04.07.2010 - 09.07.2010 12 °C
Sunday 4th July 2010
Today was actually quite warm, so we got up early and headed on out to discover Colonia, but not without going to check out ferry tickets first. After having scouted on the net for prices, which were coming up at $uyu130, you can imagine our surprise when we got down to the ferry port and the woman told us it would be $uyu900 EACH! So we toddled on back to the hostel (El Viajero- not very good) and booked through the Buquebus website. Saved us a massive amount of money!
After all that, we actually went to see the town. We had briefly walked through it the night before and went up the lighthouse to watch the sunset but today was the day to really explore (as well as try a `chivito` which had been reccommended to us by a taxi driver in Montevideo). The town was really lovely- all small cobbled streets, quaint little shops and little traffic. We did, however, notice that there were lots of old-style cars dotted around the town so we clambered in and took the obligatory photos!
We stopped for lunch so that we could experience the aforementioned Chivitos, which are like MASSIVE burgers. One each and a beer to share and we were satisfied. We headed on back towards the seafront, lay on a bench (exhauted having eaten so much!) and watched the birds (of the tweet tweet variety) play. There was a funny moment when, lay on Liam's lap, he told me to look right. There was a dog stood RIGHT THERE, his face peering in to mine. I've never moved so fast in my entire life!
After a while we decided we should move, go pick up our bags and head towards the port. We got there about 20mins before our boat was due to leave and it's a bloody good job we did. We had forgotten we were moving countries (customs just pass us by now) and we'd therefore have to go through all the obligatory form filling out etc. It got to the point where the official were pulling us- and others- to the front of the queue so the boat could actually leave. Aaah well.
The boat ride was fine, it went by pretty quickly and we arrived in Buenos Aires. A swift cab ride later and we were at the hostel- Milhouse Avenue. A good nights sleep ensued.
Monday 5th July 2010
We woke up roaring and ready to go and explore Buenos Aires, so we did. Liam, a guy from our room called Jeremy and I set out early and headed down to Plaza de Mayo- home of 'La Rosada', a government building that is painted pink and- as we saw the night before- is lit up pink at night, too. After the obligatory photos we aimlessly walked around, went in to the cathedral and eventually ended up on a super busy shopping street (Florida). At the end of said street we found the BA FanZone, checked it out and then headed back to the hostel. We had planned on going out again a bit later, but the gray cloud overhead put an end to that plan.
After tea we headed for the bar and the pub quiz that was meant to be going on that night. It didn`t happen, so we had a few drinks and played pool and before we realised, everybody else had already gone to the other Milhouse hostel where a party was taking place. Liam, Jeremy and I walked the few blocks over and showed our wristbands at the door as if we were in some sort of secret society. The party was crazy considering it was just in the hostel bar- there was loud music, flashing lights and LOTS of very drunk people. We had a drink and crossed the road to the club of choice (Jeremy went home).
We had a good time, the music was mainly cheesy 90s pop and dance (despite being labled as an 80s night!) but this was a nice change from all the South American choooons we have been subjected to. We randomly bumped in to three people we met back in Rio and spent some time with in Ilha Grande and Paraty. It was good to catch up with them and hopefully we`ll see them again in Lima.
Tuesday 6th July 2010
La Boca was the name of today's game. We had booked on to the hostel-organised tour of the renowned colourful neighbourhood and left at 11am. Heydi (our guide) lead us on to the bus and we endured a cramped fifteen or twenty minutes. When we eventually got to La Boca, she explained the history of the town (it`s very interesting, but we won't bore you with it here- if you want to know look it up on Wiki!) and took u along to the famed colourful streets. What we didn't know is that these streets have been specially preserved as they are and are in fact an open-air museum! The whole experience was a bit like being at Disney Land- there is tango music being played everywhere, tango shows on each corner, large dummies hanging off balconies waving at you and a million and one people trying to get you in to their restaurant or shop. But it was awesome.
We stopped for lunch after a while and Heydi lead us in to an open-air 'parrilla' (bbq) which wasn't really too open-air due to the umbrella heilding us from the horrendous weather. An old Argentine man was playing the guitar (he looked like Artie- mum and sam will get that!) and crooning away whilst massive racks of meat were cooking on the huge barbecue infront of him.
After lunch we went to Boca Juniors´ football stadium- La Bombanera. We took a tour around the museum, witnessed a shocking `3d` experience of being a Boca player and then were taken out in to the stadium. It was a lot smaller than we expected, but the areas behind the goals were all standing, creating extra room. Even the away section on the third tier was standing and Heydi told us that the away fans are known to p*ss, spit and throw things (including their own sh*t) at those below them, hence the seats below are usually where the tourists are located! She also mentioned that during matches, there is a block specifically for police. Add on to this that the whole pitch is surrounded by glass screens with spikes on top and you can imagine how mental their fans must be. We wish we could have gone to a game but due to a small tournament taking place in South Africa the league was on a prolonged break.
Boca was a great place to visit, but we are glad we went with a guide who knew everything and everyone there. Apparently it is quite common for tourists to get jumped and there are certain areas she warned us to go nowhere near. That said, all the people who we spoke to were friendly enough, even when just trying to get us in to their restaurants.
We got back to the hostel quite late and watched the remainder of the Uruguay v Holland match on the big screen.
When in Argentina... see Tango. That night we strolled over to Tango Porteño to watch an hour and a half dance spectacle. After booking our tickets through the hostel ($ar100 each) we assumed we would have pretty standard seats in the theatre, so we were very surprised when the usher lead us to our own table for two with a kick-ass view (Liam`s words). She presented us with a menu, which we swiftly closed and gave back to her when we saw that a beer cost as much as the ticket. Everyone around us was having a meal, it seems we turned up a bit early (an hour in fact) and were kept waiting until 10:30pm.
The show was very impressive, some of the moves were quite jaw-dropping and the whole set up was eleborate and over the top- just what the tourists want! There was a 12-piece band playing throughout the whole show, carefully placed above the dancers. The story was tango through the ages, but this wasn`t really obvious (Jaz only realised because the of the changing styles of clothing). Overall there were nine couples dancing and the most impressive dances were when they were all on stage. It was an experience not to be missed.
Wednesday 7th July 2010
After waking with the first signs of a cold looming (due to the constant smoke-filled rooms) we wrapped up warm (as in fleeces and long-sleeved tshirts warm!) and met Heydi for another day of sight-seeing. This time the tour was Recoleta and it was a bargain at $ar15. Recoleta is the `posh` area in Buenos Aires, where all the rich families once built their palaces. Now these palaces are mainly homes to embassies, art galleries and designer shops (rumour has it Armani opened up on one street but swiftly closed down when it couldn`t afford the rent!).
After seeing a giant metal flower (a sculptor by a local artist) that opens and closes depending on the time of day, we went to Recoleta cementry, famous for being the resting place of Evita Peron. The cementry is a strangely fascinating place. The rows and rows of huge mausuleums, make the cementry feel like a small town rather than a grave yard, with every mausuleum being its own piece of art. It was quite creepy being able to see the caskets through the doors and even creepier seeing the empty shelves awaiting their next inhabitant.
Heydi gave us a fascinating ten-minute summary of Evita`s life and explained how her body was moved between continents, given a fake name and `lost` before it was eventually returned to Argentina to distract the media`s attention from political scandal. Whilst telling us all this, Heydi wanted to speak very quietly, it seems there are still mixed opinions about the reign of the Perons.
At night we indulged in our first Argentine steak at a small restaurant in San Telmo, recommended by our hostel. Liam opted for the T-Bone (medium, came out rare) and I went for a fillet (also medium, came out medium). We had pumpkin and normal mash and fried potato type things as well as a litre of Quilmes to share and it came out at about ten pounds each. The steaks were delicious (and massive!) and the mash was immense.
Thurday 8th July 2010
Thursday was spent wandering aimlessly around town until we had to catch our 9:20pm bus to Mendoza. We went to the market, bought a few (more) wristbands and then to Argentina`s oldest coffee shop. There was a queue to get in as the inside is really grand and majestic with chandelliers and a tango stage. We indulged in a `submarino´. Somebody had recommended this drink to us, it is basically a mug of hot milk and a chocolate bar shaped like a submarine. You put the submarine in to the milk et voila, it melts and becomes a mug of chocolatey goodness. It is essentially a hot chocolate for kids, but we loved it.
At 3:30pm we went over to Plaza de Mayo to see the weekly demonstration made by the `madres de plaza de mayo´. These amazing women have been protesting once a week for about ten years (we think) against the disappearance of their children under the military dictatorship of 1976 - 1983. Their aim is for them to never be forgotten and being in Buenos Aires we felt it was something we should bear witness and give our support to.
At 8:30pm Liam, Jeremy and I caught a cab to the bus station. Madness ensued. One thing everybody should know when going to Retiro bus station is that they only put on the screen the buses that have ALREADY ARRIVED. We didn`t know this and ended up sprinting between three different stops, dodging between the independence day holiday weekend travellers with our bags getting heavier and heavier on our backs. We eventually got on our super-cama bus and relaxed. The journey was amazing- the seats reclined 180 degrees, we watched Yes Man (in Spanish), we were given a two-course dinner, wine and champagne and Jaz even won a bottle of wine in a game of Bingo (she was VERY chuffed!) We slept right through until 10am and missed breakfast. The 13 hours just flew by.
Another thing everybody should know is to NOT travel with Andesmar. We checked our bags on in Buenos Aires and got our tickets. The bus wasn`t supposed to make any stops (but it made about two in random petrol stations and one just on the side of the very dark road), so can somebody please explain how Liam´s frontsack was no longer on his rucksack when we got off the bus? Andesmar sure couldn`t when we reported it to them. They just insinuated that we hadn`t actually brought the bag at all (which is ridiculous!) and shifted all blame. They were very unhelpful and fobbed us off until Monday. Oh and my frontsack had all four buckles undone and the zip almost completely open and various other pockets and zips were opened on my main pack. Suspicious hey? The upshot of all that is that Liam lost a lot of his clothing, a lot of electronics (including the wire for the cameras) and the hard-drive with all our pictures on. Something tells us we aren`t meant to have any pictures this trip! The good news is that any pictures we did lose are still on Facebook or the camera itself (until someone robs them, too!)
Anyway, we arrived in Mendoza on Friday 9th July - Argentine independence day- and have had an ace time here. But it`s getting late and that`s all to come in the next post.
Hasta luego folks!