No reservations about the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve: May 31, 2013


Light shines on the Puerto Madero skyline and the pampas grass in the Costanera Sur Ecological Preserve. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

I found my favorite juxtaposition again. Right next to the barrio of Puerto Madero —Buenos Aires’ abruptly different and futuristic add-on — lies the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. Not only does it have the requisite beautiful views of a cityline rising about countryside, but it also provides access to the Atlantic Ocean (top that, all other city parks!)


The reserve covers more than 800 acres, according to Wikipedia. If you take the street Estados Unidos through the San Telmo barrio, walking east, and continue walking straight through Puerto Madero, you will eventually hit an entrance to the reserve. (I prefer this route as it is a lovely walk and this entrance has bathrooms and a visitor’s center nearby.)


The trail from this entrance reminds me of ones in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park: It’s a wide, well-groomed dirt path that is easy to saunter along. Though the reserve is touted as a place for joggers, bikers and other sweat-loving individuals, it is common to see people in casual wear outnumbering the people in spandex and expensive sport shoes. The reserve is a friendly place that seems to encourage passersby to come in off the street,  though I have yet to see women in high heels attempting trails as I did in South Korea.


As you walk along the trail you will see those glorious steel and glass towers of man’s accomplishment rising above a lush green field full of feathery, elegant stalks of pampas grass. Amble on for about a mile and the scenery abruptly changes: now the vista is full of the blue, blue ocean.


The “beach” here, such as it is, is odd. It’s rocky; not in itself unusual, but upon closer inspection you notice that most of the stones appear to be lumps of concrete with smaller rocks embedded in them. Even more curious are the softly rounded boulders of bricks — still in layers. The beach is more like a cemetery where old construction materials have gone to die. It’s difficult to walk here, with or without shoes, but it also has one of the more plentiful deposits of smoothed and mellowed sea glass that I have ever seen. Plus, it’s always fun to take those rocks and chuck them into the ocean.


The reserve is also known for being a fantastic spot for bird-watching and indeed, I saw birds of such wonderful plumage that I was stupefied by their colors. Being no ornithologist, I can not give you specific names, but technically speaking I can quite confidently say that they were “super pretty.”


If, by chance, you are walking along this trail late in the afternoon with hardly anyone around, you may happen upon a tree where a flock of wild green parakeets have gathered to loudly chatter, eat berries of said tree and drop bits on unsuspecting people below. If you are very fortunate, an elderly gentleman in a quite lovely pair of aubergine leather loafers will save you, by vehemently protesting against you eating those berries (though they did smell quite sweet and perhaps one would not have hurt.)


This same gentleman may also be on hand to offer you sage advice about a certain gray cat that haunts this entrance/exit. (It could be that you and he have the same moseying pace which others so rudely term as slow). The gateway to the reserve is preceded by a long promenade that is completely shaded by trees. If you pause long enough on this leafy green avenue, you might espy a pair of bright yellow eyes looking at you out of an abominably cute, gray, furry face. The cat  looks innocuous, with lovely tiger stripes running through its fur, and is on the smallish side. It is not shy and willingly comes up to you to rub its soft head against your hands.


“Que bonita,” the man might say, “pero le gusta atacar.”* Though your Spanish is limited, you will have understood perfectly what he has said. Especially as he will have dispensed this bit of wisdom only after the cat has abruptly ceased the petting session by whirling around and biting you. On another day, you will witness again the truth of this statement as you watch in open-mouthed wonder as the cat ambushes a dog 7 times its size with swipes and hisses.


An interesting side note for those who still have time on their hands after the reserve: If you walk toward San Telmo from the reserve, you will pass a large, lovely park. Within that park are several green areas and a small children’s area. While the playground equipment is serviceable and sturdy, one piece truly stands out: a rather sizable zipline. It’s large and long enough to sustain the attention and weight of adults (Bjorn and I have thoroughly tested it — all in the name of service to others, of course.)


If you go to “exercise” on the zipline by yourself and are the size and height of a 12-year-old with all the threatening demeanor of a baby panda, you may soon find yourself approached by children with no concept of personal space who want to “play” with you,  i.e. expect you to retrieve the rope on the zipline and help them get on it. If they are too small to ride the zipline, they may instead choose to hunker down at the top of the zipline’s platform and roll their marbles down the ramp, proving spectacularly aloof about the dangerous obstacle they present to others and the perilous position they place themselves and others in.


In other words: You should try it. It’s pretty fun.


*(So pretty, but likes to attack.)

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