Nature Walks

“Look at this, love. A wide open beach for you, me and all these 4WDs. Ace, huh?.”

It’s summer and the media have invaded the beach resorts of Argentina and Uruguay. The paparazzi are snapping shots of the celebrities and women in bikinis. Reporters are covering the hot happenings, politicians at the beach, the rise in crime and prices for everything, and doing an occasional feature story on a beach or a trend.

Buenos Aires daily La Nacion recently did a story on two balnearios, or beach huts with cafes that rent tents and chairs. The balnearios are to the north of Pinamar, a town where we’re spending the summer and where we used to live for two and a half years. The story highlights the virgin beaches, the tranquility and the natural setting of the northern balnearios, which only can be reached on foot or by 4WD. Dozens if not hundreds of 4WDs head north every day with quad bikes blazing behind. The paper interviewed five women sunbathing by their 4X4s. They said their husbands were with the kids riding quad bikes in the dunes.

I don’t frequent La Frontera or El Mas Alla, the two balnearios. Driving on the beach isn’t for me even though it’s hip, it’s in and it’s hot. The thing to do is to blaze a trail down virgin beaches and rip through the sand dunes, chopping up vegetation that takes years to grow and is vital for the survival of the dunes and the beach. The paper has a photo of the scene and it’s nothing natural. It’s a truck-infested beach with quad bikes roaring through the dunes. I’d like to ban all vehicles on the beach. Mar de las Pampas, a beach resort to the south of Pinamar, has done just that and the beach and dunes. And it works. It’s peaceful and natural. Not in Pinamar and the neighboring towns of Carilo, Ostende and Valeria del Mar.

Here’s what I would do to change this. I’d have the quad bike rental agencies run out and rid the beaches of vehicles with a campaign exposing the pollution and the dangers of driving on the beach. The vehicles are a hazard to kids on the beach and are destroying the dunes that in one stretch are protected by UNESCO, so I am told. Pinamar plowed down its dunes to build a coast road and is suffering a shrinking beach. There are plans to let the dunes rebuild but no official has the balls to get rid of all the cement-based balnearios that feed and give shelter to thousands of tourists every summer. The officials don’t want to anger the tourists; they are a mainstay for the local economy and big source of jobs and tax dollars – and of money to be made on the side through bribery. So be quiet, nature boy. Let the tourists have their fun in the sun. Stand firm? Well, I should. But then again I’d probably wind up drawn and quartered by the 4X4s and quad bikes that have turned whole stretches of the beach into highways.

I’ll go elsewhere on foot through the dunes and far from the masses, the trendies and the fumes. I’ll go with my wife and three kids (despite the complaints of hot feet). We’ll be natural. We’ll be free. And we’ll watch out not to get run over.

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