A Shore Thing

Trip Start Jul 29, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
La Casa de China

Flag of Argentina  , Soriano,
Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When we boarded the Grande Senegal in Hamburg we had a fair idea of the ports at which the ship would be calling during the voyage, but we did not know if we would be permitted to disembark at any. We were pleased to be given leave to go ashore for a couple of hours at Dakar. After more than a week at sea it was a treat to be on dry land again. Dakar is a busy if somewhat chaotic port. We waited to be issued shore passes but were eventually told to simply take our cabin badges with us and everything would be fine, and so it was. 
Once outside the boundary of the port we were thrust into the hustle and bustle of a busy African city. With our pale skin and eager, expectant demeanour, we were easy prey for the hustlers who bombarded us with offers to accompany us wherever we wanted to go.
As soon as we set off with a couple of hustlers in tow, they started to tell us stories of how they had several wives and many children who were expensive to clothe and feed. The novelty of their persistence soon wore off and we endeavoured to discourage their attentions before finally resorting to telling them "we wish to be alone!" 
We spent some time searching for an internet cafe as we needed to print the certificate of insurance for the Land Rover. Our friends, Werner and Kordula, from Auchsberg, in Germany, were trying to sort out a much more serious problem. Their Mercedes Sprinter camper van had broken down on their way to the port in Hamburg and they had been unable to get it repaired before boarding the ship. At every opportunity they attempted to send emails to Germany and to Uruguay to see what could be done to get them on their way. We failed to find an internet cafe but a kind sales assistant in the Apple store allowed us all to use the internet free of charge and, although none of us had received the emails we needed, the kindness of a complete stranger left us with a good feeling about Dakar. We had a few minutes left to explore a tiny market and buy some groundnuts before it was time to board the ship again. 
One week later we docked in Santos, Brazil. Here we were not permitted to go ashore, but the approach to the port gave us a close up view of the land on either side of the ship. To the port side we saw the concrete jungle of the commercial sector which stood in stark contrast to the abject poverty of the favelas to our starboard side.
Having got as far as South America after two weeks at sea, the excitement among the passengers was palpable as we reminded each other of our hopes and dreams for our travels on land. As mentioned earlier, we sat at anchor for a week before progressing up the rivers Plate and Parana to our next stop at Zarate. Here we were permitted to go ashore but not until we had waited a whole day to be issued with our passports which had been taken to immigration by the ship's agent. Together with Gerhard and Karin, we took a taxi to the bus station in Zarate where we boarded a bus for Buenos Aires. This was the first opportunity any of us had of using our newly acquired Spanish, and we were delighted and relieved that we were able to make ourselves understood. 
 The bus left us in Once, a suburb of BA, a couple of subte (underground) stations from the city centre. We emerged from the subte just around the corner from the Casa Rosada, From the balcony of this iconic pink building, many public figures, including Eva Peron and Maradona have addressed the crowds in the Plaza de Mayo. The Plaza itself is famous as the site of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. This was a protest held by the mothers of the young people who were kidnapped from their homes and from the streets and, in many cases, tortured and executed during the 1976-83 dictatorship. The protests ended in 2006 and the emblem of their activism, the white headscarf, is painted on the flagstones around the plaza.
As we only had half a day in BA we did not have a list of 'must see' attractions. We sat at a pavement cafe for a while, soaking up the atmosphere, and then we took an open-topped bus tour of the city. Liam was delighted to see the Boca Juniors stadium and we alighted for a break in the barrio of La Boca where we strolled around the streets, enthralled at the colourful buildings and the range of artesan's work on sale from stalls and small shops. Restaurateurs and vendors called out to us asking if we from Australia (Liam was wearing his Aussie hat) and, on learning we were Irish, they proceeded to recite everything they knew about Ireland! One such recitation went like this: " Ah, Irish! Whiskey! Santo Patricio! Robbie Keane!" There was no hard sell at all and, although we were so obviously tourists, we felt very comfortable walking around. 
We had heard about the bureaucracy involved in even the simplest of transactions in Argentina and we had a taste of this when we went to a pharmacy to buy some over-the-counter medication. Several pharmacists were serving customers from behind a high counter, and we would have stood there all day were it not for a helpful customer who showed us where we could get a numbered ticket which would get us an audience with one of the pharmacists. When the pharmacist had deciphered our Spanish and worked out what we needed, he put the meds into a blue bag, zipped the bag and applied a security tag. He then printed off a sheaf of little pieces of paper and handed these to me with the blue bag, pointing out the next queue which I should join. When I reached the head of this queue, I was relieved of the blue bag and all of the bits of paper, and given a new piece of paper. The blue bag was passed through a hatch to another area of the shop and I was again directed to another queue. At the top of this queue I watched as the white-coated sales assistant opened the blue bag, emptied the contents into a paper bag, entered a sum into the till, relieved m of some pesos and, finally handed me the medication. If constipation had not driven me to the pharmacy in the first place, I might well have been suffering from it by the time the whole pantomime ended! 
Our time in BA was really too short to form much of an impression of the city, but the friendliness of strangers who stopped to help us with directions or took a bit of time in shops to make sure we got what we wanted, left us with a very good feeling.
The next morning we were permitted to go ashore again for a quick visit to Zarate. Here we finally got the email we needed with the insurance details for the Disco and we passed a couple of pleasant hours with Gerhard and Karin people watching from a pavement cafe. We took a taxi back to the port. The taxi-driver was delighted to learn that Gerhard (who was sitting in front) is from Germany. Gerhard has a 'manana' attitude to learning Spanish and the taxi driver had no German and very few English words. The driver seemed convinced if he shouted loudly enough in Spanglish, then Gerhard must surely understand what he was saying. By the time we reached the port we were all the best of friends and there were effusive exchanges of Gracias! Ciao! and Bien viaje!

Ciao for now

Liam and Naomi 

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Andrea on

Great blog. Glad the Spanish coming in handy. Sounds like lots of chilling (as soon would say) is occurring. Sorry I missed youse on the phone. Love A x

Geraldine on

Thanks so much for the post it brought me right back there and I relived my time there last year. The area around le bocca is fab and the photos really capture it. Love to you both
Geraldine and Brian

Ian on

Par Far Vore - Senor & Senora
Not bad for a self taught spanish speaker - ha ha
Congratulations on the new arrival.
We had a 70th party last wed for Jim in the L & Q - we raised a glass (or two) to yourselves - any excuse.
Glad to hear things are going well.
Regards, Ian & the boys!

Pete Roulston on

This all sounds amazing! I'm so jealous you guys are in S.A. too.
I will copy the blogs for Noel :)

upontheroof on

Thanks Ian. Great to hear from you. Sorry to have missed Jim's birthday bash (and the Guinness!) His handywork on the back of the Disco is working a treat and has survived a few hundred miles of dirt roads on the way to Esteros del Ibera (watch out for the next blog on this amazing area) Pass on our best wishes to the boys and girls....they are always in our thoughts.

Liam and Naomi

Stephanie on

Great update and photos!

Peter Cullen on

Finally caught up with the adventure and thoroughly enjoyed the read and photos. At the moment I'm just a bit north of you in Canada. My niece got married last Saturday and we've had a blast. We're off to the US on Sun for a few weeks. Got a cabin and Serow in Finger Lakes, upstate NY.

Keep the blogs coming when you can particularly when I go back to a wintry Northumberland in November!!!

Christel on

Wonderful reading your account and lovely pictures- so nice to see your faces! And I am impressed that you can use your Spanish, well done!
Ciaran is really enjoying your bike, Liam, and has been to England and Wales on it- I joined him for a weekend in Wales/ Neath Valley.
Whenever we use the bike to go to Belfast/QFT we get noted and eople stop to look at it, take photos- even of us riding away home !
Yesterday Ciaran went to Newtownards on it to protest against the closure of the Portaferry aquarium. Well, your Bike may have ended up on telly in the news!!! Love from Christel and fromCiaran too xx

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