Saturday, March 14, 2009

La Playa! (Part II) when we left off, I was enjoying my last scenic moments of Necochea on Day #3...

The 5 remaining soldiers (Me, Marisa, Paul, Megan, and Kieran-- soon to be named the "Fabulous Five"-- as opposed to the "Sloppy Seven") took off for the bus station around 6:00pm armed with 7 litros of cerveza, all seven of which were consumed in full within the first hour of the two hour bus ride to Mar de Plata. You can then, of course, imagine how much the people around us liked us.

Highlights of the bus trip included 1) having to use the SAUNA-esque bathroom TWICE, where I baked and boiled as I hung on for dear life as I tried to avoid being tossed into the toilet...

(That's me expressing my disappointment in the bathroom situation.)

..and 2) meeting the Mar de Plata local seated next to Paul, Ezequiel, who took a fond liking to us crazy gringos and sent us on a mission to dine at his family's Cuban restaurant, La Boedguita, upon our arrival. He also invited us to hang out later, which I'll get to when the time comes...

Anyway, we arrived in Mar de Plata around 8:00 PM and walked just a couple short blocks to what eventually revealed itself to be a complete $#%$-hole of a hostel. I won't even bother to put it's name here, on the off chance someone should mistake it for a recommendation. Highlights of the hostel were me throwing out my back just by laying down on the "mattress" for too long, having the eery feeling that my sheets hadn't been washed in a very long time, and of course, not being able to flush any of the toilets without reaching your hand into the wall and fiddling with one of the many tubes and handles and knobs and whatnots. Yum!

ANYway, we threw down our bags, and after enjoying our showers in the bathroom where the shower had no door or curtain and poured directly onto the toilet, we made ourselves beautiful and headed out to the Cuban place for dinner. Here's the Fabulous Five being, well, fabulous:

Dinner was quite nice. Having lived in Cuba, I can say that the mojitos were positively sub-par and overly sweet, but the food was divine. I had a pork loin type thing bathed in a sweet sauce, and served with yellow rice, roasted red pepper and fried banana.

The walls were decorated with interesting pictures (I think some were originals) from the Cuban revolution, lots of odes to Che, a couple Cuban flags, and plenty of graffiti. I decided to go for it and leave my mark as well.

We finished off dinner, and when the owner of the restaurant found out we were "friends" of Ezequiel's, she called him right up! After dinner we headed to the beach to enjoy the scenery and a couple more litros, and sure enough, while we were there Ezequiel showed up! What a crazy kid he is. None of us could really figure out why he took such an interest in us, but he proceeded to pile the 5 of us into his tiny little car and drive us around town, stopping at landmarks and things, before finally we decided to head back to the hostel. He was nice but... I don't know, just a little off. But it was a fun experience, and a great little tour!

The next day we walked ALL of Mar de Plata, which as it turns out is a very cool city! There is a road that heads all along the coast, and we walked the whole thing on the way to one of the furthest beaches, Playa Grande, on the way passing some amazing scenery, and some phenomenal houses!

We finally arrived at our destination after the very long but beautiful walk, and collapsed on the beach for a few hours. However, not quite as many hours as before-- our sun burns were all starting to catch up with us, and with the exception of Paul (the perma-tanned Philipino), we were turning into some seriously hot little potatoes.

So at this point, Marisa and Kieran announced that they NEEDed to watch some futbol game (champions league something something blah blah blah) so we all taxied back to the hostel, showered up, and they headed to a bar for the game while Megan and I did some exploring. It was a blast! We found several cool little plazas, and a couple ferias selling local artisan stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of it was hippies selling lame things like hair wraps and hemp necklaces, but amidst that garbage were some real winners. I left with an awesome pair of wire and jade earrings for only $10 pesos! Score!

We also ran into a strange little flea market, selling mostly sunglasses and flip flops and not-stolen-at-all watches and cheap jewelry. And I would be remiss not to mention that they also had entire tables selling pocket knives, and get this-- NUM CHUCKS!!! AND THROWING KNIVES!!! Dad, are you hearing this?? It was shocking.

Anyway, we kept the night pretty mellow and low key, because we needed to get up early the next day to catch the bus to our next (and my last) stop in Villa Gesel.

My lasting impression of Mar de Plata was grand-- I loved that it was very urban, yet much friendlier than Buenos Aires. It had a lively scene and seemed like it would probably be a very hopping place in peak season. Luckily, we arrived just a couple weeks late and didn't have to fight too many crowds. It was a great contrast to Necochea which had much more of a small town feel. And Villa Gesel ended up being yet another very different place, with woods and trees and more of a small, bohemian feel, with unpaved roads and sandy walkways.

My last day was spent in the lovely Villa Gesel, about an hour and half north of Mar de Plata, a trip which involved plenty of unpaved roads (so my fellow travelers tell me-- I was asleep!). The taxi ride from the bus station to the hostel (where the 4 others were staying, but I was just leaving my bags, as I was leaving that night) was amazing. Just a look at the map of the town reveals an eccentric layout of winding, almost zig-zagged streets that somehow still manage to follow a numbered street system. The taxi wound us through tiny streets covered in sand, passed funky little beach houses all along the way, and we enjoyed the tree lined streets and laid back atmosphere.

Unfortunately, within the first hour we were there it started to rain! :-( But we trekked to the beach anyway, to take a few pictures and just catch a glimpse.

Luckily it eventually cleared up and turned out to be a pretty nice, sunny day once again! The rest of the day was spent wandering the town, enjoying some casual lunch and yummy coffee, doing some shopping (I got some new Havaiana flip flops-- all the rage here in Argentina), walking through the bosque and seeing some gorgeous forested areas, and walking all the way to the other end of town to the pier, where we watched the locals fish using these bizarre fishing baskets tied to the end of huge wooden poles. Our legs were sore from all the walking, but it was worth it!

After some relaxation time with a couple beers and some salads and french fries, it was time for me to be on my way back to Buenos Aires on a midnight bus.... and here I am, back in the big city, living in my new apartment, and facing the reality of unemployment, or worse, A JOB. (ha) More on that later.