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Fun In Buenos Aires

We are having an excellent time in BA. This is arguably one of the most famous cities of South America, and as such, it is a great place.

Naturally, we have been walking our legs off in the last three days. BA is a moderately sized city of only 3 million folks, most of whom trace their ancestory back to Europe (mainly Spain and Italy). As a result, it definitely has a European flair to it. Also, many of those immigrants were blue collar workers, and BA is famous for its gritty feeling. That´s not to say that people here are particularly coarse or rough looking, but there are plenty of neighborhoods that seem quite rough, and even if you are in a very nice neighborhood, a rougher barrio isn´t too far off.

This was especially apparent yesterday when we decided to visit a colorful neighborhood south of the Microcentro (the center, where our hostel is located) called La Boca. The LP guide notes that it is "raffish to the core," a description that proved quite apt; the LP also noted on its map of the barrio that a good sized section of it is considered unsafe for tourists, the first time we have seen that on a map. Most tourists arrive in the most famous area of La Boca, called Caminito, on tour buses, from which they wander around a three block area painted bright colors in a bold attempt to attract tourists (which seems to work). Then they board their buses and head north again to the safer parts of BA. Jess and I decided to walk down to the barrio, partly because we didn´t know how to get onto a bus, but also because we are far too cheap. We just tightened our belts a little, hid the money better, and clipped my camera bag to my belt with a karabiner, and off we went.

It didn´t take long for us to get that sense of crossing the tracks (which in this case was actually going under a freeway); we left a neighborhood called San Telmo, which we had just finished thoroughly exploring and was crowded with tourists hunting for souvenirs in this huge Sunday outdoor market. Just past the freeway, we found ourselves in the real BA, where the Shirtless Ones of Eva Peron live. We were immediately and literally marked as outsiders; within a block or two we felt something wet on our backs. This young girl flitted around us, saying "Sucio, sucio (dirty, dirty)." There was obviously something going on with her, and we gave her a hard stare but didn´t stop walking at all. She moved on up to a companion ahead of us, and I took a look at Jess´s back, to find that the girl had squirted green chile on her; Jess confirmed my back was dirty as well.

So, this is a variation of a fairly common ruse in South America, very common in Bolivia and Peru. You are distracted by someone while their friend takes your wallet or bag; in this case, the girl would have offered to wipe us clean, while her friend would have swooped for my wallet. He would´ve gotten away with about $2 for his efforts. As we didn´t fall for the trick, they disappeared. Our friend Talie lost a bag this way in Peru; a distraction by one man in a cafe allowed another to snag her bag. It´s quite helpful to be aware of such tactics.

At any rate, the rest of the walk was uneventful, and we found that the rough neighborhood was still very clean and tidy, little trash about, and people were nicely dressed; families wandered around with babies and children, and people chatted outside of their houses. That´s not to say I wanted to be there after dark; we made our way to the Caminito area, walked all around and snapped the photos of the bright buildings and made another uneventful walk back up to the center. It was a bit enlightening, to have a snatch attempt made; again, it pays to be aware that it does happen.

Our exploration of BA has been fairly extensive. The first day was fairly relaxed, we probably only completed half of the walking tour, but we felt like we got the hang of the center. The second day was extremely long; we were out of the hostel for 11 hours. Jess had a bit of an Eva Peron focus for the day, so we went up into the trendy Palermo area, where Eva´s museum is. We spent about an hour there, after which I needed some coffee to wake up. We strolled all around Palermo, a fun area of cool cafes, expensive shops, and residences. We found a Chinese buffet, which to my delight was all-you-can-eat, for lunch. Then we went the Cementerio de la Recoleta, a famous cemetary that not coincidently contains the remains of one Eva Peron. The cemetary was fascinating, a necropolis of huge family crypts and ornate statues. We eventually arrived back at the hostel in the evening, and found our way to an Irish bar for a couple of beers and some hamburgers.

Of course, a visit to BA would be incomplete without a big steak dinner. Last night we went to a little steakhouse that the hostel folks recommended. I ordered a t-bone, Jess had a big rack of ribs, and we shared a bottle of Argentinian red wine. The total bill came out to be 128 pesos, which is about $32; a meal of those portions would have easily cost over $70 in the US. Argentina is known for its beef, for good reasons.

Today we head into Uruguay. We decided not to go to the capital, Montevideo, but instead to a smaller city closer to BA called Colonia del Sacramento. From there we hope to take a night bus up to Corrientes, on the Paraguayan border, where we will head north to the worldclass Iguazu Falls, which lies where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay all meet. We might be lucky enough to cross into Brazil for a daytrip, but apparently to enter Paraguay, we´ll need to buy visas, which will cost $100 each, so I´m thinking that we´ll just skip Paraguay. After visiting the falls, we´ll return to Corrientes and then head up through northern Argentina into Bolivia and eventually Peru. We have six weeks now to complete our trip.

Which I´m sure will fly by far too quickly.

Until next time, be safe.


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