I must say that I was feeling a little like we have hit the ultimate highlight of our year of travel after Antarctica. We planned our entire year around getting there sometime in January or February. Now that it is over (although I will always remember the experience) we were now feeling like “okay so what now?” I am happy to say we now have a plan for the rest of the year… But more about that later.
On the morning of February 26th we disembarked the MS Expedition at about 7:30am. We were transferred to the airport in Ushuaia as part of our package. Our flight was at 11:20am however the girl who had brought us to the airport asked if we would be willing to take an earlier flight. We gladly accepted however I was feeling a bit bad for my roommate from the ship, Alan. G Adventures had booked him on an Aerolineus flight which got cancelled. It meant that he was on a later flight to Buenos Aires and he had to take a flight back to England a day later than originally scheduled. I had offered on the ship to switch flights with him but they told us that because we were with LAN the switch was not possible. In the end we got to BA two hours earlier than planned.
We took a bus to our hostel and checked in. Nicola's mother, Moire, and her friend Rose would arrive that night. We had offered to book a hotel but the ladies wanted to stay in the hostel. The four of us shared a four bed dorm room with our own bathroom. Nicola and I took the top bunks however the bunk beds shook a lot with every movement. They arrived after midnight that night.
The next day was not really an early start. We went out to see about exchanging some American money on the blue market for Argentinian pesos. Since inflation is so high in Argentina, holding pesos for any time costs money. So, Argentinians want US$ which are much more valuable. At a bank, you can get 8 pesos to one dollar US. On the blue market you can get more than 11 pesos to the dollar. It is not illegal which is why it is called the blue market not black market. I am not positive if it is not illegal but the police do not do anything about it. This is why we told Moire and Rose to bring US$ with them. Moire brought us some as well.
We had not traded on the blue market so we were a little unsure of it. The guy at the hostel told us to check for counterfeit and showed us how to check. As you walk down Florida Street, there are endless people saying “cambio, change… Dolares, Euros.” The best rate we heard was 11.3 if we changed $500 or more. The guy at the hostel also told us to go into an office and not to do it on the street. We went into a shop with one guy. When we got inside however it all seemed a bit weird. It was kind of like a change office with people behind glass. However, when we got up to the window and the guy took our cash he kept counting it down below my sight. I could not tell if he was palming some of our cash. He was also only willing to give us 11.1. We decided to leave. The guy who brought us there was apologetic that it was not 11.3. We decided to leave it be for now.
Nicola and I decided to check in the LAN Airways office on what it would cost for a South America flight pass. There was a huge wait. I waited while the gals went for a coffee and ice cream. Ultimately we found out that we could not get one here. We needed to do it on the phone. We did call but again we were still up in the air as to what we wanted to do next. Stay in South America or go to New Zealand. We decided at this point that we were going to New Zealand.
At 5pm, we went on another free walking tour. We had done the city tour the last time we were in BA. This was an aristocratic walking tour. It takes you to several palace-like homes. It was a pretty good tour. Our guide, Vicky, from BA Free Tours did a good job. These tours always draw your attention to things you would not otherwise notice. We ended the tour at the cemetery where Eva Perone is entombed. Vicky told us an interesting story about Evita's body after her death.
After her death, Evita's body was put on display for about a month. Argentinians came from all over to see her. After this, her body was kidnapped (if that is the right term) and held until the President stepped down (I am not positive if this is what it was for but it was something like that). The body was taken to Italy. Her body was not treated with respect by the soldiers that guarded it. Eventually, the body was discovered and returned to Argentina. It was returned to the mortician who had prepared her body for display originally.
As it turns out however, this guy was a freak. He was obsessed with and in love with Evita. He kept her body in his home. He lived with her body… Watched tv, ate meals, and “slept” with her body. He was eventually discovered. In the end though, Eva Perone's body was missing for about fourteen years. Now it rests in this cemetery where it should have been all along. Click here to read more about Evita's body.
After the tour we went for dinner at a restaurant that Vicky had recommended. It would turn out that this was the gal's favourite meal that they never seemed to be able to match. They shared a very good tenderloin steak (lomo). Following dinner we walked back to our hostel… about 2km. Everyone was exhausted.
The next day, the gals went off on their own. Nicola and I went back to Florida Street. We found a place to change some money. We changed $600 US at 11.3 to 1. When we got inside the guy used a counting machine. It checked for counterfeit bills but we checked every bill ourselves. The guy on the street was told that 11.3 was too high once inside the office. They stood by the price though.
After the gals returned to the hostel they had been sprayed with something. This is a scam in BA. Somebody sprays rotten mayonnaise on you. Another person comes up with tissues to help you clean it. You take your bag off to clean and a third person comes and grabs it and runs. Luckily, some people nearby told the gals what was happening. They did not lose anything.
Nicola and I also went to another LAN office. I had purchased a flight for the gals from Iguazu back to BA however one of the tickets came out in my name by accident. We had to fix that. It took a bit of talking to not get charged for the change. We also went and bought ferry tickets for the four of us from BA to Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Later that night we went for another steak dinner. This time was not as good as the day before. Moire thought she was ordering ribs but got a pork chop that was like shoe leather. When she complained the guy took it back and she ordered another tenderloin. I was rather surprised that he did that so willingly.
On Saturday, I bought tickets to a soccer game: Boca vs Velez. It was a package. I was picked up at the hostel. We were brought to a cultural centre where we were given one beer (1 litre) and three empanadas. Then we were brought to the game. I am not a football fan but I have been thinking about going to a game for months. This is a professional Argentinian league. It is first division which has 20 teams, 16 of which are in Buenos Aires. Only fans of the home team are allowed into the stadium, in this case Velez. A few years ago, fans got violent at a game and some people were shot. Now, fans of the visiting team are not permitted into the game. There is no cheering for Boca at this game. I apologize but soccer is not exciting. In 90 minutes there were maybe six shots on net of which one went in and one other was close. Final score 1-0 for Velez.
However, I was here more for the experience of watching the fans. I wanted to go in England and also in Spain but never went. The fans are crazy. They sing and chant through the entire match. The songs are often rude about the other team. In some cases they are rough on their home team if they are not playing well. At one point, the ref stopped the match because the fans were chanting something about the races or nationalities of the other team. Apparently, you can sing about the players' mothers or sisters but races are taboo. It is impressive that the ref could hear it enough to know to stop the game.
While I went to the game, Nicola and Rose went to a tango show. Moire chose not to go. They were also picked up at the hostel. I did not get a lot of details perhaps for the same reason I did not want to go to a tango show. However, they both enjoyed the show.
On Sunday, the gals went to church at the cathedral in Plaza De Mayo. It does not look like a cathedral but it is. This is the cathedral where Pope Francisco served before becoming Pope. It is also where San Martin, the most loved person in Argentinian history, is entombed.
After church, we went to the market in Boca. Boca is an area of BA known for artists and artisans. We had a choripan on the street ( chorizo ~ sausage – on pan ~ bread). At restaurants on the street, tango dancers perform. I believe I heard comments like “we could have just come here for a tango show”. Rose got her picture taken with a tango dancer. The smile on her face was priceless. We had a beer and a snack so we could watch the tango show at one.
After the Boca, the ladies went to another market and I went back to the hostel for a nap. Later that night we went for yet one more mediocre meal.
On Monday, the gals did the city free walking tour that Nicola and I had done the last time we were in BA. Nicola and I went to exchange more US currency on the blue market.
On Tuesday, we took a ferry from BA to Colonia, Uruguay. The ferry ride was rougher than the Drake Passage ride for us. I estimate that half of the passengers were sea sick. Only one of us was sick… not me. It was pretty crazy to see so many people vomiting all around us. The ride was about an hour and twenty minutes. The crew was trying ease people's minds and said “only another twenty minutes” however we also heard him say that twenty minutes after the first time he said it. I am sure everyone was glad when that was over.
From Colonia we took a bus to Montevideo and another one to Punta Del Este. The first bus ride was about two hours and the last one about an hour and a half. We changed our last bus ride to an hour later so we could eat some lunch. Otherwise we would have had two minutes in Montevideo and it would have been 4pm before we would have eaten anything that day.
In PDE we rented an apartment on AirBnB. That was our first time doing that. We liked having our own space with a kitchen and everything. PDE is not cheap. On our first night we went for dinner and it was $45 for the two of us. That may not seem like a lot in Canadian standards but when you are travelling for a year you are usually more frugal. Or at least we were. The strangest thing though at the restaurant, they gave a 22% discount if we used visa. For the remaining days we bought groceries and cooked for ourselves. Correction…mi was travelling with three women and I really only did dishes. Nicola was just excited to be able to cook. I wonder if when we get home in August her excitement will continue every day like this. I never complain because I only have to cook rarely.
To be totally honest, in PDE I did not do too much. I was feeling pretty drained and enjoyed having our own space to relax. PDE is a beach town. We went for a long walk on the beach one day. The water was quite cold. Another day I went for a long walk by myself while I waited for a hair cut appointment. One day I did not even go out. The gals were out and about (said with a Canadian accent friends) a lot more. Moire went for a haircut at the same place as I did. Mine was $20 and hers was $75. She was pretty choked about the cost. She got taken we are sure. Even mine felt expensive compared to the last $2 haircut I got in India… But that one was terrible and I am much happier with this one.
I actually used the time in PDE to use the internet to book a bunch more on our trip. Again, I will get to that later but for now I booked our bus and ferry back to BA and we booked a hotel in Montevideo and a place in Rosario in Argentina. Our plan after PDE is to return to BA and then take a bus to Rosario. We are making our way up to Iguazu Falls. In BA however, we will take an hour to exchange some more money.
We spent four days in Punta Del Este before taking a bus to Montevideo. We spent two days in Montevideo before heading to Rosario. Rose has a friend, Hannah, who lives in Montevideo. Hannah met us at our hotel and took us for a bit of a walk to where we ate lunch. We ate lunch in an area known as Ciudad Vieja (Old City). It had a very Granville Island feel about it. We ate a BBQ place. It was quite fun. A group came along playing carnival-like music and a girls danced in a skimpy outfit shaking her booty very rapidly. It was hard not to watch. I got my picture taken with her. A Uruguayan woman and a nearby table was fascinated by me and was very happy that I was embracing their culture.
Later that night, Nic and I went to a basketball game. My sister, Michele, had arranged for passes for us for these Liga Los Americas games. A bit of a crazy experience that night at the basketball game in Montevideo, Uruguay. My sister put us in contact with some people. In particular she put us in contact with two Canadians who were reffing the second game between the home team and Brazil. Before the game, from the court, they both waved at me and said hi.
When things started to go bad for the home team and the crowd was on the refs, I was now part of the refs team. My Spanish is not great but some of the things they were calling them were not nice word. During the third quarter, a crazy man came up to me and started yelling at me. He figured we were friends and together I guess. He was in my face and poking me and yelling very fast. I said “no entiendo”… “I don't understand” which seemed to make him yell more and faster.
I know for sure I heard the word “puta” which is not nice. And I am sure I heard him say something about this is our house, go back to your own house. He went away and people around me said not to worry he is crazy and one lady told security about him. I wasn't worried because I figured there were more on my side of this incident and he was just on whack job. By the end of the third quarter the home team was making a comeback which was maybe worse though. Now, every call against the home team was bad in the fans eyes. I decided it was best that we move to another area of the arena where we were not labelled as officials.
The fourth quarter was good. The home team still lost but at least they made a game of it. I will go again tonight on my own. I told Nic she has to come and have my back to which she responded “your on your own big fella, I am going to a tango show.” I now understand why referees need to be escorted out of arenas with security. Sports fans in this neck of the woods are very intense. They sang, yelled, and danced through the entire game. It is quite exciting.
On our final day in Montevideo, we went to look for a market. It was Sunday and there is always a market. This however was the exception. We ended up just walking around in the very quiet area of the old city. Funny enough we ran into the two refs also walking around. We shared a good laugh about my experience. I will have to see how the game goes tonight.
So, about our upcoming plans. We have decided for sure now to go to New Zealand for two months. Finding a good priced ticket was not easy. Flights out of Santiago are expensive. We will work our way up to Iguazu Falls with the gals. Then when they come back to Buenos Aires we will go to Cordoba and then cross over into Chile by bus.
We booked a points ticket from Santiago, Chile to Las Vegas. My mom and dad are going to meet us there. We will spend six days with them there. Then Nic and I will get ourselves to Los Angeles. On April 6th we will fly to Christchurch, New Zealand.
We will start in the South Island likely renting a camper van. We will slowly make our way around the island ending on the north side where we will drop off the camper van. Then we will make our way around the north island likely by bus. We are still investigating these options plus house sitting possibilities. Nothing is in stone. We are looking forward to a relaxing and casual adventure. No rushing and no stress.
That will take us until early June. We will spend two weeks in Fiji on our way back to LA. No plans there either. We will be back in LA on June 19th. Then we will likely fly to Buffalo and will work our way to Elliot Lake for Emily's graduation on June 26th. This will still leave us July. Early thoughts are a flight to Iceland for a month or so. All tentative at this point.
Next update from Argentina again. Wish me luck at tonight's basketball games.