I can't dance, I can't walk

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, January 3, 2011

The day begun with a struggle to get to the bathroom. My ankle had well and truly swelled up. Movements to walk were not cumbersome but impossible. Hopping on one leg alone was a mode to get around. In the company of people and having people around, I 'walked' barefoot but necessitated not to put weight on my ankle. To do so, my right forefoot took the strain. It was a strange sight,

After breakfast I returned to my bed and spent over an hour there. One by one, my room mates and hostel mates would leave for the day. It gave me a feeling of being an outsider. When I finally got up, the hostel, apart from the staff was empty.

Trying to keep preoccupied I spent longer than usual on the Internet. Usually I would not even take the fifteen minutes. This became boring after a while as there were only a few things on-line worth looking at. I took to taping a plaster over my little toe. There had been bruising from shoe wear from three days back and it had become infected. I even had to use a scissor to cut at the infection. This was to properly open the wound and clean it. The plaster was used to stop any blood flow and prevent another infection. Thankfully no blood was dropped.

I ended up talking to Nacho at the desk. He apologised prefuriously about the last few days and empathetically said that this was not a reflection of Argentina. The words were appreciated and still today, I love that country.

Wendy, who was the owner (I would find out later), spoke to me next. She asked how I was and my reply was truthful, hoping not to be viewed in a lesser light. Being viewed as a ‘jinx’ is not desirable. "Do you need any money?" She caught me off guard to say the least. In all my travels I have had many great gestures but this was the best. My shocked response: “No, no… thanks. I’m fine.” I wish I could have told her how much her words meant to me. I would have hugged her but for two things. One was not thinking about it at the time. The other was that I was not wearing a shirt; possibly a little awkward.

The afternoon consisted of bringing two bottles of soft drinks, a book and myself to a deckchair on the rooftop. Here the sun radiated its rays on me. Maybe, subconsciously, I wanted them to re-energise and heal me. Soon sleep was upon me.

Even the rooftop became tedious and I grew tired of slowly descending and ascending the stairs for rest room breaks and to get more drinks. Back to my bed I went. It felt like prison. In my mind I felt the eyes of others, both apathetic and holding disconcerting views. Nothing changes in regards to me hating being the center of attention.  

In bed an Israeli girl approached me. She was Rachel and a friend of Dana’s and Liran. Graciously, she said that if I needed anything, I should only ask. My response was that I was ok but it was a little slow, due to the gesture. It was much appreciated and I wished I could have told her that.

She asked how I got my injury. After a short description, she said “Would you need any support for it?” Again I replied I was ok. Thankfully she did not take no for an answer. Returning from her room she produced a strapping and told me not to worry, her dad was a Doctor. It took all of two minutes and the pain decreased. I was ever so grateful. (Looking back, was this also a flirtation sign? If so, I definitely missed it).

I took my new position of health for a ‘spin’, Wearing sandals, I walked through the living room normally. Although the strapping covered half my foot and half my shin, I was happy. With my new found mobility, I revisited the rooftop.

Later on, Dean and Kevin offered to get me some empanadas as they were going downstairs for food. As I wanted to spare my ankle and take things easy, I accepted. At this time I met Patrick (American) and Lee (Canadian). Soon I found myself agreeing to go out with them the next day. Apprehensive of my injury, I insisted on going out in the evening rather than the afternoon. I was very anxious to resume my travel duties but wanted to see how my injury would fare with extra time.

Back in the room, I talked to my Brazilian room mates. Francisco, Franciana and two others made me get into a photograph with them. So there I was inbetween the Brazilians. It may have been the first photograph of its kind but certainly was not the last. These guys were a great bunch of people and sadly due to time, I could not hang out with them. A cigarette was passed around and I took an inhale. One of the guys had an old, manual camera. He wanted to take pictures of people’s first drags, I obliged. (There was a no smoking rule but the guys disobeyed it, keeping the door firmly shut and a window opened).

Being in my room, I figured on an early night to hit the next day running. The strapping was left overnight and thankfully did not cause any discomfort.

Another day started in pain but I was determined to do something. With thoughts of having to book a trip to Uruguay and the need to get a ‘carry on’ size bag; I figured to complete those tasks.

Hanging with Patrick and Lee, we headed towards Congresso. At first my thoughts were of how unflattering the strapping looked on me and being in public with it. In a t-shirt, shorts and sandals I stood. With the lack of clothing, my injury was very visible. Added to this, the lack of symmetry on one ankle; an amusing complaint. Finding my mind turning to more pressing concerns was a relief. This was achieved just through buying an ice cream and trying not to let its contents drip on my hand.

There was a sports shop at the side of Congresso. Seizing up various backpacks and hold alls, I quickly found what I needed. With the reasonable price of $AR60 a big plus, I figured to buy it. It was a small black hold all with a polypropylene shoulder strap. The female shop assistant unchained it from the front display. Giving $AR100 to the attendant/owner at the counter I was dismayed at only receiving $AR30 in return. Clearly he was ‘taking me for a ride’. I had to use his calculator and make hand gestures to make my point. Even Patrick tried to clarify the situation by speaking Spanish. Only then did the assistant/owner ‘understand’ but he did get his colleague to check the price sign. Next was his joke, which was something along the lines of giving a tip for his colleague. I smirked, thinking if I had the patience and energy, my business would go elsewhere. The female assistant shared my views through her apologetic glance.

After I returned to Estoril to put my new purchase in my room, we walked to San Telmo. The Basillica and the Monumento al General Julio Argentino Roca were some of the places we passed. The buildings and statues looked serene as ever in the blue skies. It was also interesting to see this district on a non market day.

As I was feeling the strain of walking, I needed more time to rest. Graciously, the guys were happy to return home. Back at Estoril, I made a point to seek out and thank Rachel. She was cool when I told her of how helpful the support had been. I said that I owed her a debt of gratitude and again she was cool to accept it. Not sure what else I could have offered her. Would the idea of dinner, be to forward here?

As the evening was here, the strapping was removed to shower. A cleanser and skin healing cream was applied. My ankle was slow to respond. The swelling was evident but reduced. As for the bruising and mosquito puncture wounds: a slight improvement, but still a bruise of purple remained.

A ticket to Uruguay was finally purchased and it meant I would leave in a few days. I decided to buy it at Estoril to save myself time. When I purchased it from Santiago, I mispronounced Montevideo, calling it “Montiviado.”  A simple mistake, getting confused between the English and Spanish pronunciations. Santiago tried correcting me twice but I was adamant on it. Still, I now had an open ticket and figured on a week in Uruguay before returning back.

With jeans to cover the strapping and donning a new polo shirt, I spent a while chatting to various travellers on the rooftop. I was just wasting time until it was closer to leaving to an ‘all you can eat’ restaurant. A day ago I had heard through fellow travellers it had food, ‘fit for a king’. The location was Puerto Madero and its name was Siga la Vaca, (Follow the Cow). Just for the name I would have visited.

As Patrick and Lee were the only ones who wanted to do something, they joined me. I met Freddrick (Swedish), who could not join us due to previous plans but wanted to meet the next day. Around 9 p.m. we headed out and after hailing a taxi, the journey was fifteen minutes. We had to walk another five minutes as the taxi driver dropped us a little while back. He was unsure of the place. A few pictures were taken at the Puente de la Mujer Bridge. My camera captured these in a mix of too bright (bridge was burning) and a tad dark. Still it was a nice sight.

Once the place was found it was obvious from the name. Plastic cows were at the entrance. I patted one of their heads as a picture was taken for prosperity and laughter.

We were given a table and told the waiter that the buffet was our attraction. He replied “What drinks will you take?” Asking of the selection, it consisted of red/white wine, soft drinks, spirits, water and beer. With the surprise of wine and a soft drink included, those and multiple bottles of water were asked for. I told the guys that I would be eating a lot and taking my time. They laughed, thinking I was bluffing.

The food consisted of various cuts of steak, chicken, liver, pork and chorizo sausages. The salad bar had eggs, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, potatoes normal and mashed, carrots, quiche, cauliflower and pasta. Given that the sight of pasta and vegetables had not been since I started my travels, I was in heaven!  (Maybe, I have missed the odd name out but think of my situation. Close friends know that good food makes me happy. To put this into context: a good spread or a hot model? Sorry ladies, but there is only one choice. If there was a way to have both, many hours would be spent on each).

The idea was to take the small platter to the Chefs and ask for various cuts of meat. To obtain the salad portions, just grab a plate from underneath the enclosure. I lost count at the number of times I filled up both. My only complaint was the staff was over zealous in clearing plates full of vegetables. At least twice, I had to restock the plate and ask one of the guys to stay at the table as a deterrent whilst I stocked up on meat. Otherwise, the food and service cannot be faulted.

When Argentina claims to have the best steak and preparations in the world; I can only agree. Every piece and every bite was savoured. To illustrate this, a platter of chips was presented to us at the start of the meal. With such riches of food on show, I did not touch them. Pat and Lee ate a few chips but they shared my thoughts. Not sure if you can ‘orgasm’ on food but it probably happened here. (No, not a ‘Harry met Sally’ moment but not far from it).

Both Pat and Lee were pleased with the choice of restaurant. After close to two hours, Lee gave up, while Pat lasted another twenty minutes. Both looked in amazement as I carried on. Each time they would look in shock as I finished both the platter and plate. Humorously, I would feint exhaustion before standing and going for more food. Given that each of them was heavier than me and Pat was significantly taller, they were awash in shock at my ‘stamina’. After twenty minutes I succumbed, with the guys happy at the fact. Not sure how long I could have carried on but there was still space in my stomach.

Looking at the bill, I could not believe my eyes. We had eaten the equivalent of several meals per person and yet the price was so low. At sixty Pesos, it was shocking. As the food and service was so good, I gave $AR120, with the guys giving similar amounts. As we left the restaurant it was closing time and there were few people around. Given that three hours had passed, I could understand. Cue the pictures of cuddling the cows at the entrance. I am not sure if this signifies giving thanks or if it is an embrace between ‘Man versus Food’. Either way, it captures the moment fully.

Eager to drink but wondering if it was a good idea based on the pain I was in. Due to not taking any medicine or injections, I thought it was fine. Walking along the river, a Havana bar was spotted. It was almost empty inside but the lighting looked cool. I am sure Lee ordered a rum and coke but as for Pat; it may have been a beer. A frozen daiquiri was my poison. Since having one in Iguazu, I wanted a follow up. It hit the spot. One turned into a few for all of us. We were all ‘tipsy’ upon leaving the bar.

Carrying on with the walk, the river was splendidly quiet and the night was peacefully beautiful. Nights and times like thee, live long in the memory. A motion I carried was to get a picture on a traffic bollard. As the bollard was long and wide enough for just one foot to balance on it; it was a struggle to get up! Lee was a point of reference to help me get up and I balanced on my ‘healthy’ foot. My attempt to recreate the ‘Karate Kid’ pose was futile. Each time I could barely hold the pose in fear of overbalancing and falling. In the end, it is not clear on what pose I settled on but it may have been cooler than the original idea. Pat’s face wincing at watching me jump down is recalled. He was worried due to my injury and I remember him saying “Nooo” softly, as I jumped. No damage occurred but it was a bad idea.

Returning to the main road, a taxi was grabbed the way back home. It had been an interesting day. The obvious highlight was treating my taste buds to the glorious foods.
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