Cottonwoods rustling in a light breeze as the daylight fades, it’s 8:30 pm and we are posted up along the bank of the Rio Colorado after a 500 km drive from our beach camp outside of Necochea. Slurping camp cups full of vino tinto, resting in the cool shade watching Brotherbear try and snag the warm water lurkers in the river, while Andrew prepares our vegetable salad for our evening meal. The water is muddy, the river is wide, a beaver lodge sits on the far bank, besides the eucalyptus tree to my right and the Amazonian carp like river monsters sucking at the surface, I could be on the bank of the Yellowstone in Eastern Montana on a warm July day.
We’ve come 1200 km south and now west of Buenos Aires over the last three days, slowly adjusting to the nuances of Argentinian roads, maneuvering a 3 ton high top van, and sleeping with 4 large human beings in less than 100 square feet. The road conditions have been great thus far, well paved and signed, pot holes few and far in between, our biggest worry being unmarked speed bumps when cruising through towns and cities. Topes, big ones, small ones, tall ones, seem to emerge from the street at random times and after a stretch of real pot rattlers, we’ve conceded defeat and now are typically the slowest vehicle through town. We’ve mostly been on 2 lanes highways that remind me of the highway between 3 forks and Helena, lots of ancient farm trucks pulling oversized loads at low speed, comical 20 car lines end up forming and we have no choice but to ride it out. Top speed allowed for our vehicle by law is 110 km/hr, when passing semis our record top speed was nearing 120km/hr, the majority of the time our cruising speed is 90km/hr (60 mph). We get passed often and more often than not we are greeted with honks and waves as the van is a one of a kind vehicle in these parts.
Before coming down I had a vision of empty beaches and even emptier line ups, and thus persuaded the crew to head south to Mar Del Plata, the most popular surf and beach town in Argentina. Along the way we stopped at our first beach in San Clement, for a bit of swim before moving on to find our campsite for the night, as we crested the boardwalk we were met with the largest expanse of humans on a beach I’ve ever seen or imagined. As far as the eye could see the were people 75 yards from water line to the dunes, it was like the 4th of July in Newport except it was a just a casual Thursday in Argentina, and the water was milky brown. After a good nights sleep in a beachside parking lot with a few other campers, we hit the road to Mar Del Plata. Cabanas stretched for hundreds of hards across each beach and the people even further, MDP seemed to be hosting the majority of Argentina and we moved on from the 600,000 Argentinian version of Huntington Beach.
Necochea provided us with a scenic beach overlook to park for the night, perched on the edge of a small semi circle cove, we had the the perfect lookout. After a pasta and sautéed hot dog feast, we enjoyed a nice fire in an alcove on the beach below, wine was consumed, stories were told and we end up calling it our latest night thus far by far at 0130 AM. We awoke to the most intense lightning storm I’ve been in, in as long as I can remember, the sky stayed lit from lightning almost constantly for an hour. One Mississippi is as far as I was getting when one bolt struck somewhere really close to the van, scary enough to keep me awake until the storm passed an hour later. The Lightning ceded but the rain continued and we awoke to an overcast perfect day for driving.
There are a few KOA type campgrounds across the river from us that we’ve thus far managed to avoid by using the iOverlander app to locate bush campsites along the way, night 3 of 3 with peaceful scenic places to park the van cook dinner and drink some vino tinto. Our riverside campsite was in a cleared lot in between two modern riverfront estates, we parked the van and set about our evening as though we were meant to be there. For dinner we had a wonderful pesto pasta, with Andrews vegetable salad on the side, and vino tinto to compliment the meal. I set up our tent for the first time so we could sleep outside with the breeze, and Brian took the opportunity to demonstrate how the cops would approach the tent as we were sleeping to bust us for our illegal campsite. Just as he was finishing up he turned around to headlights in his face and he announced that we did indeed have company, the Policia. The two cops were very cordial and explained that we were on private property and would have to move, Marlie charmed the smaller nicer cop into allowing us to stay for the night, with the promise that we’d leave early in the AM. Another bottle of vino tinto was opened and we celebrated our first run in with the law in Argentina, and our first victory in convincing them that we weren’t worth bothering.