Tango in the Night!

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
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108
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Trip End Aug 08, 2005


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Hola!

Yes, weīre now several thousand miles from where we posted our last entry and weīve even been into Uruguay, a country even we didnīt expect to get to! We endured a hellishly long journey to get over here and are desperately struggling along on our very sketchy Spanish.

Way back in NZ, it was too windy in Kaikoura to go to see the Dusky dolphins and also to catch our ferry to Wellington, the capital on the North island. We did eventually get there but pretty late at night where we rested in a freezing cold hostel. They really havenīt grasped the value of central heating in that country, claiming they donīt need it with a climate similar to that in the U.K! Early the next morning we were off again, heading North on the road to Rotorua, the centre of some pretty hot volcanic activity. On the way we passed some snow covered volcanoes in perfect volcano shapes but unfortunately they werenīt spewing forth with lots of red lava to make our pictures look good! Rotorua, is a bit strange and smelly, sulphur fumes scent the air, the parks are full of bubbling mud pools and steam streams out of the gutters in the street. We visited a little Maori village but were soon on our way to Auckland as the North island is just going to have to be explored on our next visit but from what little we saw, itīs nowhere near as spectacular as the South.

On reaching Auckland, we quickly zipped around most of the hostels posting rough and desperate notices on their boards asking for any offers to buy our car! We only had 2 days in Auckland and we were willing to give it away on the day we flew out if necessary, but not before we gave selling it a go. We didnīt hold out much hope to be honest but we knew that when we bought it for 250 NZ dollars. Our host for our last couple of days in NZ was another īGlobal Freeloaderī, Liz and her brother Clem. They are a Maori family and for our last night we were treated to a traditional Maori meal of pork, dumpling type things, sweet potatoes and puha which is a bit like spinach and is picked from the wild rather than bought in a supermarket. We enjoyed a really friendly atmosphere as many family members gathered around and we were spoilt (again) with beer, wine and chocolate! Thanks again guys.

With too little sleep to prepare us for our long journey ahead, we dropped our car off to itīs new owners (a couple of German girls who we had hijacked coming out of the expensive backpacker car market!) and then Clem gave us a lift to the airport. It was a massive 38 hours (more than 25 of which were actually in the air) before we finally got to our hotel room in Buenos Aires. We transitted through Los Angeles, Lima and Santiago but they didnīt tell us this when we bought the flight, we only knew of the L.A stop. Anyway, needless to say, we were knackered and after a taxi to our budget hotel we crashed out for 14 hours.

Our hotel was in San Telmo in the heart of the old colonial district and true home to the Tango. Itīs a quaint old cobbled area with cool cafes and bars and loads of interesting antique shops. We toured the city sights including the world class Teatro Colon, a spectacular theatre which we took a tour of, Eva Peronīs (Evitaīs) pink balcony from where she addressed the crowds and her grave itself, hidden within a peaceful, cat filled, high walled, mini city of tombs. We caught a late night Tango show at the famed Cafe Tortoni and another at lunch in the colourful art district of La Boca the next day. Kev even received his first lesson as the cafeīs dancer wouldnīt take no for an answer!

Itīs easy to fall for the city and it feels surprisingly very European, though itīs a bit polluted (the 22 lane highway through the centre doesnīt help!), but the mix of old and new, the clubs, the music, dancers and smoky atmosphere adds a bit of a buzz and the people are generally really nice and friendly and put up patiently with our shockingly bad Spanish (as we are only on week 5 of the 3 month course book we bought!). We did however, sucessfully (we think) manage to change the dates of our flights (in Spanish), this is as a result of the mix up with the leasing agency over our flat but it will give us more time to travel and see some friends and hopefully get our flat back when we get home now at the end of January.

With a bit more time to play with, we decided to take the ferry across the Rio De La Plata to Uruguay to the pretty little town of Colonia del Sacremento. It was a welcome change from the bustling city to suddenly be strolling along picturesque cobbled streets in the sunshine and stopping for lunch with a glass of wine, the whole meal for less than 2 USD. It really was a gorgeous little place with narrow streets, crumbling buildings and intricate iron railings around the balconies, all on a waterfront setting. It was so tranquil and the sights and museums were really quaint. The small town in itself was definitely worth the sidetrip into Uruguay. From Colonia we did a bit of a loop north through Uruguay then over the border into Argentina taking us back to Buenos Aires. We travelled through rolling green pastures and farmland dotted with small houses and through some small towns each with nice churches and plazas, cafes with fried steak and chips on the menu (its all they eat here apart from pizza and pasta) and ice cream parlours. The town of Mercedes (still in Uruguay) with its riverfront boulevard became a parade ground for the town residents of all ages on Saturday night. They all took to the streets walking, cycling, on mopeds or in the assortment of cars that you find here, everything from 1930s classics and 1950s American cruisers to 1980s British models. Itīs the same the world over, teenagers cruising up and down on a weekend! The really strange thing is that everyone carries thermos flasks around with mate pots (a strange cup and metal straw arrangement) packed with the suspicious looking herbal tea, mate. Itīs a very strange sight, teenagers and old people alike, it would be understanding if it were intoxicating in anyway but we tried it and itīs just like green tea but no one goes anywhere without it! On our way out of Uruguay and back into Argentina, we passed through the town of Fray Bentos, yes thatīs right, the famous home of those meat pies but itīs just a small town in the middle of nowhere.

Back in Argentina, we visited the towns of Gualeguaychu, Parana and Rosario where we stayed on the same street where Che Guevara once lived. The towns themselves werenīt all that fascinating, some nice churches, colonial buildings and pretty plazas with pink cherry blossom trees. After a while one town seemed to merge with another, theyīre all really similar with nice old buildings interspersed with more ugly modern ones, and with the monotony broken up with nice plazas every few blocks. They even all have the same street names and of course the same pollution problem. The only thing that differs is the size of the sprawl and the odd noteworthy building of interest. We like it here but in this region at least, you have to go far to find something different thatīs not just a version of the previous place with a different name.

We are back in Buenos Aires now and still limping by with our inadequate Spanish but one thing weīve become aware of is that the Argentines in particular are very interested in us and want to make conversation, a good thing in itself but frustrating when we canīt understand. Oddly, unlike in other countries weīve been to where we manage with sign language and the odd few words, or they just give up laughing, the Argentines wonīt be put off. They ask us the same quesions in different ways, raising their voices like the stereotypical Brit abroad, hoping an increase in volume will get the message across! We find ourselves enthusiastically agreeing with everything they say, smiling and for all we know they could be saying anything but weīre sure itīs nothing bad!

Since we arrived back in B.A. this morning, we have bought ourselves tickets for an Opera performance in the Teatro Colon tonight which weīre really looking forward to. We then went off to the Evita museum which was quite fascinating as it told the life story of this world renowned, but controversial figure.

Anyway, thatīs about it, weīre flying out tomorrow so watch out for the next installment from wherever we may be!

K & S.
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