Mar del Plata is a coastal city about 500km (6hours by bus) south of Buenos Aires. I took the 9am bus (200 pesos, cama – discount for paying in cash!) on Monday from Retiro station and promptly fell asleep because wow the buses are fancy. The buses are divided into different categories, much like planes. Semi-cama, the cheapest, is a regular 4-seats-in-a-row seat, but which reclines quite a bit more than in usual buses, and has significantly more legroom. This is perfect for smaller sized travellers on a budget who can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, i.e. me. On the bus to Mar del Plata, they didn’t have semi-cama seats, so I forked out a little bit more for cama – the seats were significantly wider, and reclined quite a lot, but I didn’t notice any other differences. The bus companies also offer cama-executive and super-cama, but I’m not sure which is which – I do know that one of those two categories resembles the fully reclining business class seats on the A380 though. They are also much more expensive, so it is unlikely that I will ever travel in those two classes.
Right. So back to the journey. 6 hours later, I was in Mar del Plata (MDP) and the lovely Noelia, my CouchSurfing host for my stay in MDP, picked me up from the bus terminal. Noelia only speaks some English, so we spoke mostly in Spanish (she spoke, I tried) for the duration of my trip. We went back to her place to drop my stuff off, where I met the charming Felippe and the ever-curious Mambi!
Then, it was off for some sightseeing. To the tourist office, to pick up a map, then to check out the beach. It was extremely windy and cold though, so we didn’t spend much time (10mins max, and fully clothed) on the beach.
I also found out that MDP is home to a colony of sea lions, and they have a huge monument to them right on the beach.
After that, we went somewhere (I’m pretty sure Noe told me where we were going, but I didn’t understand her), which turned out to be to see the colony of sea lions right on the port!
The area is a protected reserve for the sea lions, but it was still an incredible sight, to see them lying just meters away, sunbathing and chilling out.
I felt like I was in an episode of something on National Geographic and when I saw the sea lions, David Attenborough’s voice immediately went off in my head. “Here, we have a colony of adult male sea lions. They spend most of their time swimming, hunting for fish and sun bathing. Sea lions live exclusively in colonies of their own gender, and the males travel many miles during the mating season in search of females. There is usually only one dominant male in the group, but sometimes fights for dominance break out. Interestingly, this colony appears to be home to a young male as well, something that is rare in nature.”
Okay I will stop with my (fake) Nat Geo voiceover. So after checking out the sea lions, we headed down to the tip of the port for an incredible view of MDP. Amazing stuff.
We stopped at a smaller section of the port on the way back, where I almost kissed a sea lion, but his fish breath was kinda overpowering.
Noe showed me around town a little and we had a coffee before heading back to her place because everything in town was closed due to the police being on strike. It was the first time I’ve ever heard of anything like that, but apparently, the police had gone on strike because they wanted a pay raise which the government was denying them, and as a result, looters were going nuts, breaking into shops and stealing all sorts of things. It started in Córdoba, but Noe thinks it won’t end with MDP. Should be an interesting time to be in Argentina.
The next day in MDP, I primarily spent wandering around town. It’s not a very big city, but is quite charming in its own way.
In the evening, I met some of Noe’s friends and had to put my Spanish to the test again. My Spanish is still pretty crappy, and I really can’t communicate when I’m tired or caught unawares, but I’m learning! Upon hearing that I had pretty much explored most of what MDP has to offer, Noe and friends suggested that I visit Sierra de los Padres the next day.
So I set off to Sierra de los Padres the next day. Took the bus (717) from along Av. P. Luro, and the bus ticket cost about 5pesos but had to be paid using a card, but I just asked a passenger to pay my fare and paid him back. Sierra de los Padres and Laguna de los Padres are about 12-15 km outside the city of MDP. The bus stops at several places along the way, but I alighted at the top of Sierra de los Padres (without knowing it because I didn’t have a map and got off when the bus driver told me to). First thing I saw was a falcon(?)
And next, an amazing view.
Really, these are the things people need to live for. Not paychecks and promotions. But that’s just my opinion. I started wandering around, because I had no idea what I was doing, and took the only road out.
I met some horses who were very calmly grazing,
And saw some gorgeous birds my camera was not powerful enough to capture. It was amazing, wandering around, and it really seems like the kind of place I could retire to, once I’ve made a bunch of money haha.
I also stumbled upon Las Grutas de los Panuelos, a strange tribute to the Virgin. Apparently, many years ago, a childless couple visited this place and tied a handkerchief there as an offering to the Virgin to bless them with children. Of course, they had a child and BAM everyone was there offering handkerchiefs. The handkerchief chain is now several kilometers long.
I had a quick lunch, and continued walking toward Laguna de los Padres. On my way there, I saw a bunch of horses grazing idly and walked over to admire them for a bit. The owner(s) of the horses invited me over for some mate and I spent some time chatting with them over mate. I even watched one of them fix a horseshoe on a gorgeous horse.
It was quite a distance to Laguna de los Padres so I continued walking, and after walking for what seemed like forever,
I finally reached Laguna de los Padres!
It was so so so gorgeous.
It being a weekday, there was hardly anybody there and I could just soak on the atmosphere of being all alone.
I also got a little bit lost in the huge park because I didn’t have much of a map, just a sketch/outline of the park.
But finally, I managed to make it out of the park alive! Haha I exaggerate – there was never really any threat to my life.
That evening, back in MDP, Noe invited me to dinner at her friend’s house, after which we went for a couchsurfing meeting! It was great meeting the couchsurfers of MDP even though I was the only foreigner there. Apparently, the only visitors MDP gets are from the rest of Argentina, so I was a rare breed 😉 great evening!
Noe suggested going to Miramar the next day, so that’s what I did. Took a bus (El Rapido del Sur) from the main bus terminal (16pesos, one way) and one hour later, I was in Miramar. My first impression of Miramar was that the town was dead. I honestly had no idea why Che Guevara would have spent 8 days in Miramar at the start of his journey around South America.
Anyways, I somehow managed to find my way to the beach (and the tourist office), where all the inhabitants of Miramar had congregated apparently. I had a vague plan to visit the Bosque Energetico and started walking there from the beach, but as I was walking, a kindly gentleman offered me a lift there! Except, because my Spanish is horrible, I guess I told him I was going somewhere else and I ended up in Mar del Sur.
I thought that Miramar was empty, but Mar del Sur was completely deserted. There were literally ten people on the beach. Not a soul more.
Well it wasn’t what I was planning on, but I decided to hang out at the beach for a bit. Besides, the next bus to Miramar was at 7pm.
As I was peacing out by the beach, two very friendly dogs started playing with me. Turns out they belonged to the lifeguard, who invited me for a some mate with his lifeguard friends. It ended up being a very pleasant afternoon, drinking mate and talking about stuff.
One of them gave me a lift back to Miramar at 630 and I caught the bus back to MDP. Fabulous stuff. Dinner that night was with Noe’s girlfriends, a delightful bunch of ladies who made me miss my own delightful bunch of ladies.
The next day was my last day in MDP and I went out on a mission. To purchase clothes for the inevitably colder weather I will be experiencing in Ushuaia or even in Bolivia and Peru. Managed to get that done, spent some time on the super extremely crowded beach and even went swimming for a bit. Then, it was back to Noe’s place to pack and I was off again! Next stop, Puerto Madryn!