13.03.2010 25 °C
After a relaxing time in Iguazu Falls we are back in the big city. Taxi from the airport to the hotel where Sarah´s parents had booked us in for two nights to catch up with them and two of their friends that they were travelling with for the last three weeks. Walking into a 5 star hotel with thongs and backpacks always turns a few heads, but it was lovely to be in a room that has airconditioning that does not wake the people across the street, hot water that is also controllable and other small pleasures, such as toilet paper- something lacking in the hostel at Iguazu.
The night and next day were spent with Sarah's parents and two friends, Peter and Paula who were at the end of their three week South American adventure. Lots of stories to share and laughs were had about misunderstandings and other adventures. And a bit of meat-eating (including Morcilla, which is an Argentinean blood sausage - yum!) and wine-swilling.
After our two nights of comfort we were relegated to find a hostel. We found one online, booked it, caught a taxi there, walked in, Sarah looked at me and said 'I am not staying here.' We left our bags and went for a walk to find another place to stay. Lucky for us we found a spare room and relocated. Unlucky for us the hostel was a party hostel and that night there was a fair crowd who did not go to sleep at all and drank themselves into a stupor. Most of you would be thinking I was right in amongst it, but in my old mature days I was trying to get to sleep. What with that and the heavy-metal-all-night club just below our window we were glad of our ear plugs!
The next day we caught the tourist bus around the city and got off at Boca. Great markets and the houses are all painted bright colours (Caminito). Lots of characature style murals and fake Boca Junior football tops - which of course we bought. A full loop on the bus and by the end of it we were both amazed at the architectural depth of BA and the history. We saw the balcony at the Casa Rosada, from where the Perons spoke to the square filled with the supporters (Evita movie fans), the old dock area (Puerto Madero) that has been redeveloped (which was very like Darling Harbour in Sydney) and some great parks and amazing sculptures including the aluminium tulip which opens in the morning and closes at night, it is 19m high and quite impressive.
That night we went to the Boca Juniors soccer match. The home team of Maradona, the most successful soccer club in the world, with 16 premierships in the last 10 years and the most popular in Argentina. We went on a tour which organised transport and seats in the members area of the Chocolate Box (the stadium). I was not keen to go in the 'popular' area where there was only standing room and locals. It is hard to explain the crowd but the video and photos may go some way to do that. They were standing on hand rails gripping the yellow and blue banners that went from the top of the stand to the top of the riot fence on ground level chanting and singing the whole match. One guy even climbed the riot fence and hung off the top pumping up and down with the crowd cheering him on. Absolute madness. The opposition supporters were at the other end of the stadium in the top section fenced off from the local supporters and surrounded on both sides by security guards.
It was a local derby with the opposition only being from 60km away so pretty exciting. Boca scored a penalty in the first half but then in injury time the opposition scored and the match finished one 1-1. A great night out. The opposition fans were allowed leave after the final whistle but local fans had to remain in the stadium for 20 minutes to allow the safe exit of the opposition fans from the stadium. Perhaps that should be compulsory for Bulldogs supporters also.....
The next day we went to Eva Peron's (Evita) grave. An amazing cemetery where the riches families in BA have been trying to out-do each other by building ever bigger and more exsquisite mausoleums, some as big as small churches. We then went to the Evita museum and walked around Palermo which is a great little suburb full of fashion, food and drink (and the biggest ice cream in the smallest cone!)
We then met up with Nat a friend of mine from AusPost in Sydney. A friend she had met on the plane, Zoe also joined us for a few beers, dinner and some red wine. We actually had a proper Argentinean meal, as we ate at about 11.30pm - the restaurant was packed and people still came in after us. This was followed by a failed attempt to find a tango bar.
The next day, Sunday was a bit slow due to the beers and wine.
On the Monday, we went on a Ranch Tour/Gaucho Fiesta, it was a bit touristy, but we saw some Argentinean countryside and did some horse riding etc. We had a big lunch, which loads of meat and singing and dancing, which was good, they did some tango and other traditional dances of Argentina. They also performed some horse-riding demonstrations and we drank some of their traditional tea - called Mate/Mattae, which is like really strong green tea and is shared around in a wooden bowl/cup with a metal straw, it has some perforations at the end which act like a tea strainer. It's ok, but must have some major caffeine or some other drug in it as all Argentineans drink it like mad!
In the evening, we had tracked down Alex, one of Sarah friends from the surf club in Sydney and met her at the hostel she was staying in, less than 400m from ours. We went around there and met a few aussie blokes that she had been travelling with, we had a significant amount of beers and pizza. There was a good travel story regarding one of them and their Carnival experience, lets just say the you tube video says it all. Just by luck two of the other guys were having a coffee and saw the clip on the local news, found it on the web and much to his dismay posted it on you tube and told everyone. Well worth a watch if you enjoy seeing people getting caught in funny situations. (Parental Warning- if you are old you may not find this as funny). Search in you tube for 'Policia flagra praia' the top one with about 5500 views. It is a legitimate news clip.
The next morning we were up at 350a to catch a flight to Ushuaia which is the southern most city in the world, right at the bottom of Argentina. Both of us were pretty hung over but made the the flight on time and all was good. BA is a wonderful city and if not for the language barrier (ignorant aussie) it is a city that could be seriously considered as a place to live. So it is fair to say our experience of BA was a good one, but as always it is as much about the city as it is the people. It was great to catch up with Sarah's folks and their friends, as it was with Nat, Zoe and Alex. The only negative was paying a taxi driver with a 100 peso note and getting 80 pessos back in counterfeit notes, not an uncommon thing. So the taxi cost us AUD 30 instead of AUD 8- not the end of the world but not a nice event.