This bustling, cosmopolitan centre of some 777,000 inhabitants is the capital of the Batán region and the largest city in the Patagonian Desert. Originally founded at the confluence of the rivers Octavo and the smaller Rio Corrientes, Batán remains a national transportation hub. There are two scheduled flights every day to the capital from O’Higgins Airport (8km west of town on route A-14). The glass domed city bus station is the fourth largest on the continent and the modern train terminus – designed by local architects Dibben and Jansen has won prizes for its crowd management systems and futuristic multi-lingual signage.
Batán’s wealth was founded upon its rich mineral resources, particularly the huge open cast fullers earth mines to the north west of the city. Most Victorian tennis, bowls and croquet courts were originally levelled and sowed upon fullers earth extracted from the Hermanos mines. After the introduction of clay courts (actually made from compacted brick dust) on the Grand Prix tennis circuit in the 1950s almost all the mines were shut. Recent news is more encouraging, advances in the use of fine ceramics in jet engines and microwave transponders have led to the reopening of the mines – though on a much reduced scale.
The old town is dominated by the art deco architecture of Guash y Sala who are most famous for their later work in New York and Mexico City. In 1922 they designed the Hotel Roma (Calle Manitoba 23) which is clean and friendly and a short walk to the Plaza 25 Mayo with its old town hall, arts theatre and numerous cafes and bars. The Technical University on the other side of the river has student residencies that offer good value accommodation during vacations.
Outside the centre of Batán there is little of interest except El Museo del Relampego (Museum of Lightning) and the A-12 which claims to have the longest section of totally straight road in the Southern Hemisphere (428km), though this is disputed by the Silver City Highway in New South Wales, Australia. Many popular car adverts have been shot along this stretch of road.
On the A-3 (Gran Via Sur) lie the small towns of Cincuentavo (pop.5000) – so called because the centre of its square is exactly 50km from the Gnomon in Plaza 25 Mayo – and Diagonal (25km south of Cincuentavo). Diagonal produces almost 15% of the world’s production of blue chalk cubes used by billiard and pool players the world over. 100km south of Diagonal the road starts to climb into the foothills of the sierras and the famous apple-fed pork ranches start to dominate the scenery.
On arrival in Batán you should buy a packet of Tisú* facemasks to protect you from the frequent dust storms.
*Tisú is a trademark of Hermanos Industries SLc
In one sentence:
Batán City is a city of readers and writers.