A very wet day in San Antonio de Areco

Trip Start Jun 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 14, 2010

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Where I stayed
Estados Unidos, San Telmo

Flag of Argentina  , Buenos Aires,
Friday, November 13, 2009

On Saturday we decided to take a trip out of town and took a two hour bus ride to San Antonio de Areco (Areco for short), a small town in the Southern Pampas. We managed to translate the sign in the bus station that informed us that only passengers were allowed on the platform, with the exception of the following disadvantaged groups who can have someone to accompany them: Juveniles; Disabled; Elderly; Foreigners who can't speak Spanish. We’re sure we fit into at least one category.

The bus was of exceedingly fine quality "Cama" (bed) featuring wide and deeply reclining seats and featuring padded leg rests. The weather was fine as we set out and it became increasingly warmer and more humid as we approached our destination. This would appear to be a very fine day to visit the pretty town and its outdoor museum.

We were quite excited to see the Hotel Kiss Me en-route, as we had read about the Argentinian 'love motels’ where anonymity is the name of the game and we presume that this is one such hotel. Apparently, though we haven’t tried it out, when you drive in a sign flashes to tell you which room you are allocated, negating the need for checking in and having to give details of who you are. A few minutes later a waiter arrives at your door with drinks and takes the fee. When your two hours are almost up, he’ll phone the room and ask whether or not you want more drinks (ie more hours) and you decide whether two hours is long enough! Apparently the love motels are often used by people who live in small confined homes with extended family and not much privacy, not just those who have a home but are sharing this room with someone from elsewhere! Whatever it’s use, it was amusing to see the Hotel Kiss Me signs.

Anyhow, we stayed on the bus and arrived in San Antonio de Areco. We made our way from the bus station to the town square just in time for it to start drizzling. Ah ha, maybe we should have taken the cue from the heat and humidity and realised what was going to happen!

We headed out of the rain into the ‘Usina Vieja’, a local history museum housed in the old power station. In reality it is all sorts of old stuff that local people didn’t really want to keep but didn’t really want to throw away, so they gave it to the museum. Hence, it was a very eclectic collection with not much of a theme! In the main room was an experimental bi-plane built by local guy Toto Gomez in the 1980’s. There were some interesting old newspaper clippings relating to the building and flying of it, all going a bit yellow, on the wall. It was surrounded by a small collection of typewriters, a collection of adding machines, a few old radios, the old Areco telephone exchange (used until the 1980’s and with lots of tatty bits of paper attached with important and useful phone numbers), a bit of armless statuary and some photos and clippings related to another local guy who was a successful national racing driver who mysteriously disappeared in the 1960’s.

On our way from here to Museo Gaucho (the gaucho museum) we stopped off for a drink and alfajore, homemade with their own dulce de leche, a specialism of this little café. Actually what we remember it for is the torrential storm that took place whilst we sat here. The thunder, lightning, rain and incredible wind surpassed even the worst of the previous storms we’ve experienced in Argentina (or anywhere else on our travels). We had to keep moving seats to escape from where the rain was next finding its way through previously invisible cracks in the roof. The lads who we’d been watching jumping off the bridge into the river decided it was too wet to carry on and went home. The bit of parkland between us and the river became a lake and the road just became a raging torrent. The wind was so strong that substantial branches (not just twigs) were being torn from trees and being blown around. While we were watching the storm there was a sudden flash and loud crack which we took to be a street lamp finally filling with water and shorting out. This would explain why the lights in the cafe went out and we were now in the wet and dark. 

Hence our contingency plan of waiting until the rain eased off a bit and then running to a restaurant to while away the hours until it was time to get the bus back was not going to happen as no-one had any power. We sat it out in the café for about an hour and eventually it calmed down enough to get down the street and see what was going on. We decided to brave it through what was now a quagmire to get over the bridge to the very undeveloped side of town and the gaucho museum. Here we discovered that the flash/crack was actually a tree that had been struck by lightning which had blasted the whole thing to pieces. The strong winds had also blown over and uprooted a number of whole trees, narrowly missing houses, cars etc. One of these trees had came down over a power line, bringing it down and therefore plunging the whole town into darkness and powerlessness.

We made our way into the museum where they have a number of old buildings full of all sorts of historical stuff and artefacts relating to gaucho lifestyle and in particular the poet and writer Ricardo Guiraldes. What we remember it for most is the incredible number of hungry mosquitoes that descended on us from every direction and feasted like mad on our bodies! Fortunately this is not a malaria or dengue fever region but nevertheless we had a lot a very red and very itchy bites for days! This combined with the fact that by the time we’d got there through rain and storm it was actually only 30 minutes until closing time, meant that we had a very quick visit! However all the hungry mosquitoes did remind us that we needed to stock up on anti-malaria tablets for our journey north.

Outside the museum three men armed with a long pole and a ladder resting precariously on one of the semi-broken trees were attempting to get the power line back in place. We dodged under the cable and made our way back into the still powerless town where shopkeepers were busily sweeping water out of their shops, removing torn-off blinds from over windows and so on. We wondered why there were oranges scattered all over the road and pavement and then realised that the street was lined with orange trees which had lost most of their fruit in the last couple of hours. Presumably there are so many oranges around that no-one’s even interested in collecting them ( although we were tempted to do so!)

As no-one could make us a cup of tea, we sought out fizzy pop and a piece of cake and contemplated how badly mistreated the lovely old building over the road had been over the years. Also, outside this cake shop we found the dog, asleep, that had followed us around town for half an hour earlier in the day. We kept telling him that he didn’t belong to us, but every time we stopped to look at something, he’d wait and then carry on with us when we continued! Perhaps we’d worn him out by here as he continued to sleep really well throughout our pop and cake stop and fortunately didn’t wake up when we left!

There were some interesting old buildings around the town, some looking lovely and others very badly altered and ‘renovated’. In particular we couldn’t imagine why anyone would do what they did to create the Agro Americano Hotel, which seemed very aptly named.

The shop window announcing, larger than life, ‘Mas chocolate para todos!’ (’more chocolate for everybody!’) raised our hopes but there seemed to be no signs of life. Maybe it was just another Argentinian protest?

In Areco there are none of the modern high rise, nor the old monumental buildings and mansions that are to be found in Buenos Aires. It is a quiet and peaceful place, although I suspect that if we’d been there week earlier when the annual gaucho ‘Day of Tradition’ was taking place it may have been a little rowdier!
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mx-5.snob on

You Kids must run on double duracell, extra extreme, super dooper never to run out, triple plus energy cells !!! Have you thought about taking a day off :)

leonard Bryant on

Great post!

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