Buenos Aires

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Jan 06, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Buenos Aires is the tango capital of South America - where the tango was born in the 1920s. Thirteen million people inhabit the capital of Argentina, and it is a city of many different districts. BA is considered the richest city in South America, and even in the Southern Hemisphere. People of BA are called people of the port, or 'portenos'. The President of Argentina resides and works in BA, and it was the home of Evita Peron, the famous wife of President Juan Peron who died in 1974. Evita, for those who don't know (and there seem to be a few) sang the famous song "Don't cry for me Argentina" from the balcony of the presidential 'palace'. Evita died at the age of 30, and both her and her husband were very much loved by the people.

Argentina has had a marred political history, with 4 dictators, the last of which was ousted in the mid 1980s. BA is a very politically charged city, with us seeing numerous protests while we were there for our 3 days. The last dictator was not popular, and decided to increase his popularity by invading the Falkland Islands, which at the time was a British Colony in the early 1980s. He sent inexperienced soldiers into battle for a 2 month war, and lost more hope in his followers as too many soldiers were killed. At about the same time, the military took young children from their families and re-housed them with military families. No one knew what had happened to these children. The same thing happened with young boys simply disappearing - and years later the truth was revealed. Some children grew up not knowing that they been given to strangers. Some of the teenage boys were murdered, and some have never been found. The silent marches of the mothers (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) are a well known image of Argentine's suffering at the time, and mothers still gather every Thursday in the main square to protest and remember those that were lost. 30, 000 children went missing - and only 300 have been found to date.

The political history of this country is an interesting, with much suffering. People are proud of their heritage and fight for their rights still - more than most countries that I have been to. The tango arose out of this past - from the diversity of the people living there, who were poor and had brought their various cultures to the country. So - what do you do when you are in BA - go to a tango show of course. So - this is what we did - a tango lesson (to go along with my salsa), an amazing dinner and a tango show to remember. It is an amazingly sultry dance. 

We also managed to squeeze in a bike tour of the city - which took us to the richest suburb (Puerto Madero) of old warehouses converted on the river - and to the coloured houses and streets of La Boca which was developed when a mix of Italians and Spanish immigrated and could not afford to live in a single house. They opted to live in large houses, which could house up to 10 families with10 people per room. Due to their poverty, the only thing they could do to brighten their houses up was to paint the scrap metal they found with multi colours. The houses remain today - and some of them have been converted to shops and restaurants, and is obviously a major tourist attraction. On the bicycle we stopped at the Silver River, which is the widest river in the world - spanning 50km in width at one point between Argentina and Uruguay. It is also probably one of the most polluted rivers in the world - with the BA council happily pouring raw sewerage into the river, as well as a lot of other waste. Every few years, the government vows to clean the river up, but the money is (apparently) pocketed by corrupt officials and this scheme never takes off.

Most of southern South America maintains the tradition of siesta. Starting work around 9 to 10am, and taking a siesta for about 3-4 hours from lunch time. Shops re-open at 6pm, and generally close after midnight. It has been an adjustment for us as restaurants only generally open again at 8pm for dinner, so by the time you have eaten, and are ready to leave it is close to midnight. Queues for dinner are still around at 11pm even on a week day.

A few days in BA was all I needed and I was keen to leave the big city and move onto more rural and cultural places. A new group joined us - and Sharyn left us to head off to Iguazu Falls before heading home to Australia. Overall BA is great city with much culture, but I am finding I am enjoying the smaller towns than the larger cities these days... and so it was off to Uruguay for a couple of days.

Our first stop off the ferry/border crossing from Argentina to Uruguay on the Silver River was a little town called Colonia which has been heritage listed by UNESCO. It is cute and the old city is tree lined and is best seen by golf cart!

A short stay and lunch and we moved on to Montevideo which is the capital of Uruguay. Out for dinner that night proved to be more than just dinner, heading out to some of the local pubs to capture of the local live music and some real fiesta action on the street. It was great fun with dancing and a lot of good laughs.
Suffice to say, the next day was a little slow in the start after chatting to some locals until the wee hours of the morning. I managed to get a haircut for a total sum of AU$7 and then headed to the local soccer game where the two local team Penaron (yellow and black) and Riverplace (red and white) were playing. It was not the most riveting of games as the favoured team of Penarol did not manage to score one goal and lost 2-nil. It was however a fun time out amongst the locals, who are all very friendly and up for a good chat.

We arrived in San Ignacio by overnight bus at 5am. It was meant to arrive at 3am but due to some complications arrived late. Our transfer from the bus station had left, and Shauna trotted off to the hotel to wake the owners and get us a lift to the hotel. After walking for about 1km, we arrived at the hotel, all ready for a nap. Marilyn opened her bag and found that some of things were gone. After knocking on everyone's doors, we found that we had all been robbed on the bus. Everyone's big rucksacks that we put down below in the bus (all of which had locks on) had somehow been broken into and menial things taken - like toiletries bags, chargers, hair clippers etc. We have figured that they got into our zips somehow. Craig saw a ute drive off in the middle of the night at one of the stops on the side of the road and we are guessing someone was down there helping themselves for most of the night. Oh well - the joys of travel hey. It is a story in the very least.

So moving right along, the main attraction in San Ignacio is the Jesuit Ruins. The Jesuits were Spanish settlers who became too friendly with the local Indians and set up communities that were moving towards communism. The Spanish Monarchy eventually had the Jesuits ousted from the country due to the communistic uprisings and the fast development of communes. We visited the ruins, which were interesting and in a very peaceful part of the town. They were destroyed over the years, mainly by wars in the region.

After the ruins, we thought we would head to the local resort where we could use the pool and get some food. On arrival we found the main resort pool was closed for maintenance, so we swam in the kiddies pool instead and sat on the beach of the Paraguay River that acts as the border between Uruguay and Paraguay. It was a great afternoon, with the remoteness and the scenery reminding me of Zambia, not to mention the amazing sunset we witnessed.

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Caitlin on

We luved BA. Spent a lot of time drinking red wine and eating beef with chimichurri

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