Argentina 16: Along the Coast, Burrowing Parrots, Raspberries and Beaches

 

From Valdés we continued north and camped wild at Playa El Doradillo behind a dune.

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Camping wild at Playa El Doradillo

Next morning we drove up to Las Grutas – here we could see that in the main holiday season, camping sites seemed full and noisy.

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Las Grutas beach
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Obesity also a problem in South America

Finally we ended near San Antonio Oeste camping on El Oasis, a much quieter spot along the coast. A camper told us that we are close to the best source of fresh prawns – when we get to San Antonio Oeste we should buy there, which we did next morning and were grateful for the tip as they were indeed fresh and delicious.

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San Antonio Oeste Prawn Boats

Along this stretch of coast we were keen to see the Burrowing Parrots that are supposed to breed in the sandstone cliffs. We turned off to reach Punta Mejillon, but after driving around in Reserva Provincial Caleta de los Loros we had not found them. On the way we again met the friendly couple from Buenos Aires, Luciano and Natalia, that we had previously briefly met before and they directed us to where we could see the parrots further on. They insisted that, should we come to BA, we must please stay with them.

For the night we wild camped just before La Loberia with a splendid view over the ocean and had a delicious meal of fresh prawns. During the night the wind again started pumping – it was impossible to prepare breakfast next morning and we decided to eat in town.

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From El Espigon ( a surfer spot) onwards we started to observe the first green-blue-yellow Burrowing Parrots (Loro Barranquero) high up on the cliffs. At El Condor we saw many more although the breeding season was already over – this must have been very impressive a few weeks earlier. In this area the Rio Negro flows into the Atlantic and the many trees provide plenty of feeding for the birds.

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Sheer cliffs at El Espigon – a spot also enjoyed by surfers and anglers
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Burrowing Parrots breeding in the rock face
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Burrowing Parrots

The landscape changed along the R3 – more grasslands and cattle as well as fields of sunflowers. In Pedro Luro is a meat control point – however, only a problem if you travel southwards here. For the night we turned in at Laguna La Salada, a saline lake with some flamingos as well as ducks, swans and other shore birds. We parked in a little wood along the lagoon, quiet and distant from other campers around this popular place during holidays.

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Chilenean Flamingos
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Black-necked Stilts
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Coscoroba Swan and Koot

When we reached Bahia Blanca we were surprised to see another control point – this time one for fruit and vegetables – again only applicable for southbound travellers.

On the R51 we reached Saldungaray and saw at its entry to the cemetery a unique entrance portal named “ Christo de Salamone” that was created by the Italian architect Francisco de Salamone.

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“ Christo de Salamone” by the Italian architect Francisco de Salamone

In town we visited the local church that has a virgin Maria in a lying position -somewhat unusual.

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We carried on to Sierra de la Ventana in which area swallows come to breed. Camping Lourdes was fairly full, but offered good facilities.

Next we tried to see Swallows  ( Golondrinas esp.) in Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist – unfortunately too late in the season, they had already migrated back to North America.

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La Ventana – the window in the rocks

So we proceeded along the RN33 via Pigüe to Guamini on Laguna del Monte and enjoyed the antics of the wind-and kite surfers and took a dip in the lake. We camped in what seemed more of a picnic area than a campsite.

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Carnival time
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Street art in Guamini

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When we arrived in Benito Juárez we were again able to withdraw money and while parking opposite Escuela San Martin, the school in town, we got spotted by the teachers who welcomed us to their region and related stories about town and the area.

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Warm welcome by the teachers of Escuela San Martin in Benito Juaréz

Here we realised that we had missed the annual raspberry festival by a few days. They strongly recommended that we drive a few km to Villa Cacique, the center of raspberry farming ( frambuesas esp.) and they promptly arranged that Alejandra, the local tourist officer, would receive us and guide us around.

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On arrival Alejandra was already waiting, showed us where we could camp for free in the forest with a park and pond nearby and took us to the Olympic size swimming pool to refresh. A little unusual was the procedure of us being checked for hair lice and athlete’s foot before being allowed in – a standard health and safety procedure at this facility! We passed and enjoyed the cool waters.

Next morning she took us to a frambuesa farm where we learned about this fruit being planted and bought the freshest fruits having been harvested only an hour before.

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On the raspberry farm with Alejandra

Along the 74 we passed Ayacucho, then along the Ruta 2 until Pinamar, where we turned off, drove past Villa Gesell on to Mar de Las Pampas, which was a recommended by our friend Caro to visit. This area is popular with coastal holiday seekers at this time of year, we nevertheless found a camping spot at Autocamping Casablanca with direct walking access to the beach with the possibility of bathing – not in the clear, cold waters of Patagonia but now in the warmer, brownish waters from the major rivers. Driving here, there was not much natural habitat left, everywhere huge farms with soya, sunflowers etc.

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Mar de las Pampas

The camping was very relaxed and we enjoyed lazing for 4 days , doing long beach walks and visiting the quaint, touristic town that offers a lot of different artisanal handy work and we found also a lot of music from South America, recommended by Pablo in his train carriage shop.

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Pablo at his music shop

Then we headed further in the direction of San Clemente de Tuyú – their beach is also brown from the nearing Rio de la Plata delta. There is an Ocean World here ( Mundo Marino) which we did not visit as we do not like show animals in captivity. On the way we were forced to pay P75 toll for a very short stretch as we turned off on to the 11, a scenic rural road and we reached, near Punta Indio, the Camping Municipal Sarandi – not much of a camping site, but directly situated on the coast and it seemed free as nobody collected a fee from us.

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Camping Municipal Sarandi

This post covers 10th–21st February 2018

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and nature photographer

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