Travel-turtles

So finally, at long last we had arrived on terra firma Argentina. Not before of course I had the opportunity to embarrass myself, displaying my significant lack of cultural exposure. I had no idea about mid-air Jewish prayer traditions, though I certainly wasn’t the only one meerkating over the seats pondering what on Earth was going on, as a gentleman taped up his arm in plastic. But thank you Alitalia stewards, I have been educated.

So Buenos Aires major international airport is a good 40 minute drive from the city center. No problem, we had a plan. Stephen had somehow deduced that we needed to get the local number 8 bus; sounds simple enough. Outside arrivals was the usual airport mayhem. The scattering of people in all directions, forgetting that they had bulky luggage items temporarily attached to them, taking out shins and shoulders simulatenously with their tunnel vision to get in or out of the country. We wandered through,  excusing the multitude of distinctly South American hombres swarming upon us and forcefully enquiring Taxi? Taxi? Taxi? Understable – the pale completion and blonde hair screamed ‘WE ARE TOURISTS AND WE DON’T HAVE A BLOODY CLUE! But we don’t want to be robbed just yet.

Despite the somewhat rustic style of the buses or’ colectivos’ as they are locally known, Argentina is quite sophisticated in the payment for public transport. Following a broken conversation with the tourist information, Stephen returns to explain that we require some sort of card (we later work out its a SUBE – Argentina’s answer to Oyster), but we can just throw pesos at the driver and they should let us on. So pesos it is, off to the cash machine. Another novel fact about Argentina is that most cash machines are usually empty, particularly on the weekends. Machine number three finally spat out some cash (withdraw in big wads people – the Argentine banks themselves charge a fiver for each withdraw so those without a Halifax Clarity Mastercard you will get royally stung!).

Quick interlude for the frequent traveler. Get a Halifax Clarity Mastercard. No I solemnly swear I am not on commission – though if you are listening Mr Halifax… This is the only credit card I know of that lets you spend over-seas, in pretty much any country, with no transaction or international charge fees. Not only this you can withdraw cash from ATMs with no fees (other than any fee the banks in the country you are in charge and so far that has only been Argentina). So long, of course that you pay it off at the end of the month. Dream budget financing for travel.

Back to buses. So we now have pesos. Fantastic. Now where to get the local buses from. At this point its around 10am,  the sun is giving us a fully charged southern hemisphere welcome and us gringos with our heavy bags and little sleep, are desperately resisting the taxi temptation. We eventually give up on elusive number 8 and follow the crowds to a coach service to the center of BA. Total cost £10 each.

Just under an hour later we are dropped at the central bus station and begin wandering south towards Hostel Fiesta. Like two travel-turtles we begin negotiating the bustling side streets, with their spontaneous road works and continuous air-conditioning drips, we hop-scotch to and from the shade of the tallest buildings. As we stop for a brief and necessary respite on some shadowed steps, a man in his fourties approaches and immediately speaks in English “Do you need help?” Are we that obvious?? Thanks to his precise directions we are home and dry within ten minutes.

Hostel Fiesta is our kind of hostel. The address takes you to a tall Parisian style door with no bell or intercom – turns out there is a CCTV monitor in reception and if they decide you look lost enough they let you in. We enter and meet Rodrigo, a guy that looks like he was born in the stone circle of Glasto, who swaps our bags for beers and leads up to the roof terrace. In this small Eden of orange, with eclectic murals on all walls – my particular favourite, the parrot covered in herbal leaves – we catch our breath and relax in the wonderfully scotching sunshine.

Day one – the walking tour. I love walking tours. Unashamedly a walking tour super fan. They are almost always free, just a tip of which you decide the amount.  In my opinion, they are a perfect way to get a feel for the cultural and historical heart of a city. I have only successfully lasted two out of the many I have attended, mostly because I am pathetic and get too cold. So with the temperature a balmy thirty degrees celcius, its two barrels loaded in the fun-gun of excitement and I drag Stephen to the 11am meeting point. Marten our guide leads us on a educated and emotive tour of the Argentine capital. We learn of the rich European historical influence, the shady politics, and the indescribable frustrations of our South American counterparts,  that have seen a 45% inflation in the last year alone. Argentina is not a cheap country – London prices and then some.

Three hours of glorious sunshine and rich tales later, we part with our vibrant guide in the Cemeterio de la Recoleta. A brief peek of the grave of Eva Peron, we leave this small paradise for the dead – seriously, there are graves housing burial monuments worth more than a south-facing semi in a good catchment area- and head back to the hostel.

It’s a evening of more beer, broken Spanish and narrowly avoided temptation to head to an all night electro festival in Palmero. How boring of us, but at 3am as the Uber pulled up,  our maturity got the better of us. The following day we had to finally face the colectivos. We were off to our very first work-away position on the outskirts of Los Caradales. Los Cardales is a small village around two hours north of BA, in the Provencia of Buenos Aries. It turns out this was to be a very wise decision…

2 thoughts on “Travel-turtles

  1. Brilliantly written by a very fine up and coming journalist Abigail Brown
    Brilliant Abi – Lou I was there with you it was told so well xxx

    Like

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