Ra-ra polo sticks

Trip Start Oct 05, 2005
Trip End Apr 06, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, December 19, 2005

Aaaah, back to Buenos Aires! Re-entry into the city not exactly eased by a protest banging and crashing through the arrivals lounge, and Plaza de Mayo cordoned off so my taxi had to do a long detour only to sit in heavy traffic, charge me for the privilege and leave me walking half an hour to my hostel, which would have been the same had I have spent 80 cents on the bus. But anyway, I was back home.

So wierd being in a city after having been in the countryside for six weeks (and always within sight of the Andes), especially because it is hot and everywhere else has been so cold. Felt a pang of sadness when I packed away my raincoat and fleece and in the pockets found maps of treks and mountains from Patagonia and half a soggy packet of my favourite Chilean bicuits.

So I was here for the polo finals, the Argentine Open, the whole raison d'etre for my coming to Argentina, and rushing through my trip. I met up with Tiphaine, the French girl from Tango hostel in Cordoba, and up on the roof while sunbathing I met a girl from New York called Carolina and a scottish guy called Patrick, both of whom were also going to the Polo, so we arranged to meet after the match.

Tiphaine and I got a cab up to Palermo, where the match was, and met Jessica and Lucy, two German girls from my Spanish school. There were lots of beautiful people milling around outside the gates, and you could see all the horses being groomed. All of us were aghast at the amount of stunning men. It was ridiculous! Tiphaine kept saying she was going blind. We were a little long in oggling, and nearly missed the start of the game, so had to run over the pitch dodging uniformed men on horses blowing trumpets and waving flags, then push and shove our way into the stalls to get a seat. The match was brilliant, there was a fantastic atmosphere. La Dolfina just won, but it was a close call. Jessica said it was funny hearing me in one ear shouting "come on!" and "Oh my God" and the Argentinians in the other shouting "vamos!" "puta!!". The sun was shining, everyone was in good spirits, and the people-watching was first class. I think I have had my fill of beautiful people for a whole year.

At the end there was a prize-giving ceremony, which we were late for so missed the good seats, but snuck in at the side just in time to see the gorgeous Adolfo Cambiaso hold the cup. I sensed the girls were bored and hungry, so we walked into Palermo to find some food and apres-polo action. It was quite dead, so at midnight Jess and Lucy left. I remembered Patrick saying something about a bar called Nine Chukkas, and, as Tiphaine and I were adamant we were going to see some polo totty, we asked around as to where this bar was, only to be told it was back in the Campo de Polo. Oh no! We ran back, sweet-talked an old boy on the tradesman's entrance to let us back in and couldn't believe our eyes when we saw all these Argentinians partying at the bar. We promptly bought a couple of beers and began mingling, but it was clear we'd missed the boat, our relative sobriety all too at odds with the drunkeness of the Argies. The only people to chat us up were old, sleazy men; the young guys were too far gone to notice us. We found Patrick and Carolina, but only had an hour before the bar closed and the whole day was over. Was such a shame, but also a great relief that we even made it back in as could have missed the entire thing.

The next day there was a tango festival in Buenos Aires, so me, Tiphaine, Patrick and Carolina went down there to check it out. I expected oldtimers dancing tango in a marquee, but was met instead with a huge stage flanked by thousands of young people, and a whole night of funky electro-tango music. Somehow, by ducking under a few palm trees we ended up in the VIP tent and had free beers and ice-cream all night with the best view of the stage.

Continuing with the polo theme, me and the same crowd went to a local estancia to try our hand at the game. This guy called Gustavo came to pick us all up from the hostel and drove us out to his estancia, not far from the airport. The afternoon started with an hour of galloping round a field, something I'm sure was only so that we felt we had had some fun if the polo turned into a disaster, followed by a "stick and balling" session, to practice hitting, which consisted of Patrick and Alex tearing up the pitch, and us girls trying our damndest to get our horses to stop grazing and actually "move the ass". It was like they had suddenly become rooted to the spot - even whacking them with branches wouldn't budge them. Thankfully, when the chukka began, they woke up and we all started charging for the ball. It got quite competitive, at one point Alex and I were galloping along side by side, him trying to push me off while effing and blinding at his horse. My stirrup came off twice, and my stick broke, but I didn't really mind.

That night, Patrick and I were picked up by a friend of Gustavo's and taken to a leather-making workshop on the side of someone's house in one of the lesser salubrious areas of BA to buy lots of riding paraphanalia. It was so cheap Patrick practially bought up the whole shop, while I sat there like his wife saying "yes dear" and "no dear" whenever he waved some leather in my face. Patrick is a first-class bargainer, kind of a public school Del Boy, and he had this couple running around after him like he was lord of the manor. Was great fun to watch.
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