Docked back in Buenos Aires we lug our bags into a radio cab and head to the main Retiro train terminal (cost £6 for both of us). We top up the SUBE card and wrestle through the rush hour to the furthest end of the platform – when carrying giant bags in Argentine rush hour its best to put the leg work in to get a slightly less dense carriage.
Following our detailed map sent by our Couchsurfing Host Clara, we arrive in leafy suburb of Victoria (only 30 minutes from the city centre and for the bank busting sum of around 30p) and navigate the 5 minute stroll to her apartment.
Clara and her apartment are beyond amazing. Instantly feeling at home, she welcomes us with some delicious homemade food (aubergines vs eggplant – the battle continues) and shares stories of her round the world travels. It’s clear we are in the presence of a pro and take mental notes of all her trips and tricks. We head to the roof of her building, catching the end of the sunset and share a litre glass bottle of beer we had stowed in our bags from Uruguay.
The next day we head to La Boca. We had heard that this area was pretty famous for its artistic flare and showing the roots of the Argentine immigration and of the Tango. Following the success of the free walking tour we decided to attend the paid walking tour (200 pesos/£10 each. We arrive slightly late, luckily Clara detailed exactly which buses we needed to get, and we head to the small group huddled on the quay. To our surprise the tour is led by an American who informs us we pay at the end. We start the tour and instantly regret. The guide, in full monotone, stumbles his words, makes awkward jokes and contradicts himself – nothing like the emotive and poetic flow of our previous walking tour guide Marten. As we walk we note the streets are full of pensioner Europeans with gold and silver wristbands (from the all-inclusive cruises) and the locals are over-dressed for Tango, grasping at our attention to charge for photographs and shows. In short we have found ourselves in a make-believe tourist trap. A painful 15 minutes into the tour, the guide rounds the corner and Ste shoves me sideways into a touristic tat shop. He browses the leather belts stalling for time before looking back out. The tour stays within four short blocks so we hurriedly make our exit out of La Boca, to prevent the inevitable awkward situation of being classically British and us apologising for how rubbish the tour was and paying anyway. We are on a budget after all. Instead we head a bakery, spend 50 pesos on two giant empanadas and catch the colectivo back across town.
Stumped for ideas, we steal some wifi and contact Clara, relaying our disastrous morning and lucky escape. She suggests heading to the Bosques de Palermo, Rosedal. Following her advice we find ourselves spending a free afternoon laying in the shade of a tree in a stunning floral garden, watching rowing boats on the lake. Inner-city bliss.
Back to Clara’s, a quick change and we bundle into her car heading into town to our Tango lesson. We enter a large darkened room with a huge softly lit dance floor, surrounded by small tables and a bar glowing at the back. It’s 100 pesos each (£5) for our lesson. We tentively take the floor. Step one: close your eyes and twirl around to the music why your partner guides you. It’s an exercise about feeling both music and body, but sadly watching Ste prance around with his eyes closed leaves me in fits of giggles. We swap partners.
After two wonderful nights with Clara, we pack our turtle shells once again. We spend the morning on a quick drive by tour of Clara’s childhood neighbourhood San Isidro. Stopping off at her mum’s, dad’s, the river, the park and finally into town to a local favourite hotdog restaurant, before heading back onto the train into the city centre. We say goodbye to the beautiful soul of Clara and thank her making our second visit to one of South America’s busiest cities feel like coming home.
We hop the short walk to the Omnibus Retiro (convienetly next to the train station) with ample time to spare. And of course our bus to Puerto Iguazu is an hour late. Finally we are on board and nestle into our saloon style chairs, settling in for our 18 hour bus ride north.