Northern Argentina

Trip Start Mar 10, 2011
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13
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, November 21, 2011

After spending some amazing days in peaceful and clean Patagonia, we came to the realisation that we would have to leave and head to Buenos Aires, one of the largest cities in the world with almost 14 million inhabitants.  The trip from the south was pretty boring, with stops not worth mentioning over about 1,000 odd miles. Buenos Aires however promised to contain many adventures and experiences, even if we were to enter after our nature high in the lake district. It is known as a city of dancing, bright colours, and rich history, all of which we intended to experience.

Upon our arrival it was obvious that we had entered a world separate from the beauty of Patagonia yet full of energy and seemingly constant activity. Within a few days we couldn't help comparing the people in BA with the rest of the people we had met along the way. Especially as we realised our time in South America was quickly coming to an end, our discussions tended towards the communities we had visited and how diverse a world we entered down here. The friendliness and openness of people in Buenos Aires made us feel as if we had gone full circle. It was reminiscent of our time in Colombia and Ecuador and was the thing we missed the most in between. From travellers to locals to staff at hostels, everyone seemed to love sharing their stories and listening to others life experiences. We loved the Boca neighbourhood with its famous colourful buildings, tango dancing in the restaurants and the huge Boca stadium with the stars of all the greats around it (Riquelme, Messi, Maradona etc). We stayed in the historic San Telmo district with it's famous markets and nightlife and had lots of fun meeting people wandering around. BA is a big party city too, nightlife doesn't genuinely start until midnight and this morning whilst we were getting our early morning taxi to the airport there were plenty of people still out on the San Telmo streets in various states.

As a final city, Buenos Aires reminded us of all the things we loved (and some of the things we will never understand) about this remarkable continent. It's amazing how diverse this continent is, big metropolitan cities like Santiago, Buenos Aires and Lima in complete contrast to various vast stretches of Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Colombian countryside where people live and dress still in a very traditional, humble and indigenous way. It's amazing how friendly people have been, interested and protective (Colombia in particular), generous and gracious in these regions and then how quickly things change.

We've also been talking about external (that's a broad term) influences on the region we have travelled, from community tourism projects we have experienced to the coffee farm we visited in Colombia who although part of a fair trade project had to sell their coffee at prices which would not support the farm let alone allow them to cut back the plants as required for fear of missing a harvest. It's interesting how external influences (government aid, charities, etc) seem to think that helping with aid and development projects universally benefits everyone. It's been a real eye opener seeing some of the other aspects of these projects, shocking at times (like when we peered in through the windows of a completely abandoned and derelict school plastered with aid organisation stickers in Ecuador as children played in the dirt outside.) It's strange how people view various forms of aid and the impact it seems to have at the grassroots level. In short, without writing an essay here, aid isn't necessarily a positive thing and most people in a lot of places are better off without it. In particular the resource rich (oil in Bolivia, ore in Chile, Coffee in Colombia etc etc) countries are exploited hugely by hungry developed counties (the US is a big culprit in this part of the world) and then sold back as the refined versions of their product for a loss to the country that they came from. It's interesting to think what would and can be if countries weren't strong armed into trade which effects the nations so negatively through artificially low wages, slash and burn policies and having trade terms dictated . If this wasn't present there would be a place for countries to develop in a balanced organic way with which people can export the right commodities at the right price, and most importantly, the right quantity. Seeing the south of a continent struggling and falling hand over foot to feed the norths greed to it's own detriment is something we really hope can change.

Traveling such great distances has been really challenging, buses can get really old, booking hostels, looking for hostels, getting hungry and not finding a decent meal (although this was only really a problem in Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia), terrible mattresses, tempers frayed, patience eaten away at and general hunger were far outweighed by the sheer scale of the opportunity we took- we have really lived and started to see some the world and that really takes courage to do. (and if your questioning that sitting at home, think about that for a while;) Latin America is a challenge at times, and can be best summed up with one phrase: 'Maņana doesn't mean tomorrow in South America, it just means not today'. Fantastic...

We are now heading to Panama for just over 2 weeks to sit on the beach before heading back to Boston.
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