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Mar del Plata, AR

by dan.kronstal on January 6th, 2012
Ferry to BA

Ferry to BA

Our ferry ride from Colonia to Buenos Aires was pleasant, and we taxi’d to the Retiro bus terminal to book our travel to Mar del Plata. At the terminal an agent sold us tickets for a bus departing almost immediately. We sprinted down the length of the concourse, only to be brought up short halfway, when we realized that we had crossed a timezone on the ferry, and actually had an hour to spare. Boarding the bus was chaotic; half a dozen buses were leaving for either Mar del Plata or nearby Miramar all at the same time. All of them were quite full, making the departure gates a madhouse of scrambling people, piles of luggage, and muffled announcements over the speaker system. Finally we found the right one and made our escape.

Once in Mar del Plata it was a short taxi ride to our hotel, and we checked in without issue. While showing us to our room the proprietess of the hotel asked if we were here for “dakar”, which neither of us understood, assuming it to be a Spanish word we weren’t familiar with. On our way our a short time later she whipped out a newspaper and showed us the front page headline about the 2012 Dakar Rally, happening here, and starting tomorrow! I had thought that the Dakar Rally was run in Africa, so was very surprised to hear that we were in a position to experience it.

Dakar Village

Dakar Village

In the morning we headed over to Dakar Village, the center of the action, set up in the Mar del Plata naval base on the other side of town.

Entering Dakar Village

Entering Dakar Village

There we found a midway of booths and tents from sponsors showcasing their products, countries providing route info and tourism pamphlets, and of course a number of beer gardens and grills to keep everyone fed and watered.

Grilling up a feast

Grilling up a feast

We browsed around the tents, picked up some souvenier shirts, and checked out the country booths to see their various info packets.

Driver for Argentina

Driver for Argentina

Some action started kicking up at the main stage, so we made our way over, and watched as a few of the “celebrity” vehicles and crews were introduced.

Last years champ; this years favorite

Last years champ; this years favorite

Christina fought for an autograph from Robby Gordon, who we had never heard of, but he was getting mobbed by the crowd, so she thought she’d better play along. Later, we saw a fan with a Argentine flag decorated by many signatures pursuing another driver, who turned out to be Nasser, driver of last year’s winning car. She got his mark on her flag, and we got a few nice photos.

Tina trying out the hardware

Tina trying out the hardware

Me behind Dakar flag

Me behind Dakar flag

Support truck

Support truck

Parade route

Parade route

We began to make our way back towards home, walking along Ave Peralta Ramos which winds along the waterfront, and which was the parade route for cars making their way to Plaza Colón. We had an hour or so before they were scheduled to begin driving from Dakar Village to the Plaza, so we stopped at a restaurant along the way which offered a nice view over the street. After lunch we continued walking, stopping periodically to take photos of bikes and quads, cheering on the passing drivers along with the rest of the crowd. It took about two hours to walk all the way back home, pausing periodically as we did, and we were happy to finally take some shelter from the sun, since we had not brought any sunscreen with us, and had spent a lot longer outside than we had expected to.

New Years Dinner

New Years Dinner

This same evening being New Years Eve, we had a nice long afternoon nap before heading back out for a late dinner. The priority in this part of the world certainly does not seem to be capitalizing on the holiday, however, and we were hard pressed to find a restaurant. Most were closed, and those that were open had been claimed by those with enough foresight to book ahead. Adding to the stress, the Dakar parade was concluding with a procession of support trucks – massive, rugged vehicles, all equipped with incredibly loud air-horns, so it sounded like we were in the midst of a herd of stampeding elephants. Eventually we found a spot, and enjoyed a very nice meal until just a few minutes before midnight. The table behind ours held Team Kazakhstan, so naturally I wanted a photo with them, but Christina didn’t want to create a scene.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

During dinner we had the chance to play “translator” with another team whose Spanish was even worse than our own. It gave us a chance to show off our vocabulary, and I think that we helped make them understood. Just before midnight we dashed out and ran over to the beach to see the fireworks madness and ring in the New Year with a kiss. While it was very cool, I have to say that our New Year at Boracay in the Philippines is still my favorite. By the time the fireworks had died down the crowds began to disperse, either going home to bed (like us) or going out to party (which seemed like the more popular option).

After this first very busy couple of days we settled into a routine for the remainder of our week in Mar del Plata, which I will cover in somewhat less detail. Our hotel provided a very nice buffet breakfast, a glance at which explained why so many Argentinians (older ones in particular) tend to carry a “few” extra pounds. We enjoyed the medialunas (mini croissants, lightly glazed), slices of cheese and wedges of watermelon, but in general did notpartake heavily of the assorted other cakes, cookies, tarts, and other dessert-like offerings with which our neighbors filled their plates.

Catedral Mar del Plata

Catedral Mar del Plata

After breakfast we headed out to walk about town, usually taking a route through San Martin, a pedestrian strip filled with cafes and shops, then walk along the waterfront to check out the beaches. We’ll end up at a restaurant or cafe, or press on further in to town along one of the trendy streets – favorites being Güemes and Avenieda Alem. These two streets are very much like larger and better equipped versions of our familiar Kensington Road in Calgary, and provide a lot to look at. I don’t think we missed an afternoon siesta during our whole week, then went out in the evening again for dinner.

Crowded beach madness

Crowded beach madness

Within the scope of this routine we enjoyed our stay tremendously, and vastly preferred our week in Mar del Plata to the week we spent in the Recoletta area of Buenos Aires. We never did have a real beach day in MdP, owing to the multitudes thronging the sand. Until I finally went down for a look first-hand it was only an assumption that there was any sand down there at all. The ground couldn’t be seen through the forest of umbrellas, and permanently encamped rows of rentable beach tents made the area further from the water look like a military camp. A huge number of people were in the water splashing and playing games and just standing around, and a separate crowd of surfers was trying their luck, but every wave caught seemed like an invitation to disaster with so many bodies in the way.

One thing we noticed about the city, even from the first cab ride down to Dakar Village, was the number of ski-lodge-style stone and wood houses. I was amazed to see so many neat homes seemingly transplanted from some country setting into the middle of a big city. I took a lot of photos of cool looking houses and buildings, but will just post a couple.

Cool house 1

Cool house 1

Golf club house

Golf club house

Cool house 2

Cool house 2

Our week flew by, and we’re now heading back north to the capitol, where we will spend our last couple of days in Argentina before departing for the Dominican Republic, our last destination. As we approach this penultimate milestone in our trip I am becoming both apprehensive about returning to real life, and excited to return home. I never (and I mean never) thought that I would look forward to going back to work, but have come to realize that there are some parts of work that I enjoy very much. Both of us miss our friends and family and can’t wait to see everyone again!

2 Comments
  1. Mom and Dad E. permalink

    Both of you are so dark now and coming home with tan that you could say, you got it from EVERYWHERE around the world!
    Can wait to see you kids back home already! ! !

  2. Julene permalink

    We miss you guys too and can’t wait to see you!

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