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San Antonio Oeste

In the late afternoon, scores of birds fly along the narrow arm of the gulf. Sunlight dapples the slow ribbons of waters left behind by the low tide. As the tide rises, sea lions frolic in the surf as the first of the fishing boats comes in.

Located on the Gulf of San MatĂ­as in northern Patagonia, San Antonio Oeste is a South American birdwatching Mecca. These wetlands, part of the Área Natural Protegida BahĂ­a San Antonio, are a critical stopping point for countless species of migratory birds which make their annual journeys up and down South America’s eastern coast. There are six endemic species: the Gallito Arena (Sandy Gallito, Teledromas fuscus), Caserote Pardo (White-throated Cachalote, Pseudoseisura gutturalis), Monjita Castaña Rusty backed Monjita, Xolmis rubetra), Monterita Canela (Cinnamon Warbling-Finch, Poospiza ornata), Loro Barranquero (Burrowing Parrot,
Cyanoliseus patagonus) and the endangered Cardenal amarillo (Yellow Cardinal, Gubernatrix cristata). Other birds that can be seen are the Chimango (Milvago chimango), Viudita Chica (Hudson’s Black Tyrant, Knipolegus hudsoni), Flamenco Austral (Chilean flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis) and several types of gulls and egrets. Birds aren’t the only local resident: lobos marinos de un pelo (South American sea lion, Otaria flavescens) have established colonies nearby and they can frequently be seen basking on the banks of the gulf near town.

This beautiful setting is the home to one of Patagonia’s historically important commercial centers. San Antonio Oeste still is the business center for this area. On a small peninsula on the other side of the bay is San Antonio Este, the modern shipping port. On the way to this sector are many deserted beaches fringed with shells, like La Baliza, El Molino, La Bomba and Las Conchillas. Northeast of the port is Punta Perdices, a beach protected from southern winds. Next to this playa is Caleta Falsa, which drains at low tide.

In San Antonio Este are several hotels. Its neighbor to the south is Las Grutas, a popular beach resort with water-carved caves (17 km / 10 mi). Midways between San Antonio Oeste and Las Grutas is the turn-off for Mar Grande on Punta Delgada, with isolated stretches of sand, swarming with bird and sea mammal life (17 km / 10 mi).

Originally the shipping port, Saco Viejo (now known as San Antonio Este) was on Punta Villarino. But because of difficulties transporting products, the harbor was moved to Caletas del Oeste on this side of BahĂ­a San Antonio and the new town founded July 10, 1905. A rail line was constructed from here to Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi.

A number of early 20th century buildings are preserved along the costanera boulevard, Intendente Carlo Carassale. Here is “Nahuel Huasi,” the house of Ingeniero Jacobacci, the man who was responsible for the construction of the Viedma-Bariloche line and that of The Old Patagonia Express. At the end of this street are the Club NaĂștico and the Pileta, a man-made lagoon with picnic areas. The Museo Municipal has interesting displays and the administrator is happy to chat about the region’s history (Tuesday-Sunday 8 a,m.-1 p.m., 2-6 p.m., Monday 2-6 p.m. Rovadavia 55).

San Antonio has its share of special events. In January is the Fiesta de la Marea y del Pescador, with concerts, a street fair, puppet shows and movies on the beach; February marks the Fiesta Nacional del Golfo Azul with more musical events and election of Reina Nacional del Golfo Azul; the city’s founding is celebrated July 10 and in September is an annual pejerrey fishing tournament.

San Antonio Oeste and its environs offer opportunities to see abundant birdlife, take excursions, fish or scuba dive, or swim in one of the town’s balnearios. Stop for a few days: walk along the estuary, take a boat ride along the gulf coast, listen for the songs of birds, or camp beneath the Southern Cross, and listen to the choruses of the night. The austral summer is the best time to visit this corner of northern Patagonia.


Services

San Antonio Oeste is the business center for the metropolitan area, which includes Las Grutas and San Antonio Este. It has most basic services. The tourism office here is open only December-February (San Martín 467, E-mail: turismo@sanantoniooeste.gov.ar / sao.turismo @canaldig.com.ar, URL: www.sanantoniooeste.gov.ar). At other times of the year, inquire at the Las Grutas tourism office. Other service include: Policía (San Martín 525, Tel.: 42-1213), Banco del Chubut (San Martín and Moreno; ATM, exchanges US dollars and Euros), Banco Nación (Yrigoyen and Pellegrini; ATM, exchanges US dollars), Banco Patagonia Sudameris (San Martín 648; ATM), Correo Argentino (Brown 305), several locutorio phone centers and a few cyber cafés, Hospital Área Programa San Antonio Oeste Dr. Aníbal Serra (Belgrano and Såenz Peña, Tel.: 42-1211 / 42-2400), pharmacies (along San Martín and Belgrno avenues), laundry and camera shops.

ArtesanĂ­a

Mercdo Artesanal (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Yrigoyen 736)

Tour Operators

Agencies offering tours in the area are all located in Las Grutas.

Hotels

The Club NaĂștico has camping, open only in summer (Costanera and San MartĂ­n).

Some hotels increase prices in summer.

Hospedaje Iberia (Sarmiento 241, Tel.: 42-1376) – 1 person $19, 2 persons $29

Hotel Ozieri (Mitre y Victoria, Tel.: 42-1923, E-mail: hotelozieri@hotmail.com) – 1 person $23, 2 persons $40-60, includes breakfast; parking

Hotel Kandava (Sarmiento 220, Tel.: 42-1430, E-mail: hotelkandava@saomail.com) – 1 person $30, 2 persons $51, includes breakfast; parking

Restaurants

On the corner of the plaza is Supermercado La AnĂłnima (Belgrano and Moreno).

Restaurante – Marisquería – Parrilla Olaff (Sarmiento and Costanera, Tel.: 42-1674)

Restauran y ConfiterĂ­a El Americano (Avenida San MartĂ­n 738)

Restaurante El Ancla (9 de Julio 130, Tel.: 42-1577)

(Altitude: 1 m / 3 ft, Population: 17,000, Phone Code: 02934)

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Other places nearby San Antonio Oeste : Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados, Gaiman, Las Grutas, Piedra Buena , Sarmiento, Camarones , Península Valdés, Comodoro Rivadavia, Dolavon and El Cóndor .







By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

09 Aug 2011

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