Who Am I?
After two years working in the Middle East I have money in the bank and itchy feet. I'm on a mission to visit every continent in the world and experience as much as possible while I am there.
An adventure to the frozen continent
The day that I was waiting for had finally come. Today I packed up my things and left Giorgio’s House for my new hotel, the Eurobuilding, located much closer to the city center near Lima station. I wheeled my already heavy suitcase over the broken sidewalk to the corner and hailed a taxi. It was only noon when I arrived at the hotel, three hours too early for check in, so I left my luggage with reception and walked down Avenida de Mayo to find lunch. I found a restaurant to sit down and eat and looked through the packed of information relating to my tour given to me by the hotel receptionist, while I ate a horrible interpretation of ravioli with bolognese sauce (really, really horrible).
I already knew my flight the next morning was at 4:30am but I hadn’t thought to extrapolate that information to the fact that I would require a hotel pick up at 2:30am. Just to add salt to the wound there was an additional flyer listing optional city tours one could request through the tour operator. Not exactly useful for a 12 hour stay in a hotel. Armed with this knowledge I decided that my evening’s entertainment would include a decent meal (to make up for the awful lunch choice) and an early bed.
I got up this morning to find my guesthouse buddy Karina on the phone with a look of despair on her face. Last night she had lost her wallet in the back of a taxi while traveling to Palermo to meet some new friends for dinner. Her distress was amplified by the fact that she was bound for Puerto Iguazu in the morning and her credit card company was giving her all kinds of headaches about her location in the coming days and where to send her new credit cards.
Our plan for the day was to visit the San Telmo markets to check out the local fare and watch some impromptu tango. Ana had informed us that a local tango star who had gotten too old for the business (over the age of 35 seems to signal the end of a dancer’s career) decided to start bringing a portable stereo and his dancing shoes to the market, where he performed in the evenings after 6pm to a crowd of appreciative shoppers. Ana had also told me about the Feria de Mataderos, which is also classed as a “must see” weekend market. This market is located in the outer suburbs of Buenos Aires and has some interesting displays of skill by the local Gaucho horsemen. My only problem what that it would take almost an hour to travel there and I find no pleasure in traveling on a tight schedule, especially when I have to find my way there and back again via public transport.
It is 9pm on a Saturday night in Buenos Aires and I am thinking about heading to bed. I didn’t accomplish much as far as “taking in the city” is concerned but I did make an effort to wash some clothes in my terribly inefficient washing machine/bath tub. The locals would be thanking me tomorrow in the inevitable crush of the weekend markets if they knew. At least I won’t smell like an old sweaty shirt and dirty socks. Not for the first 30 minutes anyway.
My other task for today was to purchase and consume some of the local helado (gelato) that my guest house buddies have been raving on about. While that would only require me to walk to the end of the block, I decided to get side tracked and have a bit of a wander around the local neighbourhood. I spent around an hour window-shopping, bought a pretty hand-crafted necklace and found the dessert to end all desserts in a confitería. I decided to I will have to go back another time for it as there was no way I could do both helado and dulce de leche in the same day. I’d fall into a sugar-induced coma for a week after such an indulgence. I always wonder how it is that the countries with the best sweets also appear to have the leanest population. Probably something about self-control… maybe… hrm.
Today it rained. I was actually pretty happy about the cloudy weather because after the past two days in the sun, my shoulders were looking rather pink and I was hoping to give my skin a rest from all the UV rays I had been getting.
I put together a fairly simple plan for the days activities, which required getting myself to Recoleta to visit two tourist sites, both revolving around the Argentinian icon, Eva Perón. My Argentinian history is pretty rough so while I had heard of Eva Perón, otherwise known as Evita, I really had no idea about who she was. As I now know, the movie and stage play of the same name were about her life, but as I have never seen either of them I was still drawing a blank. Ana had given me a pretty good introduction to the controversy surrounding her life and death a few days earlier so I wanted to find out a little bit more about her life by visiting the Eva Perón Museum and her final resting place in the Recoleta Cemetery.
I was up early again today and decided that I would buy a ticket for the Buenos Aires hop-on/hop-off bus and see some of the major city sights. I made my way back to the Plaza de Mayo on the subway and walked up to the ticket stand, where I found a long line of other tourists taking advantage of the beautiful weather and buying a ticket for the bus. After about 30 minutes waiting in line I finally purchased my ticket, however I was required to wait for 1 ½ hours before I could get on due to overwhelming demand.
In true jet lag form I woke up quite literally at the crack of dawn on my first day in Buenos Aires. At around 6:30am two of my new guest house cohabitants joined me in the kitchen for coffee. Nan & Kathy were preparing for another big day of sight-seeing, which put my lack of planning completely to shame. Obviously, I was only just arriving in the country and had a lot to catch up on but I’d actually arrived in Buenos Aires with no real plans to see anything in particular. In my guest house there was a shelf full of assorted Buenos Aires guide books so I looked through one and decided that the first place I should go was into the city centre to orient myself a little. I figured as long as I got out for a few hours I would be more likely to get accustomed to the local time zone.
Ana, our extremely friendly host, arrived at around 9:30am and prepared some pastries for breakfast, while explaining to me some of the places that I could go to and the ways I could get around the city. The guest house is located on Avenida Rivadavia, the main road that cuts the city into north and south. The Acoyte subway station is located on the corner, no more than 50m from the guest house. During breakfast, Nan & Kathy expressed an interest in attending a Tango show that evening, which I was eager to join. Ana said that she would book everything for us and we would just need to be back at the house by 9pm for a taxi pick up. After breakfast I packed my camera and went down to the Subte (subway) where I caught the train into the Plaza de Mayo.
After all of the drama over the weekend I was happy to finally arrive at the airport and get onto a plane headed for Auckland. Mum and Dad dropped me off and I made my way to the Air New Zealand check in counter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check my bag through to Buenos Aires because the airlines had issues with people losing their luggage during the ash cloud last June. Therefore, I would have to retrieve my bags and check them in again in New Zealand, scuttling my plans of a quick trip into Auckland city for dinner before flying out again.
After dropping off my bag I walked around to the international departures gate, where I fell in behind a line of people stretching almost 20m back from the entrance. The casualties of a weekend with our national carrier grounded, no doubt. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the organisation of the security, who were making sure that everyone knew where to go and what to do when arriving at the security check. Only a deaf person would be forgiven for not knowing to empty their pockets and to remove laptops and liquids from their bags.