Reta is a small village with one tarmac road on the southern coast of Provincia Buenos Aires. It’s sound is rustling leaves, for the wind blows ceaselessly. On the beach it is almost unbearable. The first time we made our way there with nothing more than swimming costumes and towels, ready to sample the apparently warmer waters of the southern coast. The great dunes guarding the entrance to the beach offered ample warning of what was to come but, being unscientific, we failed to relate dunes to high winds, and so descending to the beach was quite a shock. Sand like flying needles thrashed up the beach and cut into our skin. Before we’d made it to the sea we were cowering for protection under our towels.
But the wind is different at our cabin, around five blocks from the mighty dunes. Here, on the balcony of our bedroom, it is calming and cooling. The sun has moved around behind the wall. Its fierce light still bakes the dirt road out in front, on the other side of the trees. Leaves with ordered veins that dance in and out of the shadows hang loosely from swaying branches.
We found Reta by tracing a finger along the South coast of the Provincia of Buenos Aires and stopping when a town appeared that met our criteria: it had to have a road leading to it so that we could actually get there; but its name could neither be in bold nor in large front, thereby removing the possibility of our arriving at a dirt-spouting tourist-ridden metropolis.
Before leaving Puerto Madryn, the place of unseen whales and sea lions and mini penguins, I went to buy lunch (vomit-flavoured cream cheese with greasy salami in bread that crumbled to nothing upon being touched, allowing the vomitcheese to slop onto your lap) while the others called ahead from a locutorio, which is effectively a row of prison cells with phones in, going through numbers for cabins in Reta. The majority of them didn’t work, some were for other things, like hotels in Patagonia and bakeries in Paraguay; but one, just one, worked. They made the reservation and here we are, in this tranquil windy paradise.
We’ve left the car fully open so that the wind blows away the lingering smell of petrol. The people here are probably the friendliest in Argentina, and the fact that there is no police force must mean that there is no crime (or is that bad reasoning?), so we though it would be alright to leave the car unlocked. (It was fine.)
While the beach is not the best place to hang out during the day, as evening approaches there is no better place to be than huddled together on the slope of the dune, watching the sun sink into the sea. Only a small portion of Argentina’s coastline goes horizontally East to West; the rest is vertical, facing the Atlantic head-on. Reta is on that thin slither, to the East of the bigger Monte Hermoso, and so it is one of the few places in Argentina in which the sun does indeed set beyond the sea.
In the dying light I walked back alone, following the dirt road until our cabin. On both sides trees and shrubs would hide bungalows with peeling walls. From time to time something more modern would stand out, though not enough to destroy the sense that this place was uncorrupted by the outside world.