So then, finally back to South America, my original destination on this trip of mine, however owing to the delicious flexibility of time on the road we are 4 months on from my departure from English shores…
It would be fair to say that, in the immediate term, I wasn’t really enthused with returning. I would have liked to remain in Asia for a good few months longer, however I was committed to a Christmas in Argentina as that’s where I had booked my mum’s flights to, in our slightly drunken summertime planning. I hadn’t expected to spend as long in SE Asia, nor had I planned to do any volunteer work, nor indeed did I expect how amazing New Zealand would be… I really didn’t want to leave. Therefore South America had a hard act to follow!
This slightly negative frame of mind was not helped with the logistical challenges of arriving on a Bank Holiday Tuesday after a long holiday weekend in Argentina. Whilst I managed to pay for the transfer shuttle from the airport easily enough with a credit card, finding a working cash machine both inside the airport, and indeed in the city centre then became an impossible task. Luckily my steadily improving pidgin Spanish managed to navigate me to a cambista on a nearby street… I did have US dollars on me and so managed to obtain some pesos. Challenge one overcome.
Challenge 2 involved me trying to get to my friend’s house in a suburb of Buenos Aires. She had given me good instructions including the bus to catch. Which I did catch, however Challenge 2A quickly became apparent: The buses only take coins, or a SUBE card (Argentine Oyster card) Brilliant. So, I was thrown off the bus just around the corner.
Tourists are always a target for petty crime, especially when loaded down with bags. I like to think that once I’ve shed my carapace of rucksacks I blend in pretty well, however at that precise moment I was in full tourist regalia and suddenly realised that the road had become pretty deserted… And those two dodgy guys in front of me were descending on me pretty quickly… Shit. A quick hop sideways actually into the road and around a few parked cars and they melted away. There are many times in life I hate my career in the Police for fermenting inbuilt cynicism, however occasionally those spider senses come in seriously useful.
Robbery averted, I managed to obtain a few coins from local shops…just enough for the 6 peso (25p) fare to Boedo. Phew… One fact of life in Argentina is that coins are in very short supply so it’s always a task to even assemble six of the buggers. Back onto the bus, and en route, phew.
Once the bus arrived on Avenida Boedo I had the fantastic feeling of actually recognising somewhere, and feeling a bit more at home.
A pleasant week passed staying with Tamara and her menagerie, finding my way around the local area and finding out how life works in Buenos Aires: Where to buy groceries, why I have to pay a deposit for that bottle, sorting out a local SIM and bus card and finding out about some of the labyrinthine local bus routes. Becoming a local, in a low-key, barely speaking Spanish sort of way.
Boedo’s a great area, centred around Avenida Boedo. Plenty of shops and really nice places to eat/hang out like Pan y Arte, and best of all, hardly any other gringos around! Tamara’s place on a nearby street was possibly one of the safest places around, since due to all of the banks on the block a cop was permanently stationed outside… Ideal!
Dipping my toe back into full Argentine-style Spanish was undoubtedly a challenge. There’s loads of regional variation, loads of random “che’s” slung into the mix and people speak FAST! Despite this, and excepting the odd grumpy shop employee, people do help out once they realise you’re not habla-ing el lingo. It’s improving.
After 4 months on the road, actually staying in one place for a while was weird. Really weird, and a big adjustment to make after constant moving around. Not unpleasant, certainly, but different. After a few days generally just catching up on sleep and not moving much further than the roof terrace, it was time to get boots back on the ground and explore.
Well, wheels on the ground initially… Trying to keep up with a crazy Argentine chica riding like a courier banshee through the busy streets was somewhat interesting. She repeatedly cursed my slowness, although I blame the bike still. And then, hitting the cobbles, we had a nice wander around the markets and bars of San Telmo, an area I would later revisit with my mum in tow.
And so onwards, over the waterfront at Puerto Madero to Buenos Aires’ lungs, the nature reserve of Costanera Sur, overlooking the somewhat silty Rio de La Plata. Home to legions of sea birds and the fantastic contrast between city and country, it’s somewhere I would definitely recommend visiting. Completely free to enter, and you can hire bikes near the entrance. On a hot sunny day it’s hard to beat for a bit of relaxation and a break from the craziness of the capital.
So, no sooner than it had begun, my time alone in Buenos Aires had come to an end. I really started to love Buenos Aires again, which is just as well because…
Next chapter: El Madre arrives!