Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mar de las Pampas


This weekend we had a few days off for the holiday so we took our first trip to the Atlantic coast south of BsAs. Although Buenos Aires is technically a port city, it doesn't have the kind of relationship with its water that most port cities do. It's not a city built around the water; I only catch a glimpse of the river every few weeks and I miss the water. I miss boats and tides and seashore! So I was looking forward to exploring the Atlantic coast relatively near the city. The biggest beach city is Mar del Plata, but we wanted less city, more nature, so we looked a little to the north of there, and went for a cabin in Mar de las Pampas, a few miles south of Villa Gessell. I would've loved to camp, but we weren't sure how to secure a camground reservation and don't have a tent yet.


The towns of Villa Gessell, Mar de las Pampas, Las Gaviotas and Mar Azul are all in a line along the sandy Atlantic beach. They were just sand dunes, still drifting, until enterprising developers bought the dunes and planted pine forests to stabilize them, with the idea of creating peaceful little towns in harmony with nature. Between the nineteen-thirties and the sixties they developed into picturesque little vacation towns and became famous hippie towns in the sixties and seventies.


Now Villa Gessell, the biggest, is a city of high-rise tower blocks looming over the beach, while Mar de las Pampas is a posh little vacation town with a kinda Hamptons feeling (complete with little wooden shopping malls and a Havana store, the Argentinian version of Starbucks). Mar de las Pampas is touted as a "slow village," with unpaved roads and 30km/hour speed limit to encourage walking, but we found an awful lot of cars and not a whole lot of walkers. There are also a lot of kids on four-wheelers zipping around the beach and town, which was noticeably un-peaceful. Las Gaviotas and Mar Azul are smaller and seem less overdone, a bit less posh and commercial, a bit more nature. Beyond Mar Azul is just sand dunes and forest.


The combination of wide beaches, pine forests, sand beach roads and posh cabins reminded me of Fire Island. Sitting by the water, looking towards the empty end of the beach, it looked amazingly like any beach in Maine.
Anyway, we had a nice weekend, both went swimming a bit (the water was a bit warmer than Maine! but there was a stiff breeze all the time), took long beach walks and cooked tasty dinners in our little cabin. We found some camp-grounds right next to the beach in Mar Azul, so I like to imagine that we might come back again with a tent, as I could have enjoyed the beach quite as well without the Kountry Kute cabin and the posh restaurants.


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