Hoping for beach time, ARG

March 30, 2019, Trip: Argentina 2.0
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March 30, 2019

Our first stop eastward was the little town of El Chocón which is famous for some dinosaur footprints and the world largest carnivorous dinosaur was found near here.  The footprints are protected by a fence and there’s a walkway you go across to see the prints from above. (They were not very impressive compared to others we’ve seen.)

We visited the local museum to see the bones and replicas of the dinosaurs found in this area – it cost 50 Argentine pesos – just over a dollar each! Here they have a replica of the world’s largest carnivore:

It’s called the Giganotosauras Carolinii and you can also the skeleton they found:

Part of its jaw bone:

The almost complete remains were found about 18 km / 11 mi north of this town.  Giganotosauras Carolonii was more than 13 m long and stood 4.6 m tall (42+’ and 15′).

There was also a replica of a bajadasaurus pronuspinax which neither of us had ever seen before.

Sidebar:  If you’ve been following us for a while,  you’ll recall that last August we got held up in Sucre, Bolivia awaiting truck parts and due to a screw up on DHL’s part, it took nearly a month to get them.  Anyway, the friend whom we was arranging this for us in the States, was also not impressed with their service and managed to put in a complaint and kept at it.  Thanks to Jordan’s help, we got over 90% of our money back – it was a pleasant surprise after more than SIX months!  Huge shout out to the brother of an overlander friend; your mama raise you boys well.  Muchisimas gracias Jordan. 

It was now getting later in the afternoon and we wanted decent internet.  Our next stop is the large city of Neuquén but there were few camping/parking options so about halfway there, we found a YPF station with decent Wi-Fi, bathrooms and parking for trucks/RV’s to spend the rest of the day and sleep that night.  Today the temperatures almost reached 30 C / 86 F, so a nice change for us.  We’ve been wearing shorts/skirts lately and now we really need to – a huge improvement from down parkas and extra socks!

After some exercising Sunday morning, filling both our water and gas tanks, we drove to Neuquén to hit a big grocery store to stock up.  We’re now slightly higher north at 39º and pretty much heading due east from here, back to the Atlantic to find some beaches for a while before winter sets in down here.

We had a long drive to the coast so we broke it up late in the afternoon stopping in a small town called Chimpay that has a free municipal campground.  The only amenities are power and BBQ pits with bathrooms that are not convenient to access.  Being Sunday, there are many families picnicking but no one overnighted but us.  In the early evening the wind picked up and along with it came thunder and lightning followed by about 90 minutes of rain.

Argentina has many “municipal campgrounds” in most of its small towns and cities.  We’re not sure when they were built and we’d been told a couple of years ago by several overlanders how camping in Argentina was easy and often free.  By the look of all of the municipal campgrounds, they were built in better times and many are run down.  There are many, like the one we’re camped in now, that are free as there is no one regularly maintaining them but the services remain as long as they continue working.  The one we stayed in back in Puerto Deseado, was maintained and all services worked, but it too was somewhat run down but all amenities were functioning (although some toilet or showers stalls are marked “out of order”).  It’s sad and strange because they are many Argentinian motor homes on the road and the need is there.  This does explain why we see many RV’s at gas stations like YPF’s. 

After passing through the small city of Viedma, we arrived at the coast to a small town called El Condor.

Nearby is the world’s largest colony of burrowing parrots.

The burrowing parrot belongs to the  same family which includes macaws and conures. It is also known as the Patagonian conure.  It is mainly found in Argentina. A very much reduced population still survives in Chile, and migration of some Argentine populations to Uruguay has been reported for the winter. Sometimes, strong westerly winds bring some individuals to the Falkland Islands.

Its natural habitat is the arid bush steppe community known as the Monte Desert.

The burrowing parrot has a monogamous mating system with very strong bi-parental care.  The Patagonian conure has eyelashes, a distinctive feature among birds.

The larger the red abdominal patch in males, the more attractive the bird is to females. In a study of around 40 pairs, the males with the largest and most intense red patches paired with the females with the same. This carries down so that pairs tend to have the same-sized patch. Nestlings from males with large, more intense patches also grow faster and weigh more

We stopped in at the Tourist Info office for some details and made our way to the cliffs where there is parking just above the beach and more above the cliffs – we opted for the latter and decided to spend the night here too.

We went for a walk on the beach for about an hour and there were lots and lots of parrots squawking, flying and sitting in their burrows.

 

We’d been told earlier to go around six before sunset (which is around 7 pm now) and so we went back to Tigger, and set up our chairs outside overlooking the beach and close to the edge of the cliffs.  We continued to watch the birds and people until it got a bit too cool to sit outside with the breeze.

Sunset came and went and we did not see an increase in activity and not as many birds in fact.  We settled in for the night and around 2 am we awoke to strong winds swaying the truck and rattling various things so the night’s sleep was not restful.

Sunrise was set for 7:28 so we watched the sun come up, got dressed and went for a third beach walk.  We had expected lots of action but it was even less than sunset last night.  We did walk a good ways down the beach and at this time of day the sun is shining on the cliffs so it’s better for photos but it seems the birds also prefer to be inside the burrows and out of the suns rays!

We made brekkie and went into town to sit outside the Tourist office for more internet.

Argentinian drivers are very friendly,  It is rare to drive past a half dozen vehicles on the road, and not have at least one wave, give a thumbs up or flash their lights at you.  At gas stations, the people love to chat with us about our rig and our adventure. Driving here on our way through the last city about 30 km / 20 mi away, at a stop light a young man in a jeep pulled up beside us to ask if we were lost!  This part of the Ruta 3 went through a poorer “barrio” (neighbourhood) of Viedma and he wanted to be sure we were okay. 

Our loose plan today was to find a more deserted beach to hang out at.  We had enough supplies for 4-5 days and just wanted a long beach to walk alone away from town.  We drove west along the coastal road which is paved for about 30 km / 20 mi ending at a small village called La Loberia (meaning sea lion colony location) and went to check out the restaurant with a view we’d read about to have lunch.  We walked to the lookout beside it

and enjoyed the view but the place was closed; probably only open on weekends in the off season.  About 3 km / 2 mi further down the road which is now gravel, we came across the actual Loberia and decided to stop.  The buildings looked open but no one approached us for the fee.  We saw a small trail running down the left of the museum building and took it.  It led to a wooden overlook (the marine life is at the bottom of the same type of cliffs we saw the parrots living in) and there sat a young man who was the “ranger”.  He explained about the place and what we could see from here (there is no access to the beach as this area is a reserve and protected)

and then we asked about walking to the other lookout we could see and he said he take us to the three other lookouts!  Nicolas spoke about the sea lions and the other flora and fauna in the reserve and pointed out the animals from the lookouts.

There was even a sea elephant sleeping below us.   

We also saw imperial cormorants in the cliffs and down below.

and, of course, lots and lots of sea lions with pups.  There apparently can be up to 7000 sea lions at this colony, the largest in South America.  As it’s now early afternoon the sun is moving behind the cliffs and many of the animals are in shade but still visible (just not great for photos).

Upon returning to the parking area, we half expected to be asked to pay and when we weren’t, we gave Nicolas a nice tip for sharing his knowledge.  He works he 15 days on 15 days off and we’re sure at this time of year, he’s sees fewer visitors.

We now carried on down the gravel road hoping to make it about 18 km / 11 mi to Bahia Rosas, a nice long beach area with no infrastructure but after 3-4 km gave up, as the road was heavily wash boarded and we’d have to drive at 5 km an hour to get there.  We were disappointed but know we could return to El Condor and park on the promenade for a few days right on the beach, so we did that.  The parking on the promenade was not full, we got a spot and by sunset, were the only ones left.

We were parked right on the sidewalk paralleling the beach and the sand was right there.  The tourist office had given us a tide table so we knew when it would be safe to take long walks on the beach and the parrot cliffs are only one kilometre away.  There are no facilities of course, not even a free internet signal but Fran bought some data on her local sim card and the tourist office is less than 2 km / 1.4 mi from us.

Tonight it got rather chilly compared to last night but not windy.  All we could hear was the sound of the waves and we slept well.  Even the next morning, the wind did pick up but still we were alone most of the day.  We did long walks on the beach today, Fran went to check out the parrots again and a German rig arrived near us today and we chatted with Monica and Joseph for a while in the late afternoon.  We are doing a “dry April” this month: no alcohol so no “happy” happy hours this month.  Wish us luck!

Friday morning we made our way back inland stopping in Carmen Del Patagonia – the oldest town in Patagonia (also considered the “gateway town” to the region).  It was founded in 1779 by the Spanish explorer, Francisco Viedman.  The first colonists fashioned their homes out of caves in the cliffs.

Sidebar:  where does the word “Patagonia” come from?  In fact it’s rather obscure.  One theory asserts that Magellan named the indigenous people they encountered, the “patagonis” as they were large in stature and had large feet.  The Spanish work for claw or paw is “pata”.  Theory two: an Italian nobleman wrote that the people were so tall, the Europeans only reached their waist in height.  They wore animal skins both as clothing and footwear similar to a fictional monster with a similar name. 

We continued north – not too far – to the outskirts of a town called Villalonga.  Here there was a YPF station with hot showers and good WiFi so we decided to spend the afternoon and night.

We’d been told that when we left Patagonia (the north boundary is the Rio Negro which we’ve been following as we’ve come east) the price of petrol was going to increase.   Down in Tierra del Fuego, the gas price was a consistent 30.92 pesos per litre; once we reached the mainland it was more like 33.90. So here we filled up at 34.95 and filled the jerry cans.   Enroute we saw a mara, then four more, then 18 rheas in the fields; no more guanacos.  The landscape is still flat but it’s more grassland than brush.

After stopping in Bahia Blanca (gas was 44.04 here!) for supplies we continued on to the beach town of Monte Hermoso to hopefully spend a few sunny days.  The beach here is quite lovely and has no rocks like El Condor.  The first wild camp we had in mind, we were advised by locals not good to camp overnight so we drove to the town limits along the beachfront and found the end of the paved road where there were a few condo buildings and homes that looked closed for the season.  We found a parking spot and went for a walk.

We are still around latitude S 39 and the days are pleasantly warm but the mornings are cool and there’s still some wind.

The way this beach/town is located, from the beach you can see both sunrise and sunset!  The sky was quite red after sunset tonight and the sky was pink come morning.   Neither of us slept that well and at 6am a construction crew began working and we decided one night was enough here and we’d head down the unpaved sand road along the beach to find something away from town.

strange spheres floating on the shoreline

After two nights on the street (the second being a Saturday and there was a lot of traffic late into the evening, we decided to move on to find a campground further east, hopefully with beach access.

We drove about 200 km / 125 mi to the town of Necochea, where there is a campground with all facilities and private beach access through a tunnel!

We got parked and immediately went to check out the beach – it fit our bill!

We decided we’ll stay about a week, weather dependent and we set up.

During the week we’d spend the morning doing chores and the afternoons walking, at the beach sitting, reading and enjoying the “playa”.

HOME is where you park it 🙂

Most days were sunny and warm but we had a couple of cooler days; one day it only reached 16 C / 61 F.  We had a few items taken care of in town which is walking distance: laundry, zipper repair/replacement and shoe repair.

A few nights a group of teenagers arrived with an organized group but they did not bother us; well behaved and kept busy all the time.

By the weekend all the kids were gone and few Argentinian couples arrived for long weekend but it remained quiet.

On Saturday we began having issues with our transformer; this converts the 220 power of Argentina into the 110 we need in Tigger.  Several months back we had issues with one of the plugs on it, but the second continued to work; not so any longer.  The campground manager came by as Doug was working on it and asked what was wrong.  After telling her, she approached the man across the “street” from us who’d already been here when we arrived. He called the electrician that works for the campground; seems he’ll come to have a look tomorrow, so we’ll see.

We moved Tigger out from under the trees so the solar panels could charge up and then we sat outside to read for a while before heading out for a lunch out.

We walked through the park we’re camped in and after a few attempts found a place where could sit outside and enjoy a burger and fries.  The burger was huge but yummy and we were stuffed – good thing we had a 20 minute walk back.

Monday morning, after thinking about things a bit more, we thought the problem might not be the transformer, but the microwave.  Our routine when we plug into shore power, is that Doug sets it all up while Fran is inside watching for the clock on the microwave to come on and confirm we have power.  So we plugged in again and lo and behold, we had power to our outlets but the microwave did not come on.  We checked the breakers and fuses; all good; then we checked that the microwave was in fact still plugged in; check.  We then unplugged it and plugged it in elsewhere; nada.

RIP Microwave

Now we do know the transformer has had issues in the past (one outlet no longer works), so when the electrician, Fernandez, showed up, (much to our surprise, fairly early) we explained the situation and he said the transformer outlets could both be replaced but he’d have to use Argentinian styled plugs (so we’ll have to use an adapter).

Fernandez went out to purchase supplies and upon his return he repaired the transformer so that we once again, have two outlets.  He actually advised that despite many outlets have three holes, there is actually no “ground” in Argentina and much of South America (hence our issues with getting shocks when we have wet feet or the truck is wet).  We then left the microwave unplugged and it is now just a cupboard – we’ve always used it for a sort of breadbox, so we will continue in that vein.

Tuesday, we took Tigger to see about getting its tailpipe repaired and do some shopping.  After two wasted hours of checking places out and getting nowhere (one did not have the right part, some did not exist or were closed/abandoned looking) we gave up until we get to a larger centre.  We did the shopping and returned to the campground.

We have decided to hang here through Easter weekend as the weather is still quite pleasant.  In Argentina, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are national holidays so it will be interesting to see if the place fills up despite not being summer any longer.  Wednesday and Thursday the temps were 26C / 79F and for the weekend it cooled down to 20 ish (70F) but remained sunny.

We made it through a sunny Easter weekend; not as warm as Thursday had been but pleasant nonetheless.  A few Argentine campers joined us at the campground; mostly in tents but it remained quite quiet.  After doing some final chores on Monday: laundry, tank dumping and water filling, floor washing etc., we left on Tuesday morning to begin the drive towards Buenos Aires (BA) over the week.  We’ve been looking at AirBNB apartments in the city but don’t want to book anything until we know we can securely park Tigger not too far from us.  Parking in the city can be expensive and since Tigger is nearly 3 m tall, entryways can be an issue.  We’ve been in touch with one apartment owner who has gone above and beyond and checked into lots for us.  She found two within less than a half a kilometre from her rental unit and we’ll check them out on Sunday.  We decided that Sunday would be the best day to drive in the “big city” hoping for less traffic to have to maneuver around and through to reach a parking lot.

So our first stop on Tuesday was Mar Del Plata – this is THE big resort/vacation/beach city that the citizens of BA apparently flock to in summer.  Before heading to the beach we found a muffler place and had the tailpipe replaced and they also helped us figure a way to stop the truck hood from jiggling; one of the adjusters has broken and they “rigged” it with some rubber so it no longer jostles while driving.

We asked the young lady that work in the office where a large grocery store was to stock up (specifically saying we wanted produce) and she pointed us to a large warehouse type store called “Hergo”.  What a mistake!  It was large and had a good variety of stuff but no produce and worse yet, when you enter the store you have to put your purse (or bags) into a special bag with a shoulder strap that they lock for you and you carry around.  Then once you are done shopping, you go to what normally would be a cash register where they ring up your items and return them to your cart.  You then receive a “ticket”, get your bag unlocked, go to the real cashiers, pay your bill, return with a different ticket and receipt for payment, they review that the receipt is correct and THEN you can leave!  Never again; while we dislike many of the grocery stores here because the till lineups are endless, this procedure was beyond ridiculous.

After Necochea, we were not impressed with the beach here or should we say beaches.  Unlike Necochea, there are series of mostly smaller beaches separated by rock weirs and many are full of cabana structures which do not even face the beach!  There is a really, really long malecon for walking above the sand and water though and beyond town it continues as a paved path.

We parked at an overlook we found on iOverlander for the night and walked over to McDonald’s for lunch.  Here we met a man from north of BA named Enrique who was a retired police officer.  We chatted with him through lunch and he offered us a place to park Tigger while we’re in the city should we be unable to find one.  We gave him our card and we’ll see if he reaches out but upon looking at a map, where he lives is quite out of the city so we doubt we’ll use his place for parking, but we could go visit him (should he reach out).

We returned to Tigger for the night and the next morning we drove along the coastline of the city (we were parked more at the south end of Mar Del Plata) and checked out the beaches.

 

Along the way past Playa Perla we saw the Culture Centre where a monument to the local sea lions is situated:

Continuing close and away from shore we made our way northeast and the scenery was pretty bland; lots of fields and everything is flat; right after Fran commented that she missed the guanacos and rheas we saw so many of in Patagonia, lo and behold we saw about eight of them in a field.

Our destination today was another smaller vacation beach town:  Villa Gesell where we had a campground in mind but decided we would free camp instead closer to the beach.  (We are now at 37º south.)

Our first stop was a produce market where we found everything we wanted and were in and out in no time.  This town is also a tourist town but doesn’t have a malecon or road along the beach but instead has a wooden boardwalk about 3 km / 2 mi long.  The beach is “endless” like it was in Necochea. Several dead end streets hit this boardwalk and we found one that looked large enough to park at and allow other vehicles to still get around us.

The day began warm and sunny but later in the afternoon the clouds rolled in and it got cooler.

Sidebar:  the Argentine peso is taking a bit of a beating as their economy is not doing so well.  The first time we came to the country back in November, we were getting 37 pesos to a USD; last week it hit 44 but has gained a bit to 41 in the past few days although the forecast is not good. 

Thursday we awoke to clouds but it began to clear as we left to go further north to the laid back beach town of San Clemente del Tuyu.  We drove over 100 km / 60 mi and the scenery was flat farmland again.  We did make a quick stop to see Pinamar, an upscale beach town:

 

This town is much smaller but still caters to tourists and not a lot was open like in Villa Gesell.  The season here is pretty short December to March and a lot of hotels/restaurants and even shops, exist only during those months.  We camped at the national auto club’s campsite (we joined the ACA so we get discounts at the YPF gas stations) and this entitles us to a discount at these types of campgrounds.

It’s a huge campground with all the amenities but it’s pretty empty; several stored trailers but that was about it.  We got set up, had issues with power (again!) and decided the breaker had blown so once the caretaker fixed it, we just used an extension cord to power our laptops.  We have enough sun to charge the solar panels to run lights, fridge etc.

We both went for a walk on the beach; it was rather windy but a pleasant temperature with a vest.

So Saturday we awoke to somewhat cloudy and windy skies with rain in the forecast all day.  We have about 400 km 250 mi to drive to BA so we thought we try and cover a good chunk of it on this wet day.

We are now on a dual carriage way highway heading towards the capital city.  Enroute we stopped at a service centre for a bathroom break and lunch.  When we went to pay, their till would not accept neither two of our credit cards nor our debit card.  A helpful woman beside us explained the problem (even though we understood) and then told us what we didn’t understand, they were giving us lunch free!

Marina and her son Lucas, chatted with us for a bit and Lucas told us in his english class he had to give a talk next week so he was going to speak about us!  We gave him our card and told him to reach out if he had any questions.  Good luck Lucas!

We then drove as far as San Vincente where we parked at a park (the gates to the parking lot were closed so we parked next to the park in the least soggy ground we could find).  We had an okay night and the next morning we tried to leave but instead slid towards the ditch on a mucky side road!  It was kinda misty raining still and we got the winch out and Doug tied it to a tree and with a little bit of sliding and lots of mud everywhere, we got Tigger out onto the middle of the road and Doug drove us back to pavement and we carried on.  It continued with on and off sprinkles and when we pulled into a gas station to fill up, we asked about a car wash so we wouldn’t have to park Tigger for a few weeks all dirty.  We were told that as it was a wet day  no car washes would be open so instead we used their tap, our buckets and a soft car wash brush and gave Tigger a good rinse down.

We drove to a wild camp spot near the BA international airport at a restaurant where many buses park and spent the night there.

We will move on to BA tomorrow, check out the parking options and finalize a possible booking for 4-6 weeks in an AirBNB.

Hasta luego (until later).  It could be a while before the next post, as we’ll probably wait until we’re done with the big city and Fran’s trip home.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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