Argentina – Mar del Plata, Puerto Madryn

So, Mar del Plata is a town of 800,000 that swells to the size of 3 million during January, when Argentinians come on their summer vacation to pack tiny beaches to the gills and party in the streets from 2 or 3am until after the sun comes up, or 8am. The drink Fernet Branca mixed with Coke, in large quantities, and until my last day there I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was raining, cold, and windy as hell. The second day I braved the third windiest beach I have ever come across, and came out of it no tanner and with sand in my ears, as well as everywhere else. Not only was the weather shit, but the high rises over the water looked so out of place in a beach town with all one story cottage looking buildings. This is a town in desperate need of a development committee. Ugly, crowded, time to leave. We booked passage out of here, and on the last day, with a 9pm start to a 12 hour bus ride looming, the sun came out. It is beautiful when the sun shines, and the beaches and people immediately became more attractive. The night before, I wandered into a punk feeling bar, with two live bands. The first was in the mold of Phish, sort of country sounding jam band. The second was a straight SKA band, complete with horns, emphasized upbeats on guitar, and nonsensical somewhat punk sounding singing in Spanish. Their title song for the album translates to Welcome to the Mosh. However, though the welcome was there, no moshing happened. When I met the band ahead of time, he tried to make sure I understood what Mosh was. I think maybe he didn’t know that it was a word we would be familiar with in English. But he is apparently a huge Maceo Parker fan, the sax player in the band, and to prove this he showed me his tattoo, which was a portrait of Charlie Parker. I think something may have gotten lost in the translation. It’s hard to know whether some miscommunications and difficulties are due to my imperfect understanding of Spanish, or whether I am keeping true to form, and meeting some real fucking characters. Read: lunatics. Anyway, after three days, only one of them nice, it is on to Puerto Madryn, and a hopefully smaller ”beach town.”

Puerto Madryn is further down the coast, on into Patagonia. As we get further from the equator, the daylight has been lasting longer and longer, and it has started to get cold at night, though it is still hot during the day. The beach is less crowded here, and the wind keeps you from noticing that you have gotten burned until much too late. About an hour and a half from town is a place called Punto Tombo, where literally hundreds of thousands of penguinos come over the summer from their winter hangout off the coast of Brazil somewhere. They are about two feet tall, and have terrible eyesight, so they can’t see you until you are basically on top of them. It is bananas to be there. You turn around in a circle, and it’s nothing but penguins in every direction, all flapping and waddling around. There are Orca here as well, off the coast, but they are hard to see this time of year, as well as dolphins that are colored like the killer whales, black and white in patches. There are llama like things called Guanaco that travel in packs, rampaging around the desert and causing trouble. And in the middle of it all, the middle of nowhere, is a town that was founded by Welsh settlers with the encouragement of the Argentinian government, back in the middle 1800’s. They still teach Welsh in some of the schools there, although no one looks particularly Welsh. The early settlers made friends with the local indigenous tribe called the Tehuelche, who were unlike other native American tribes in that they were about 2 meters tall, even the women. So, at 6’3”, that makes me a little shorter than they were on average. There are none left who haven’t mingled with the tribe from Chile, the Mapuche, but just imagine some local Welsh villagers, about 200 of them, making friends with natives who were probably about a foot or so taller than them. They got along alright, and all that is left in the town of Gaiman is 5 or so Welsh tea houses aimed at tourists. I did not have Welsh tea and cakes, not because I didn’t appreciate the novelty of it, but mostly because I heard they taste like shit. So.

We have booked passage on to the heart, so to speak, of Patagonia, a mountain town called El Calafate, where we will see some glaciers and be cold, and lose whatever tans we had managed to aquire before. The problem from there is to get to Bariloche without either taking busses for two days straight, or breaking the bank on a flight. I have a shirt that I like to wear in times of such monumental decision making, and it is red, with a picture of a face, and black font words that read, ”What Would Chuck Norris Do?” It has become my mantra, and in sorting out the flights and travel, I wonder, what would that great man do? Well, he would probably start off all nice an polite, and get the airline and bus company reps into the same room to try to reason with them. But, being corporate bastards, they would obviously make things difficult, and Chuck would end up having to crack some fucking skulls, using his best 60 year old Bruce Lee lessons, and end up drop kicking both of them in the head. Then he would hijack a bus, grab all the local poor people he could find, and start a populist, socialist, yet still capitalist (he’s all about the paper) revolution, one damn bus at a time. And those evil corporate misanthropes would do what he told them, in the end, and take him and all his new buddies from El Calafate to San Carlos de Bariloche out of the goodness of their hearts. This epic journey would last, tops, about 15 minutes. So, that is what I am going to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Onward…

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