the place to ourselves. We had planned on staying longer on the beaches but because of the crowds had kept moving. We are now a day ahead of schedule. Tempted though we were to spend an extra day here, we decided to push on. Better to arrive in Viedma a day early than late. Our last night on the road was in Bahia Blanca at another municipal balneario. These municipal campsites are great. They are inexpensive and usually have electricity and water plus a pool or beach access. We have heard that some are noisy at night but our luck held and again we had a quiet nights sleep. From there it was onto Viedma and Patagonia. The generic name “Patagonia” actually refers to all land south of the Rio Negro, which we crossed at Pedro Luro. Prior to that we passed through two food checkpoints. The first just outside of Bahia Blanca and the second just south of Pedro Luro. Both points look for the same products. Namely any kind of fresh or frozen meats (beef, chicken, pork or lamb) and most fruits. I saw very few fruits that were not listed. Our only transgression was two frozen pork chops which were confiscated. Apparently Patagonia has an international crediting of being free of fruit fly and hoof and mouth disease. As a result no meat or fruit is allowed to cross into the area. They were not interested in vegetables or dairy products. As we drove we passed acres upon acres of gorgeous, full bloom sunflowers. Fields as far as the eye could see were just a mass of gold. They were incredibly beautiful. At one glorious point, Tom stopped the vehicle and climbed onto the roof to take some photos. We arrived in Viedma with plenty of time to find Haley’s hotel and leave her a note. She is flying from the States to Buenos Aires, then another plane to Bahia Blanca and from there the 6 hour van drive to Viedma. Hope she’s not too exhausted to swim!

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