Sunday, July 3, 2011

Buenos Aires

After a painful overnight bus ride which arrived three hours late (but was at least semi-cama - like a lazyboy that reclines about 45 degrees) I found myself in the sprawling mess that is Buenos Aires. Straight up front I’m going to say that I didn’t have the best time here compared to earlier times (for a variety of reasons).

San Martin Plaza.
From the bus stop I had a monstrous walk to get to to MilHouse, the hostel I had been recommended. In a way it was good because I got to see a bit more of the city but the metro would have been a hell of a lot easier, it probably took 45 minutes at a good clip with a bike and two bags. But I got there no troubles and settled in. After a quick catch-up with a cool Irish chick I had met in the hostel in Santiago I was out for a bit of an exploration and to look for some running shoes. I hit the metro and went down to an area recommended by the hostel workers for a looksee.

I have to be honest and say that ever since I first heard of the BK five stacker available in Argentina I wanted to have a run at one. Since I wasn’t up to heaps I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to peg one back. The burger, called a Sabor 5.0, is up there with the filthiest thing I’ve ever eaten (certainly since my illustrious Pizza Hut days). There are five filthy, filthy BK patties each separated by a sheet of that vile yellow cellophane-like cheese (I assume to wrap the meat for 'freshness'). On top of this is several strips of delicious fatty streaky bacon and a salsa of sorts. Even looking at the thing increases cholesterol measurably and makes breathing slightly more difficult. Take that, arteries. I absolutely monstered the large combo while walking the streets, gaining disgusted looks from BA's more sensible citizens in the process.  It’s no lie to say that afterwards I was a little bit ashamed of myself and headed straight to the show store to buy some off-road running shoes.

I headed back to the hostel and milled about for a while. MilHouse is definitely a party hostel and even though it was Monday the place was clearly starting to gear up for a big one. I tucked into the beers and started yarning, and then ended up going to dinner with a slightly older girl from Switzerland. It was a kind of weird dynamic, set up like a date but clearly not one. I had a good time though, learned a fair bit about Switzerland and had a well decent meal which I couldn’t finish after my earlier ingestion heroics.

We then went back to the hostel where the party was starting. I didn’t have the night I could have. You know those nights when you’re too run down and just not in the mood to be particularly social? Well I was having one of those and didn’t really get into the swing of things. When the party moved from the hostel towards a club I was pretty phased and hit the hack instead.

The next day I slept in, getting up just early enough to catch the tail end of the complimentary breakfast. I teed up a bike tour of the city for the afternoon and swung down those ways a bit early to take in the sights of San Martin plaza, where the tour began but wasn’t focussed. The plaza was nice and airy, with some statues, some trees, and an interesting piece of temporary art: a spiralling tower made out of old books.

The women's bridge.
The tour kicked off by taking in a monument to the war between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland islands. We moved off to the La Boca district via the nature reserve and Puente de la Mujer (the Women's bridge). The bridge was a pretty impressive piece of architecture.  The reserve was less impressive until we arrived at what I assumed was the East Coast but what was actually the worlds widest river, Rio de la Plata (the River of Silver). Although not hugely deep this bad boy is 220 km wide at its widest point. Fair to say it might be just a bit far to swim.

La Boca. Colourful.
We moseyed on down to La Boca proper and looked at the outside of the stadium, home of one of the two big teams in BA (the other big team, Riviera, had lost a few days earlier and been relegated to a lower league, resulting in rioting and general bad times in that area). We also looked at some of the old neighbourhood which had been preserved as a tourist attraction. It was very colourful but pretty touristy.

The final part of the tour took in the main square, home of the mothers and grandmothers monument, and in sight of the government house and an important church. The monument was erected in recognition of the mothers and grandmothers who protested when a particular repressive government was disappearing people. In Argentina’s most peaceful protest, these women simply wore placards with the details of their missing loved ones and milled around outside the government house.

Mothers and grandmothers monument.
After the tour I got back to a hostel with only partial power. It wasn’t good news for me as it meant an ice cold shower (I was also serenaded by a couple getting intimate in a nearby room, making it probably my worst shower in South America to date) and a battle to find clean clothing (a battle I think I lost, instead going for backpacker clean). Later I went to MilHouse’s sister hostel for a tango demonstration (which I was up for) and lesson (which I wasn’t). Later when I went back I was hoping for power and therefore a party but there was no such luck so I had an unplanned early night (most of the guests were taking this as an opportunity to catch up on sleep).

I was up earlyish and went for one last walk around the city to check out some monument I don’t know the reason for (I need to learn Spanish) called the Oblesco and also to get some old inner tubes. Then it was another 45 minute wai-wai to the bus station where I managed to get a ticket for the 1.30 bus I was hoping for con bici. I had some downtime before the bus so I used the old innertubes to wrap my frame as some sort of rudimentary protection from travel damage. The result is probably the ugliest Niner in the world and is a complete travesty but if it protects my frame I’ll take the aesthetic hit. The guy loading the bus was very unwilling to take it but again a 50 peso ($15 NZ) bribe smoothed over the difficulties.

Looking across Rio de la Plata. Hard to believe its a river.
So now I have been on the bus for 8 hours of the 18 hour trip and endured two terrible movies (the bus company must have a deal with Vin Diesel as he seems to be in all the movies they show – it’s not a winner). I am quite glad to be out of BA. Although good it was like any other big city and I was just a bit run down to really enjoy it. I also found the hostel to be a bit dull on for me in my slightly battered state. It would have been good to either be there for the weekend or take the (expensive) polo lessons offered but you can’t have it all. Now I am on my way to Iguaza falls to get into a National park finally and enjoy some wilderness. I have heard amazing things about this place so I’m pretty excited to be getting there.

More pics from BA here.


  1. Oblesco means obelisk, if it's the same one I know of then I think that they built it to commemorate something to do with the founding of the city but I might be wrong. In case you were actually curious!
    And you totally picked the wrong continent for biking, I can't get over how well set up europe is for biking, like you can take your bike on the tram and the bus and they have seperate bike carriages on the trains, they're lowering all of the new train carriages now so that they are level with the platform and you can just wheel your bike in.

  2. I was interested, cheers.
    Yeah no infrastructure for bikes here but the riding in Bolivia and Peru looks like it will make all the annoyances and briberies worth it ... Not long to wait now.