Saturday, January 23, 2016

South America (Argentina) - Day 50 - 54: Buenos Aires part 3 (New Year!)

Marit was leaving us, so we said our sad farewells and promised to visit her in Holland (a place which has inexplicably escaped us on our travels). Another walking tour was on the cards after breakfast, and this one was with a guide who was very, very passionate about his country and Buenos Aires, and this was abundantly clear throughout the time the hundred-odd people accompanying him spent walking around the city.  We saw the Kavanagh building, erected - so legend says - by a millionairess who fell in love with the son of another wealthy family, the Anchorenas. When they disapproved of the match, she took revenge by building what looks like a giant middle finger. Even better, she put this building directly in front of a beautiful church that the Anchorenas had built previously, blocking their view of it entirely. The building looks different from different angles and is considered something of an engineering marvel. The normal three hour duration extended into almost five and a half hours, and ended in La Recoleta cemetery where we got to find out a bit about some of the tombs which we missed out on when we went on Christmas Eve. This included the tomb of David Alleno, a gravedigger who spent 30 years working and saving to get his own plot in the cemetery. After commissioning an Italian sculptor to create a statue for him, Alleno was allegedly so pleased with the result he went home and killed himself, his life's mission complete.





We got back to find that the power outage which had affected the neighbouring area hit Sabatico. This, of course, meant that chilled white wine was off the table, as was charging any of our devices. It's funny how much you rely on electronics, and the ability to keep them powered. We hoped that the issue would get resolved soon, given New Year's Eve was just around the corner.

In the evening we joined the BA pub crawl along with Sarah and Peter, which took us to four bars: Atlanta, an artesanal beer place, Chupitos which is famous for its shots, Vavok which didn't really have much going for it, and Morante, another beer joint. At the start we met up with a couple of young BA locals - Juan Ma and Ari - who were great fun, and spoke superb English. They were going to be travelling themselves in the near future. The beer on the pub crawl was actually pretty good, but by the time we ended up in Kika, a nightclub which played awful, awful music, we'd had enough and decided to call it a night.



We had breakfast late the next day and were joined in the hostel just after 10am by Fran who we'd met in Salta. She'd left her boyfriend Ant behind to trek up Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America. It was going to take him three weeks, so we'd offered to take her under our wing to celebrate New Year. There was still no power, so the four of us trekked out to MALBA, the modern art gallery which didn't really have a huge amount to interest me. After some excellent sushi at Dashi across the road, we went over to Museo Xul Solar dedicated to a quirky painter/inventor which was far more interesting. He'd even designed a board game.





We took a punt and went to the supermarket for ingredients to make nachos, and fate was smiling as when we got back to the hostel we found we now had electricity, much to our relief. Uno and a few bottles of wine were on the cards.

New Year's Eve is always an odd day. There's an expectation, especially on the road, to do something special. Back home, we usually visit friends or spend a quiet night in, but this time we were torn between heading to a fiesta, staying in the hostel, or going down to Puerto Madero for a fireworks show. The problem was food. Based on Christmas Eve, we knew we didn't want to eat at the hostel regardless of how much wine was on offer - the meat and cooking simply weren't up to scratch. Most businesses would be closed at midday, and I wasn't sure if the restaurants in the area outside of Puerto Madero would be open. After some frantic Googling and calling around of about seven restaurants which were either not answering, closed or charging obscene amounts of money for special "new year" menus, I suggested we took a punt on walking towards the port for the fireworks with our numerous bottles of wine, and stop at a district which had about forty eateries (at least, according to tripadvisor) to see if we would get lucky. Peter and Fran were game, so a plan was settled on. After grabbing some plastic cups from a supermarket that was still open, Gilly, Fran and I left Peter to do some life admin while we set off for a lunchtime walk to Parque Lezama and La Boca for ice cream and to clear out the cobwebs. We found a kitcshy little shopping courtyard and enjoyed stumbling onto picturesque little shops and squares. There is also a trail of cartoon character statues you can follow which are of importance to BA. It's only a short walk, but provides fun photo ops.














After getting back and freshening up, the four of us set out at about eight after a starter bottle of white, and upon hitting the area immediately found one of the non-answering restaurants I'd called earlier open for business. Result! Answer phone messages are as rare as website opening hours in Argentina, it seems. We settled down at Chin Chin to eat burgers, salmon and pork until we could barely move, but move we did, and hit the port at about 11:30. The atmosphere was ecstatic, and thanks in part to the wonders of good wine and a partying crowd, the four of us proceeded to enjoy the (distinctly average) fireworks, cava, more wine, whisky, and then took a wander around to the various bars pumping out music. They were all charging crazy entrance fees, but canny locals had found a grassy area outside one of the bars where we could both imbibe and enjoy the music gratis, so we joined them.







My recollection from there is a little hazy, but I'm pretty sure it involved sharing wine with some Brazilians, taking crazy photos, and Fran and I deciding to practice capoeira before falling over repeatedly (neither of us had any idea how to do it; it turns out that Gilly was the most experienced in the group). At one point we must have thought it was time to come home, since I have a photo of the aftermath in a street filled with broken glass, but I do recall us getting in at about 5:30am, realising it was almost light, going up to the roof to find a Canadian passed out in a hammock, deciding reluctantly that we should probably go to bed, and then crashing hard. We found out the next day that the rest of the hostel group had gone to bed by 2am, and this combined with the remnants of the meat being given away justified our decision to head elsewhere.


New Year's day was predictably a write-off, but we managed to pull ourselves together by the evening for a 5km walk to Palermo to try and source some Thai food. Alas, it seems that January 1st is treated as even more of a holiday than the previous day, and our efforts for Asian cuisine were in vain. Instead we settled on Turkish food courtesy of Eretz as our first proper meal of 2016.




Our final day was tinged with sadness as it meant leaving behind Fran and Peter, two amazing friends who were going off to Tigre for the day and whom we were unlikely to see for the foreseeable future. Our paths may cross again though; there's a shared interest in going to the Burning Man festival at some point (Peter, who has been to more places and done more things than a human being should feasibly be capable of) went to the 2015 festival and said it was one of the best experiences of his life. We may even run into Fran and her family in Chile in a couple of weeks, such is the nature of travelling.


After our farewells, we walked to MACBA, the contemporary art museum which I enjoyed more than MALBA, if only for the crazy La Menesunda installation from the sixties, controversial at the time but weirdly kitsch now. It incorporated neon lights, a walk-through fridge, a room with fans spreading confetti, and other oddities. Another attempt at a Thai restaurant proved futile since the nearby Green Curry appeared to be undergoing a refurb, so Gilly directed us to a mall and we made ample use of the food court before returning to the hostel.





We gathered our things and set off at 4:30 for the number 37 bus to the airport. With two and a half hours to spare we thought we'd get there in good time, but didn't account for there being at least four 37 buses, which all had a second number. We needed the 37-4. After waiting for a good 30 minutes and watching a succession of 37-1 and 37-2 buses come and go, we were about to grab a cab when our bus came around the corner. Job done! Or so we thought, since 2km from the airport the bus pulled over, the engine cut out and the driver started opening and closing the doors. This went on for what felt like five minutes, and we were fast approaching the deadline for check in. We finally arrived but then couldn't find the right area of the terminal immediately. Then the electronic check-in machine was all in Spanish. Then we almost had a panic when my bag came to 17.5kg in weight on a domestic flight where the limit is 15kg. We weighed Gilly's bag...12.5kg. The gods were smiling! The rest of the journey was less fraught; after landing in Puerto Madryn (where the stewardess informed us it was 31 degrees at 9pm...fortunately a mistranslation), we got a shuttle which dropped us directly at our hostel. The owner, Rodrigo, advised us of the various tours we could do in the area, so we decided to pick one which took in as many of the native animals as possible, and crashed out. We were getting up at 6:30 the next day...

No comments: