. That night we got lost somewhere around the university before finding our way to the main street, where the restaurants seemed quite overpriced and busy, so ended up back round the corner from the hostel at a little restaurant ran by an amazing little old man who didn't speak a word of English but was only too happy to play the hand signals game with us. We both ordered the "baby bife" steak, which doesn't sound big but literally filled a full size dinner plate, then realising why the waiter had looked at me like I was a mentalist when I ordered it, obviously not the done thing for argentinian females. After making valiant attempts to finish, we gave up ( in fairness Snellers pretty much finished all his before declaring the meat had "impaired his vision" and he had to stop). That night we experienced our first problem with the notoriously dodgy Argentinian cash points when we couldn't withdraw money to pay so had to return to the restaurant the next day to pay the final £6 we couldn't scrape together from change.
The next day we had planned on getting up early and heading out on the famous Mr Hugo wine tour, where you are given a bike and a map and explore the areas vineyards yourself. we overslept and got lost on the way to the bus which meant we didn't arrive at Mr Hugos until afternoon, but this turned out to be more than early enough as we only actually ended up going on one vineyard tour (the biggest oldest one in the area, "trapiche"). The tour was so good, our guide spoke perfect English and because it was quite late in the day there was just the two of us on the tour so it was really personal. We were shown all the old methods of making the wine as well as the new machinery and then sat down to sample a few different bottles, taught how to swill it properly etc like proper wine buffs. He brought out some of their port to try which was also incredible! After the tour we returned our bikes to the legendary Mr Hugo and caught the bus back to the city centre
. The city was nothing special, a few nice cobbled streets but mainly just the usual shops, restaurants etc.. the reason so many tourists go to Mendoza is definitely for the wine aspect so after experiencing that we felt that we should head to our next city the following day so we got plenty of days in Buenos Aires. That night we just chilled out (in a hilarious turn of events snellers managed to snap both a kitchen chair AND a bed frame which meant we had to hide the chair and do a ridiculously difficult manoeuvre to turn the bed round in a 10x12 foot room so no one would know it was us, as Snellgrove vowed not to order a steak that massive ever again haha).
next morning we got to the bus station and booked another ten hour coach to Cordoba, the country's second largest city. Because Snellers had such a bad sleeping experience on the previous night bus, we had to book this one during the day, so as a result spent all day saturday on a bus between cities. The scenery was nothing special but the bus was nice and quiet, people obviously having better things to do with their weekends, and they showed a few films so we coped fine.
We arrived in Cordoba at around 6pm and got a taxi to our hostel. Again I had booked a brand new hostel, trying to be nice and give up and coming hostels a chance, and this one was also quite disorganised
. However the couple who ran it can't have been much older than us two, and were absolutely lovely. They didn't speak much English but tried so hard to tell us things to do in the city so again I felt terrible that I couldn't communicate properly to them in their own languages! ( the learn Spanish iPad apps aren't anywhere near as fun as Facebook or the Mail Online). We were offered some of the traditional south american hot drink, Mata, which is a mixture herbs with boiling water added, drank out of a weird little wooden or leather mini chalice with a metal straw ! We tried some to be polite, but actually it was nicer than it sounds, and we learnt all the rules to go with the drinking (which js like a ceremony with everyone sitting round in a circle) such as its bad luck to move the position of the straw, you have to finish all the water before passing it back to be refilled, and weirdly that when you pass the cup back if you say thank you it means you don't want any more or you don't like it! We would soon realise that this drink is EVERYwhere in south America, to the extent that people walk around the street doing their shopping clutching the cup of herbs and with a thermos full of hot water tucked under their arm! Crazy. The next day we were supposed to go to some sort of festival in a park to celebrate an anniversary of the university of Cordoba, but we were feeling lazy so ended up going out for a wander to find a supermarket, which was a massive task in a city that seemed to pretty much close down completely on a Sunday. Other than that we watched a couple of films and got an early night, the party animals that we are. On Monday we decided that we should head to BA that evening because we weren't overly impressed with first impressions of Cordoba. We went out that day anyway to explore the city centre and check out some of the beautiful old buildings the city is famous for. There was a lot of lovely cobbled streets and squares and some very grand looking buildings, but our map wasn't very informative and the information centre staff didn't speak a word of English (which we thought was a bit strange for a tourist information centre) so we had no clue what exactly we were looking at
! There were also lots of market like stalls all over the streets with people yelling and trying to sell us all sorts of junk. All in all Cordoba did not exactly light up our trip; on the plus side we didn't break any furniture, but there just wasnt enough to see or do, and I would be lying if I was to say I wasn't happy to get on the bus that night at 10pm to Buenos Aires. On the way to the station it became clear that we were most probably staying in the red light district, as we got into a taxi and got on our way and round the corner, to our surprise there was a woman standing there bear breasted stiff nippled (this is Snellgrove writing and contributing his one sentence to the whole blog) in just a thong swinging a whip around for her next victim. Open mouthed and shocked as we don't see this kind of filth on the isle, we made a pact not to walk the Argentinian streets of a night just incase someone loses an eye. (thank you and goodnight, Snellgrove over and out)
When we got to the bus station, the man behind the counter at the first bus company we checked out was massively uncooperative, basically saying in Spanish after I'd asked whether the bus had beds and did a helpful gesture, told me if I wasn't going to speak to him in Spanish, not to speak at all! I was not impressed and insisted we go to another window, and the bus we ended up on for only a few pounds each more turned out to be some sort of VIP style bus, with champagne and canapés as we boarded and later a two course meal with wine on tap
! It even had wifi. The seats were a lot comfier than the last night bus thankfully, as I was dreading Snellers getting another terrible nights sleep and refusing to take a night bus ever again! Despite this, we probably didn't get much more than five hours sleep, arriving in BA at 7am looking forward to another Mendoza style siesta. However, our hostel was a lot busier than any other we have stayed in and so our beds were occupied until the check out time which was two p.m that day! They said we could wait in the common area with our bags, but we were bored within an hour and so headed out to get some breakfast and see a bit of the city. Retrospectively it was definitely a good thing we couldn't just check straight in and sleep, because that day we walked pretty much the whole of downtown BA, saw all the major buildings and landmarks, then got back to our hostel around 3ish. The city centre comprises of a huge street, (Av 9 de Julio or something like that) which is around 18 lanes of traffic wide and is an absolute nightmare to cross! But really impressive to see especially at night. After being outside all day, we weren't as tired as we expected to be, and so bypassed the nap for the hostel barbecue, where we met a lot of lovely people and stayed up chatting and drinking red wine until the early hours. (we had intended to take the free hostel tango lesson but in the end BBQ and wine on the roof terrace won out and we never ended up getting a lesson).
BA is a huge city, and we decided to explore two of the neighbourhoods the following day, Wednesday. We walked to Recoleta first of all, around 45mins away and famous for it's cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. It was really impressive, some of the crypts there were crazy, like massive stone monuments with glass windows where you could actually look inside and see the coffins which was a bit weird! It took a while of wandering around the maze of graves before we came across Evita, where she is buried in her family site, "Duarte"
. There were lots of fresh flowers on the door, so people obviously visit every day to pay their respects even to this day which is pretty cool. After a morbid morning we walked on to the next neighbourhood of Palermo, which is known as the more well off area of the city. On the way we walked past a lot of lovely botanical gardens, impressive old buildings and more crazily busy roads with lanes and lanes of traffic. Palermo did not have too much to see, it was mainly lots of little boutique shops and cute cafes, and it was getting late so we decided to make the long walk back to the hostel. By the time we got back we were pretty tired after walking almost a ten mile round trip non stop, so we cooked ourselves a sachet of instant rice (saving ourselves for our restaurant steak the next night) then had a few glasses of very cheap but lovely wine in the hostel roof terrace bar while listening to a live jazz band (!) as we had to wait until 11pm until our tango show started in a tango club round the corner. The club was a small local club rather than a proper "tango show", which meant that we were probably the only non Argentinian people there, and everyone sitting around the dance floor at tables took their turn tearing up the dance floor while we sat and drank our beers. The people were incredible dancers, and the live band with accordions made the atmosphere even better.
The next day we had a lazy morning in the hostel, which was possibly the best hostel we've stayed in so far, with a decking area with hammocks, free breakfast consisting of more than just dry bread rolls, and organised activities every night of the week. Later we got the local bus to the Boca neighbourhood, to see the Boca juniors stadium and the famous street of multi coloured houses called La Caminito. Having no Spanish meant we couldn't ask the driver where to get off, so ended up guessing a stop which was thankfully just a few blocks from the stadium
. First we looked around La Caminito, which I found really impressive- all the houses in the area were painted bright red, yellow, green etc and decorated with massive life size models of Argentinian caricatures. Because it was a match day (so we had been warned to get out of the area by 6pm before it got dodgy), the narrow cobbled streets were full of people, stalls and loud music. There were loads of souvenir shops which we had a browse around before heading to the stadium. The area has a reputation of being the most dangerous area of the city and it was quite clearly a lot poorer than the other neighbourhoods we had seen. There were a lot of kids playing football in the streets, which, Snellers has informed me, is why most of the decent south american players come from the poorer areas and shanty towns. We couldn't get very near the stadium, as it was match day and lots of police were patrolling the area already, but we could appreciate it from wandering round the outside, it was very old looking and painted bright yellow and blue in keeping with the colourful theme. After this we caught the bus back to our hostel. The bus we had been told to get by our hostel staff was the 29, so I am still confused as to why we decided to hop on the 53 when it came past. We asked the driver if it went to San Telmo and he said it did, so happy with our decision we sat down. Half an hour later we began to wonder where we were going when, after having followed the route we were taking on our map, my finger went completely off the top of the page and we no longer had a clue where we were except that we were heading in the opposite direction to our hostel. Snellers went to attempt to communicate with the driver, who immediately told us to get off the bus, so we were left standing god knows where with no clue how to get home. We had planned to go to a restaurant we had been recommended that night after going home and getting changed first, but it was already late so there was no chance we were going to make it home then back out again. We decided to cut our losses and catch a taxi straight to the restaurant , and wander round the area until it opened at 7pm, even though we cursed the bus driver the whole way there for knowing we needed to be in San Telmo and letting us just sit on the bus in the opposite direction for so long! Eventually we were back on the map and in Palermo, where La Cabrera was (highly recommended to us by Aoife and Paul, the couple we met on the Whitsundays trip in Australia.). As it wasn't open, we had a coffee in a nearby cafe and whittled away 1.5 hrs looking our camera photos and ripping up sugar packets to make pictures. When 7 eventually rolled around, we headed, a lot scruffier dressed than anticipated, to the restaurant where there was already a huge queue outside the door waiting to go in (happy hour was 7 -8 so clearly popular with backpackers). However within minutes we were inside and it was obvious immediately that the guys don't waste any time in getting you in, fed and out again and the next batch in.. The secret to their success most probably, and perfect for us who would much rather fill our faces and leave than mess around sipping drinks for hours before and after. Snellers went big again and ordered the baby bife 800g, I stayed within the acceptable limits for a female this time and ordered a normal sized steak. The so-called "best restaurant in BA " didn't disappoint, the steaks were better than Mendoza and you got a tray of completely random sides as well such as a potato soaked in red wine and some weird vegetable mash. Straight after finishing we were given the bill and a lollipop and left the restaurant, happy hour meant 40% off so we got a right bargain- mains and a bottle of Malbec for around 30 quid! Reputation of best restaurant well earned in our opinion. We walked home down the main street, which took well over an hour and where I was hoping to do some late night shopping but the shops had closed ten minutes before we got there much to Snellers relief. Back at the hostel we packed our bags ready for our early morning start to get the ferry across to Uruguay. Next day we left around 7.30 to check in at 8, which involved lots of standing around due to the ferry staff and border control being majorly slow and taking ages to verify our passport, making us appreciate the steam packets slack check in standards a lot more. We left on the ferry at 9, speeding along to Colonia, the Uruguayan port where we would begin the long journey to the Uruguay/Brazil border to start our volunteering project!
The bus to Mendoza turned out to be fairly horrendous, neither of us got much sleep and when we eventually did drift off we were awoken at the Argentinian border to go through customs, which involved a long time standing around in the freezing cold mountains trying to communicate with the border staff by gesturing. El Trampo slept soundly through all of this but was woken up by the driver to get off and get his stamp which meant another long wait on the bus for him to get sorted. We eventually got to Mendoza at 7a.m, got a taxi straight to our hostel and thankfully were able to check into our room straight away to sleep. Our two hour siesta turned into an 9 hour sleep as we didn't wake up till 5! We checked out our hostel, which was brand new so pretty unfinished, we didn't even have locks on our doors and their whole budget seemed to have been spent on the reception which was kitted out with wine barrels and bottles everywhere. We then headed to the supermarket to pick up some of the famous Mendoza Malbec and stood perving on the rows and rows of huge , cheap (3-4pound) steaks before deciding to try eating out that night and cooking in the next