Las Grutas is a pit.
We woke up pretty early in our lovely YPF campsite. It actually wasn’t a bad stop over spot, all things considered. It took us awhile to figure out everything in the van, but once we got the hot water heater going and some coffee in our systems, we felt better. It was really nice being able to take a shower!
We packed up our stuff and headed over to the YPF station to dump some trash and get some waters. A dude was staring at us funny. Then we realized we had left the water heater on. Whew. Glad he noticed it.
We had a long day of driving ahead of us, so we took off. Susanne at the helm.
But first a few things on driving in Argentina
- The Speed Bumps. As mentioned before, there are lots and lots of speed bumps. Some are marked. Some are not. It can be bone jarring. They even had speed bumps on a bumpy dirt road. Sheesh. After a few hundred of these, it can make you a little cranky.
- Traffic Rules. I have driven in some seriously crazy places – like downtown Rome. However, it always seems that as crazy as it might appear, there are actually some rules and many unwritten rules. Thus far, the rules of the road in Argentina have completely escaped me. It makes you wonder when the only driving advice given to you by the RV company is “if you see a stop sign, don’t stop, whatever you do”. The intersections don’t appear to have any rules at all. You come up to one and just try to act like it’s yours. The roundabouts are completely inconsistent. Sometimes the entering cars have the right away. Some times the cars in the roundabout have the right away. Occasionally these are marked.
- Police Stops. We have been stopped at least 3 times already. The first dude was seriously worried that our fire extinguisher might be out of date. As a bunch of tourista in a campervan, we get pulled over every time.Trucks. The driving has been a bit harder than I expected. A big part of the challenge is that there is an official law here in Argentina that says there must be 2 large 18 wheel trucks for every person. Ok, just kidding there, but there are a lot of trucks. Some drive 100, some drive 80, some drive with wobbly wheels at 50. It makes for a lot of passing on the road. Which, of course, is rutted and rough. It gets tiring.
- Navigation. There aren’t that many roads, so you would think that navigation shouldn’t be that hard. Think again. The signage is tough and inconsistent. You would think it would say “Ruta 22 – Puerto Madryn” if Puerto Madryn was the big town at the end of the road. Not so. One time it will say “Punta Gorda 432 km”, which might be a small town part way to the big town. The next it might say “Playa Negro 623 km” which is a small town well past the obvious choice. Worst of all, as you come up to a roundabout, it will tell you about the big towns, but once at the roundabout it only shows minor towns you have no idea where they are. We have gotten lost numerous times already.
- Petrol. The dudes at Andean Roads told us to try and get Euro Diesel for the van as that is the higher grade and it will run better. The way to find Euro Diesel is to see a gas station that has at least 40 cars waiting in line. It’s hard to come by. We finally just gave up and put the regular diesel in the thing. The distances are huge too. So when Cris told us to make sure we fill up when we are at half, he was not kidding.
Ok, back to the day. Most of it was pretty uneventful.
We had a 10 hr drive. Susanne drove for the first 4 hours and did great. She only worried me once in the first 5 minutes, but after that she was passing trucks like an Argentinian…….ok, not that, she was a lot more sane. Susanne did have to talk some sense into me when I didn’t feel like waiting in line for gas, and thought we could make. After 5k, Susanne made the right call and we went back to petrol. Whew.
Our destination was Las Grutas, which was supposed to be this really nice beach town. We headed in to town and I thought, ”man, this is kinda dumpy”. I had scoped an area to the south of town that looked great on Google earth, so I wasn’t too worried about the dumpiness of it all. We stopped and picked up a roasted chicken for dinner at a little rotisserie. Susanne asked the woman about camping on the beach and she said a bunch of cars had been eaten by the tide the week before and we should stay in the formal campgrounds in town. We both thought we would go check out the area to the south anyway. We bounced around trying to find it (speed bumps of course) and did finally find the dirt road. Along it was a true shanty town. Pretty scary looking, so we bagged that idea. Now it was getting late and we were really tired, so we headed back in to town and resigned ourselves to the formal campground. But they looked awful. Walled in and wall to wall. Ugh. Susanne had seen a sign for a place just out town near the airport, so we headed there. As we were driving in, we just followed a sign to the beach. Nobody was there. Yeah! People just don’t seem to “free camp” here.
We climbed up on the sand dunes, opened a bottle of wine, ate some food and breathed a sign of relief that we had found a good place to stay. Whew.
It has been stinking hot, which we really weren’t counting on. It was quite hot and muggy, so we just hung out and looked at stars until it cooled off a bit. The stars are amazing and we weren’t even in a very good spot.
Setting up your own travel is both great and a pain in the ass. Things that look and sound good in the travel books can be just hideous. But, you just have to go with it and not let it stress you out too much. Yesterday was classic. Lots of driving, end up at a pit of a town but finally find a nice beach
We are contemplating cutting in to the mountains after tomorrow, as the East Coast has not proven to be a bit underwhelming. Tomorrow we get to what is supposed to be a “great spot” for penguins and camping. We shall see.