Tuesday 11th February 2014
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The hostel (HostelSuites) is actually very nice and we would recommend it to anyone coming to Buenos Aires. The cost is low, the staff members are friendly, it is a central location, modern and clean and spacious public lounge area and restaurant, and security conscious (IDs checked on entry). We went down to the included breakfast which was totally adequate – good coffee, juice, cornflakes, fresh rolls with a variety of spreads, bananas and apples. Whilst eating breakfast, a young man came to each table and invited everyone to join a free walking tour at 10.30am to La Boca. Although we had been there before (we have been to Buenos Aires twice before) we decided to go. [we had decided to not attempt to go too far afield these few days but rather to re-group ourselves and have a bit of a lazy time – experience tells us that you need to do that occasionally on these overland journeys] We duly met the walk leader at 10.30am by which time it was pouring of rain. We were to take a bus to La Boca and all had to give 3 pesos to the leader – we then set off up the Florida the few blocks to the bus stop – given there were at least 30 of us and it was raining hard so we all had raincoats, umbrellas etc. it was a miracle we all got to the bus. We waited under an awning and when the bus arrived our young guide said “come chicos (children)” and whilst he bought the bus tickets we all piled onto the bus. We all got off at La Boca and enjoyed a really good couple of hours with our guide. (The group had split into 2 groups, English speaking and Spanish speaking). Our guide gave us so much information and we learned things we had no idea about. La Boca is the bohemian area of the city and has always been where poor people live. The river is extremely polluted by factories on its bank and often smells very bad – which is why the La Boca Juniors soccer club fans are known as the Spanish word for ‘horse shit’. They don’t mind being called that. The local houses are made from leftovers – corrugated iron, wood etc. and are painted a variety of bright colours which originally came from leftover paint from the ships. We walked over to the soccer stadium – the La Boca Juniors colours are blue and yellow (not taken from Parramatta…). Apparently the colour was originally pink but another team also had that colour so a match took place – the winner to keep pink, the loser to choose a new colour. Unexpectedly La Boca lost (some say deliberately to get rid of the pink!) and so had to choose a new colour. It was decided that they would take the colours of the first ship that came into port – which was blue and yellow… By now the rain had almost ceased and, instead of taking the follow-up tour to San Telmo, we decided to finish at La Boca. We caught the same bus as the whole group but were told to get off 3 stops after the others. It really was an excellent time. Our friends Dave and Joy also got off with us and we had a very enjoyable lunch together complete with wine. Then we ambled around the shops buying various necessities before going out for dinner with Dave and Joy. A very good day.
Wednesday 12th February 2014
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Awoke to a sunny day in this huge city of 9+ million people. We went down to breakfast and chatted to other people in the group about what they might be doing today. A young lady came around to the tables and told us that she was doing a walking tour (free) and talking about the political situation in Argentina and its history so at 10:30am, we set off and she stopped at various points of interest to tell us about the main historical points including the government buildings, the old Jesuit mission and the square where the first settlement of Buenos Aires took place (Plaza del Mayo) . In addition we saw the Pink Palace (Casa Rosada) where speeches made famous by Eva Peron – Evita – took place. In this square, there are still protesters (soldiers) from the Falklands War and on Thursdays, the mothers of the “disappeared” come and remember their loss from the dictatorship of the military in the late 70’s and early 80’s.Interestingly, some of the young women gave birth while they were in the concentration camp and although they didn’t survive, the babies were given away or sold and they are now being found and identified by DNA. It is all quite sad and the problems continue here in Argentina economically due to rampant inflation although unemployment is under 10% now. We finished the tour at the Pink Palace and then waked back through the very busy city to the shopping area and bought a few necessary items and then had lunch – we bought sandwiches – at the hostel. After lunch, out for another walk and then back to the hostel for an aperitif and then dinner. Dinner tonight was a really nice steak with our friends Dave and Joy. Then home to bed around 11pm.
Thursday 13th February 2014
Today we went for another free walk – this time from the hostel to Recoleta. The guide told us about the history of many of the buildings on the way. Recoleta Cemetery is where Eva Peron (“Evita”) was finally buried in 1974 after dying in 1952. She was a heroine to many Argentinians, but of course in a country such as this, hatreds run very deep and the rich people generally hated her and awful things were done to her body after she died and prior to her burial within the rich person’s cemetery. After we finished the walk, we strolled back to the hotel and had a sandwich for lunch, then went shopping with Pat and Ninka, our tour leaders. We bought groceries and cooking stuff for the next couple of days and then piled it all into a taxi together with us and took it all out to the truck which was parked over in La Boca nearby, packed it all into the truck, then came back, had a bit of a rest and then went out to dinner for the final time in Buenos Aires, came home and packed our bags as we are leaving at 7am tomorrow to head to the north towards Paraguay.