The major highlight of my trip to Argentina was the trip down to the coast, specifically Mar de las Pampas which is about a 6 hour bus ride <north?> of Buenos Aires. We (Florencia and I) left Buenos Aires around 10 am on Thursday morning and arrived in Ville Gesell (more on that in a moment) around 5 pm. The trip was relatively comfortable with the bus being equipped with a toilet, TV and packed lunch. It did get a bit cold aboard due to the air con blasting the whole way down so a blanket was needed. Our stay at the coast consisted of two parts. One night camping in Ville Gesell (20 minutes bus from Mar de las Pampas) and 2 nights / 3 days at Mar de las Pampas following that.
Our campsite called “La Arbolada” was situated about 10 blocks from the center and we were dropped off right outside by the bus that scoots around the neighborhood We were met by the very friendly owner of the campsite who showed us around and told us how the amenities all work. I hate to say it but unfortunately this ended up being one of the most uncomfortable nights I have spent anywhere and the “campsite” itself was most unenjoyable. There was clearly a tonne of work going in to the place at the time with piles of tiles and bricks scattered all over the place. The camping grounds was actually the backyard of the owners house and was infested by a gazillion mosquitoes which forced us to run to the closest store and purchase mosquito repellent as we were literally eaten alive within minutes of setting foot on the rounds. The owners also had a horse which was gracious enough to leave its poo EVERYWHERE. The night was also uncomfortable partly because of our lack of correct packing. It got very cold and the couple of blankets we had made scrounging any heat very difficult. We also did not have a floor mat since this night of camping was a tacked on extra and we didn’t want to have to carry so much.
Negativities aside, again, the owner and her husband (who could speak decent English) were very nice and commodating. We were given a bombilla as a gift and taught how to correctly prepare a mate which was nice. There is quite a lot behind the whole preparation and consumption of mate and it is clear that it is taken very seriously in this culture. Anyway , I am sure that once the campsite modifications have been completed, it will be much better. Don’t know how the mosquito threat will be dealt with though but as long as the area is clean of poo, would be much nicer. Before heading to bed, we ventured out to the center to see what Ville Gesell had to over. We dined cheaply on panchos (hotdogs) and spend hours on a “Pump It Up” machine. Im sure many of you are familir with this game which is found in arcades but I was a complete newbie to it and had to start off with Flori holding my hand. Coupled with the fact that I do not enjoy dancing naturally made this quite the challenge but I apparently surprised Flori with my quick learning and major dance skills :P
Mar de las Pampas
We departed from Ville Gesell around 1 pm on the bus that transports people through the coastal villages. A short 20 minute ride later and we were walking down the dirt roads surrounded by a forest of pine trees and a sweet smell in the air. What a change in scenery. For the last couple of weeks I have been surrounded by a glass and concrete jungle. This pine forest with hint of the ocean (smell and sounds) just over the hill with barely a person or car in sight really lets one breath a sigh of relaxation. Anyway, after winding through a couple roads, we came upon our luxury resort at which we were staying. Careyes had everything one would need to hide away from the world and just unwind. There is a cinema, games room (for the little ones if there were any), fully equipped Spa (saunas (wet and dry), Jacuzzi heated swimming pool and optional massage) and a restaurant which produced very good food. The bedrooms are fully equipped with air con (not that it was needed), TV with DVD player (you have a choice of 1000 DVDs from the reception desk) and even fancy white towel gowns. How luxurious!
Unfortunately I came down with a sudden case of WTF that very day. Nose running around like mad, fever and aching joints. Felt like a bad case of flu. We therefore took it easy that night and bought some empanadas from the village, borrowed a couple movies from reception and watched “Bruno” (I don’t understand why people made such a fuss over that movie… felt like I wasted 1.5 hours of my life) and ate empanadas in bed while trying to fight of this evil little affliction. Funny enough, the following day it basically disappeared I was left with a hyperactive nose and sinus system and a slight headache but all else was good. How bizarre Anyway, this meant we could actually do something while we were here so we grabbed a good breakfast (they actually gave me scrambled eggs! Was amazing to not eat sweets and cookies for breakfast for one – the general breakfast diet for “the natives” here :P), popped over the hill to check out the ocean and walk on the beach (sadly we were cursed with miserable weather the entire weekend (rain, mist and clouds) so we could not fully take advantage of the ocean and beach. No sun tanning for this pasty white excuse for a body! Also decided to check out the Spa and give the saunas and Jacuzzi a test.
The village of Mar de las Pampas is a beautiful little maze of wooden buildings snuggled into the trees of the surrounding land. Tiny alleyways weave between little shops and boutiques and make for quite the little adventure when exploring. Twice we managed to get completely turned around and “lost” but it didn’t matter. I don’t know why but I kept thinking Switzerland in my mind even though I have never been there. I must have some sort of predefined image of what the little villages there would look like. Hopefully the pic to the right can give you some sort of idea of what I am talking about and if I am correct in associating it to Switzerland, let me know in a comment or correct me otherwise :)
For lunch we headed into the village. Flori had a craving for Mexican food so after asking around, we were directed to a little restaurant tucked away from the main village. This place is apparently the oldest restaurant in Mar de las Pampas and you are served by the owner himself. It was called “Viejos Tiempos” which translated means “Old Times” and unfortunately, I only have negative things to say. The food was terribly over-priced, tasted absolutely terrible and the owner had the cheek to include an extra basket of nachos which we were told by the waiter (a young lad helping him out.. obviously family of sorts) that it came with another mean we ordered however we were charged extra for it! I must strongly recommend that everyone stay away from Viejos Tiempos as it is a serious waste of money and you will be left with nothing but disappointment. On the other hand, for dinner we found a Parrilla (meat and barbecue place) called “La Malcriada” and although also rather expensive (all restaurants here are very expensive as they cater towards the rich), I had the most amazing Bife de Chorizo ever and would definitely go back there.
That brought us to the end of the second day meaning it was nearing the end of our stay. Tomorrow would be checkout time but the management of Careyes were wonderfully accommodating towards us. As it was off-peak and the resort was empty, instead of having to check out at 11 am as is usual, they let us stay until 5 pm and allowed us use of all their facilities. We stayed this long as our bus back to Buenos Aires was only leaving Ville Gesell at 10 pm that evening. More time was spent on the beach taking photos and absorbing the final hours of peace and tranquility. Had a great stay and it was definitely a wonderful experience being so close to nature. The dense pine forest bordering a fantastic beach. Spirits were renewed and ready to head back into the concrete jungle of Buenos Aires. And that is where this little adventure ends.