Don't cry for me argentina

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

The last entry left off with me leaving Santiago, Chile, on a bus bound for Mendoza, Argentina. The scenery crossing the Andes was beautiful. Got several pictures from that.

There was a girl with a mullet on the bus and I've seen lots of guys with rat-tails. Ugly hair must be in fashion here. Made it into Mendoza in the early afternoon and had a bit of a hike to the hostel. Did a brief wander around the city and realized there isn't really much to see and do. It is nice though with wide tree-lined streets, many plazas and pedestrian areas. I was tired from not enough sleep the night before so had a late afternoon kip. In the evening, I met a Kiwi named Daniella who was sharing the dorm with me. Her parents are from Chile and left to New Zealand during Pinochet's time. We talked a bit then went out for dinner. We were going to go to a place recommended by Lonely Planet for its live music and dancing, but that wasn't happening on Thurs night. So we went to a nearby parrilla (steakhouse) instead. We each had steak and salad and shared a bottle of wine for $10! Dang, it's cheap here! I'm going to like it!
To really see the area of Mendoza I probably should've taken a day tour somewhere, but didn't. Their wine tours are a bit pricey for what you get ($65 day tour + lunch). Especially after the good ones I went on in South Africa and Australia. I checked out the plazas around the city. Plaza Espaņa was neat with cool tile work.

There seem to be a lot of clowns in this town...several people dressed up around the pedestrian shopping areas. Hmmm... I met up with Daniella for lunch. We went to a vegetarian buffet place (maybe to make up for the steak the previous night). Took a long walk out to St Martin Park and meant to go up a hill but it was warm and we weren't too sure which way to go so napped in the grass instead. Back to town and I said goodbye to Daniella before getting some dinner and off to the bus station. The bus was supposed to leave at 10pm, but was 2.5 hours late! Damn it! I met a Dutch guy and a Swede while waiting for the bus. The Swede was quite annoying. He started off talking to me about some Star Wars video game and how he's up to level 79 and training to be a Jedi. He said he really missed being able to play the game. I made snide comments like "it sucks to have to be out enjoying the real world instead of playing your game" and "do you tell this to the ladies to impress them?". When the bus did make it, it was an older one and the "semi-cama" (semi bed) chairs were just ordinary bus seats. I at least got the two seats to myself, but still hard to sleep.

Arrived in Cordoba in the morning. Slept just ok. Turns out the Dutch and Swede were going to the same hostel so we walked together. The Swede went off on how he collects knives. Why are computer geeks so often psychos? They were quite good at getting us lost. I was doing better leading the way w/o a map. Got checked in and showered at the hostel, then I split before the Swede could follow me around. There are quite a few churches in Cordoba. Several have domes and a couple are quite old.

The main plaza is kind of nice too. Not much in the way of green parks though. The city also has a big pedestrian shopping area. I had a late afternoon snack, ham & cheese sandwich, that didn't agree well with my stomach. I went back to the hostel and laid in bed for a while. There was a bbq at the hostel - I didn't eat anything but hung out with the people. Around 12:30am we left for a nearby dance club. We arrived early so we could get in easy (remember nightlife here doesn't start til late). Not many people there at first but it soon picked up. People were just standing around on the dancefloor or barely moving so I went down there to show them how to groove. Yap, I'm in a freakin' Latin country and I'm having to show them how to dance! Geesh. Just don't try to make me do anything with moves like merengue or salsa. More people started dancing and it was fun. I was saying "hola" to anybody passing by. The guys were cool and would say "hola" back and clap me on the shoulder or such, but the girls would stare at me like a freak. The ladies were very lovely though. By 4:30am it was just too crowded. No room to dance and constantly pushed by people trying to squeeze through. I wasn't having fun anymore so split.
Slept in late the next morning. Wandered around again...rather aimlessly as there isn't much to see or do. I went out to a mall and watched the new Zorro movie. It was awful. Spanky could make a better movie and he's a stuffed, inanimate object. On the way back to the hostel I found a craft market with some cool stuff. There were some 3D art/picture things I liked (e.g., people tango'ing in street).

Also saw cool puppets, metalwork, had some cake and found cheap magnets (3 for less than $1). Back to the hostel and an Aussie guy wanted to go looking for empaņadas so I went wandering with him. We never did find the place he was looking for. A bit later I went out to another parrilla and had a meat sampler platter. The server would come by now and then and put something new in front of me to eat. I'm not sure what some of it was. At least one thing was in a shape such that I had no clue what it was. Kind of like Fear Factor only I'm paying for it. Just went back to the hostel after that and hungout a bit before bed.
Sleep in again. Had breakfast with some of the people at the hostel. The Swede came down and started asking about what bus I was taking to Buenos Aires and what I was doing for the day so I ran. Certainly don't want him following me around. Had the day to waste since my bus wasn't leaving 'til 11pm, and since it was sunny, spent most of it outside wandering around (plazas, pedestrian shopping area). Went to an all-you-can-eat place for lunch and stuffed myself on good food for $4. More wandering aimlessly taking in the sights (i.e., pretty ladies). Found an American restaurant with Halloween decorations for dinner. Then it was off to the bus station to catch my overnight ride (the Swede didn't find me!).

Arrived in Buenos Aires and wandered out of the bus station just following the masses hoping they'd lead me to the subway. They did. The city's subway system is a bit outdated...maybe by a century. ;) Took the subway into the city to my hostel, got checked in and went off to see the sites. Visited Plaza de Mayo with Casa Rosada (where Evita gave speeches), Catedral Metropolitana, Palacio del Congreso. There were a couple neighborhoods that looked nice so I went out to see those. Palermo Viejo is kind of an artistic area with a few shops and cafes. The Plaza Cortazar there is in honor of the author JL Borges but all that's there is a playground. Bars and cafes surround the plaza so I went to one for lunch. In the evening I went to Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo where there were tables set out and lots of people hanging out having drinks. I had a beer there before getting shoo'ed away by the waiter because of lightning and thunder moving closer. Just went back to the hostel, but there wasn't much life there.
The next day I thought I'd take a trip out to San Antonio de Areco as it's supposed to be the center of gaucho culture. I figured that'd sort of be a traditional/cultural thing for me to see. After arriving, I just went walking around as I didn't have a map. The town seemed deserted. There'd be an occasional car or person, but most every shop was closed (though it was "siesta" time). It was nice to be somewhere quiet and out of the big city. Took me quite a while to find a restaurant that was open. Eventually I found the river area where most everyone was hanging out, playing futbol or swimming. Near to there was the gaucho museum but it was closed. There were a couple horses by it so that had to do for seeing cowboy-like stuff. Back on the bus to Buenos Aires. The cemetery with Evita's grave was closed by the time I arrived. The area around it, Recoleta, has lots of trendy bars and restaurants. I went to a parrilla on the main pedestrian drag downtown and had a BIG steak for dinner. mmmm...

In the morning I changed hostels to one in the San Telmo area. I made reservations on Hostelworld for Jacci and I, only the hostel claimed they don't work with Hostelworld. I let the expletives fly. Guy was nice and phoned up other hostels in the area to find availability. Might have been better anyways as the people in the hostel looked to be a young group (like just teenagers). I waited at the hostel for Jacci to arrive...the public bus from the airport took 2.5 hours to get her to the city center! oy! If you don't know who Jacci is, she's one of my friends from Portland.

She and all her sisters are over 6ft tall. So we walked over to the new hostel and got checked in then caught a bus to La Buca to see Caminito. It's a colorful, artsy, touristy area with lots of restaurants and souvenir shops.

Lots of people doing the tango around there (by this point I was getting a little tired of the tango hype). Had lunch in there before catching the bus downtown (Plaza de Mayo). I had scoped out the area already and led us to a pirate bar for late afternoon drinks (2x1). Back to the hostel for a bit of nap time. Got ourselves prettied up then took the subway out to Recoleta for dinner. We found a fun bar there with music and people dancing (this is still early in the night by South America standards so we were surprised there was dancing). Jacci attracted a lot of attention from the guys. Not speaking Spanish made it easier to get them to walk away. I can't say I attracted that same sort of attention from the ladies...well, there were a couple who would look at me then turn shyly away if I looked their way. But my Spanish is so limited I wouldn't know what to say besides a few things from LP's phrasebook that would get me slapped or laughed at. I should've brought the monkey... We moved on to a recommended danceclub in the Palermo Viejo area. The club had dancers on stage and on catwalks performing. Shortly after we got there, a circle opened on the dancefloor for a few guys to breakdance. It was very cheesey. Jacci and I moved up front and spent the hours dancing up there. We were out 'til about 5am before catching a taxi back to the hostel. I'm liking this late lunch, late dinner and having a couple drinks at the bar late at night lifestyle (whether or not it includes more nightlife in the wee hours). Don't think it would work quite so well back home though.
Didn't sleep enough. My body is too used to being up early. The weather changed quite dramatically to cloudy and cool. We went out to Plaza de Congreso and saw some of the people protesting against George W. Georgey boy was down south a bit in Mar del Plata for an economic summit. I can't say I found the protestors' form of advertising/propaganda to be very thoughtful - posters were plastered all over buildings, public monuments and buildings were spraypainted, leaflets were littered all over the city, businesses were vandalized, etc... To me they acted no better than the guy they're protesting against. Anyway, we continued on to the pedestrian area, by Teatro Colon then to the nike store (they didn't have any "Buenos Aires" shirts). I was feeling tired and run-down all day so went back to the hostel for a nap. We went to a nearby parrilla so Jacci could get the meat sampler platter. BEEF, it's what's for dinner! Stopped by Plaza Dorrego for nasty drinks in the cold before going out to a bar in Recoleta to meet a friend of a friend of Jacci's named Ricky. He took us to a couple bars we otherwise wouldn't have found. An early night (2:30am) to bed by Argentinian standards.

In the morning we went to the port to catch a ferry to Colonia, Uruguay. We were greeted by protestors there too (only they were protesting the ferry company). Colonia is a cute town with many historic buildings and cobbled streets.

We wandered around checking out the town and had lunch. Bus to Montevideo, check-in at hostel and relax a bit. There was a guy playing guitar with people sitting around occasionally singing along. It was incredibly cheesey, but the guy playing was actually fairly good. Out into the's cold! There's an area with a bunch of restaurants and bars so we went there. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant, though I doubt the owner was actually Italian. After dinner there was the choice of the Irish pub with drunken, beligerent English or the one with live music and mostly locals. We chose the latter. After a couple drinks, we moved on to the danceclub. This one didn't have stage dancers but there was a brief performance. The dancing here was alright...a lot of bumping and being slowly pushed towards crowded places. It was worse for Jacci as the guys were intimidated by her height and the women gave jealous glares. My thoughts that the people here know how to drink in moderation were proved wrong as I saw several girls on the verge of passing out or being carried away by friends. Jacci got to see them puking in the restroom. The dancing got better when Latin music came on - the people knew the songs better and would show off their dancing and sing along. We left about 4:30am back to the hostel. Did a little tour of Montevideo the next morning to see the few sights during daylight. Saw some people eating the local specialty - french fries piled high with beef patties, fried eggs, ham, etc... It was a meal for two and looked like a coronary attack in the making.

Caught a bus out to the beach town of Punta del Diablo.

Both Jacci and I wanted to get some sunshine and beach time. It was sunny but the wind was bitterly cold...Antarctic express. We got off the bus and wandered lost a bit before finding a hotel mentioned by Lonely Planet. It was an alright little place. We went for a wander to see the town and beaches. We soon discovered there was nothing open. All the restaurants were closed (some being prepared for summer season), there was no bank or ATM, no place to exchange money. Hmmmm, seeing as we were both pretty much out of Uruguayan pesos this presented a problem. I had enough to get us some junk food for dinner at the market. We went back to the hotel and played cards for the evening. Yes, an exciting nightlife. Of course, Lonely Planet doesn't mention anything about this in their *#%! book.
We had planned on staying in Diablo a couple nights but with everything closed, we just couldn't do it. We had most the morning to hang out so went to the beach. It was actually nice when sheltered from the wind.

Took a bus from Diablo to San Carlos. Had to change buses there and I didn't think we had enough money for the next bus so went racing around trying to find an ATM. I walked quite a ways to the center and an ATM that didn't work only to discover there was a working one only a couple blocks away. Got the local bus to Punta del Este and found Hostel 1949. Cold here too. Chilled out a bit and talked to a few people there before going out for an expensive dinner (we didn't know it was going to be expensive). This town is dead too. Guess things don't pick up 'til the summer season starts. The nearby bar recommended by LP as one of the places to go had about 3 people in it. We just went back to the hostel and watched a bit of tv before bedtime.
Laundry day! First laundrymat we went to was closed. Found one that was open but it charged about $9 for a load. Oy! We wandered around town then to the beach to lay in the sun. It was alright except when the cold wind blew. Had some cheap pizza for lunch then back out to lay on the beach. We both got sunburnt bad. I had my suspicions the sunscreen I bought in China (SPF25) didn't really work, now I was certain. We walked out the other direction of town this time discovering there isn't much to see. Stopped by the supermercado and picked up stuff for cooking dinner. Back at the hostel we cooked up pasta and corn for a swell dinner (actually the pasta sauce was rather plain so it was just ok). Watched more tv and chatted with a couple cute Scottish girls. I like their accent (I'll blame Claire and Euna for that).

Sleeping was a bit difficult with the bad sunburn. Jacci got a swollen eye for some reason (infection or from sunburn?) so she was fairing worse than me. Still slept in a bit then went for greasey burgers for breakfast/lunch. We borrowed bikes from the hostel and went on a ride out towards another peninsula. The ride out there wasn't so bad, but on the way back we had the wind against us so it was more difficult. That was our exercise for the day. Since I was sunburnt badly, I opted to cover up and visit the i-net cafe while Jacci went back to the beach. Wandered around town a bit more. Not terribly exciting a day. I wish I'd known these beach towns were going to be dead (and cold) so we could've made different plans. I waited for Jacci to arrive in Buenos Aires before making any solid plans so that left us with limited options for flights to Iguazu Falls. Maybe I should've checked and planned more so that Jacci would've had enough time to make it south near Patagonia to see her penguins. Hindsight is always best. Anyways, we got cheap pizza again for dinner and I chatted for a while with the Scottish girls.

The next morning we caught the bus from Punta del Este to the airport near Montevideo. From there we flew to Buenos Aires. The transfer was supposed to be easy - go through customs, hand your bag to airline rep to forward it along. Nope...had to go wait in the freakin' check-in line all over again (and it took 45 min). Flew from B.A. up to Puerto Iguazu by the border with Paraguay and Brasil. Got a shuttle from the airport to our hostel with its tiny room. The weather in Iguazu was tropical and humid...I liked it. Makes me feel more like I'm in an exotic location. Did a little walk around town (it's not big) then found a place for dinner. We got a big skewer of mixed meats and veges to share. It was quite good if a bit undercooked. Had an early bedtime with intentions to be up early to get to the falls.
Well, we meant to get to the falls early but I read in LP that I needed to get a visa for Brasil prior to arrival. So we went to the consulate which wouldn't accept American dollars so I had to go to the ATM and back, then we waited about an hour for the visa (the consulate was going to close at 1pm and would be closed all weekend). The *$%! visa cost me $120! Oy! After that we caught the bus to the falls. The Argentinian side has an upper walkway and a lower walkway for various views of the falls. Iguazu Falls is BIG! Waterfalls all over the place! The upper circuit was good for views from the edge of the falls and panorama views. We had a picnic lunch at one of the viewpoints.

The lower circuit was good at getting you up close to the falls (and wet!). We did a boat ride that takes you along the river right up to the falls so you get soaked! That was fun but didn't last long. Back up top we opted out of a long hike and rode a little train back and forth instead. Took the bus back to town and rested at the hostel. Got ourselves cleaned up and ready for a night out. The guy working at the hostel was good at recommending places that would give him a commission (and turned out to be kinda lame). We visited a few bars for drinks then found a place with dancing. Not much room to dance so I was just kind of shuffling around. A tall Argentinian guy found Jacci and stuck close to her for the night. I found them talking outside in the wee hours with Jacci trying politely to get away. I got myself a super-poncho (hot dog) and Jacci had the excuse of having to get up early for us to leave.
We had planned on having a taxi sneak us across the border into Brasil (Jacci didn't have a visa) to see the falls from that side, but sleeping in sounded better (we'd only been in bed a couple hours when alarm went off). Jacci decided to go to Rosario on a freakin' long bus ride later that morning and I opted to cross over into Brasil. The last I saw of Jacci she was tossing me in my barrel into the river and waving goodbye before I made my plunge over Iguazu Falls into Brasil.

Argentina was definately a highlight of South America. Great food and wine, cheap prices, beautiful women, great nightlife, etc... Uruguay was alright - would've been good if the weather was warmer and the towns weren't dead.

"I see steaks of beef, red wine too
I see them for dinner for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see babes in blue and hotties in white
The bright sunny day, the dancing at night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...

As of November 8 I'm an uncle again. Nancy (John's wife) had a baby boy, Christopher Carter Wittgow. Everyone's doing fine.


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