Last Night in South America

Trip Start Dec 11, 2004
1
15
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Trip End Jan 01, 2005


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hello,

This is it, our last night in South America (that is assuming Air Canada keeps solvent for one more day). A big journey coming to the end. Blah blah blah--we donīt want to come home to the snow and sleet, but we do miss the kitties and of course, all of your presents stacked up in the post office...!

A slight editorial note: My little swimming adventure in Periopolis was as mild as could be. The sea was flat as a pancake (ripples of less than 6 inches) and I was never more than about 200m from shore, even after floating away a bit on the mild current. Everyone over-reacted. I was just practicing my drownproofing manoveurs. Alas, Vicki hates it when I do such things and makes me promise never to do such again. It was amusing when I swam back to shore better than the lifeguard sent out to save me...

Montevideo did turn out to be nicer than we had first thought: architecture wise, it is a bit like Montreal in having an older port part of town, though the buildings arenīt nearly as old or quaint as ours are. Still, lots of variation and juggling of styles with much concern for cohesion. The city looks quite prosperous in its people and some of the buildings (though almost devoid of the richness on decay in Buenos Aires of 1900-1930 buildings), and Montevideo is obviously a huge banking centre. There are so many banks and they are so big it must be the Switzerland of South America (to which, price wise, it has been compared). The people are definitely whiter and more businessy.

We found dinners out to be very expensive there, accommodations less so. For early 5pm dinner last night we had an early go of it at the Mercado right on the port on the western tip of town where there were lots of open grills and mountains of meat roasting before oneīs eyes. Naturally, I plunked us down at a blacktop marble counter and pointed at the delicious snausages. We had three chorizos, one large red pepper and a demi-bottle of respectable wine: total bill C$16, which again is not cheap. [Oh, the lure of $3 steaks in Mendoza...]. We then crashed in the hotel and waited to venture out for late dinner. But Montevideo really is a banking city--it totally closes down at 6pm! [And, all the banks are guarded by men with Uzis..., three or more when deliveries of cash are made]. All I could find open at 10:30pm was a supermarket and I was practically ushered out the door as fast as could be. I did find some chocolate mousse and lemonida and saltless cheese (bland as bland can be) and some good galetto bread, and so that was late dinner. In contrast, people often *start* eating at 10pm in Chile and Argentina. Must be to beat the heat. Thems good Gilchrist hours, eh?

We woke up, had showers (complete with push bar mop to steer the water on the floor into the drain) and walked around a last bit. Vicki felt a little lagged, so we stopped for tea and dulce de leche cakes at a nice little tea bar. On the way home, Vicki spotted a football store and I broke down and got myself a Uruguayian World Cup replica Jersey (C$30, $60 for the 'authentic' one). I never was able to find a cool Uruguayian licence plate for Ian and Jeffīs BMWīs, though I tried. In Colonia the licence plates come with a colour picture and a big īCīletter on them in special blue. Neat. Each town gets its own licence plates.

Then we took the Buquebus ferry back to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, it was running very late (20 mins at the start, 30 by the end) and we didnīt get to Buenos Aires until 3:30pm. [F!"·%"ing Buquebus ferries--expensive, uncomfortable and late]. We then had to watch our luggage get manhandled and thrown 6 feet down on to a conveyer belt, then had to line up for xray and immigration. So we didnīt get to one of the most important events on our trip until 4:15pm. I had wanted to see the Madres de los Disparciones (Mothers of the Disappeared Children) walk in Plaza de Mayo (īMai-shiowī in dialect), as they do each Thursday at 3:30pm. When we got there it was all over. I took some pictures of the women hugging tourists and selling materials, but it was disappointing. It is said to be a very emotional event (some 20 years and running now). Vicki said it means we will have to come back in the future.

At least it is sunny and hot today, about 30 degrees, though it is hard to feel as if that is unnatural now, after 3 weeks. Uruguay, by contrast, was often downright cool and damp. Iīm not sure I could recommend a visit to Uruguay specifically, per se, but it was a nice detour at the end. I didnīt know much about the country except that it was famous for escaped Nazis and repressive governments (and torture) but it really didnīt feel like that. [At the bus station we did see two rather scary throwback army men sporting big guts, worn out uniforms and fine Saddams; everyone gave them a wide berth.] It was more European and yet more distracted and scattered than Argentina, which despite the economic suckery, is still bustling [they even claim an unemployment rate of only 3%, which is patent rubbish.] For instance, today in Buenos Aires, it is the last day of work for the year. So what do they do? Take off early, rip up their paperwork and throw it out the window like confetti. The streets are clogged with happy people, and course the streetkids begging too, litre bottles of beer in hand.

Our plan for the last night is to hold out for a late dinner, a tenedor libre (all you can hold inside grilled meat) and maybe take some photos of the streets and people on them tomorrow. I feel bad for never taking enough pictures of people on the streets. All my photos are of landscape and architecture--which my Dad finds boring. So Iīll take some people photos, promise.

I will also try (likely in vain) to procure some good Argentinian wine to lug back through customs.

Hope everyone has a blessed New Year.
Love Bruce (and Vicki sleeping at the last hotel)

ps. Brian let us know what the plans are, re: pickup from airport?
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