Yo soy en Argentina y ¡me gust mucho!
I’m staying in San Telmo, the oldest bario of this rather large city. I got all sort of warnings before getting here but I think the truth is that this city is no more dangerous than any other city I have been before. At no point in my excursions, be it at day or night I ever felt that my personal security was in doubt.
I caught up with Thiago, my volunteer predecessor in the Hostel Punta Ballena, he’s just about to leave himself for the south and we catch up an all the events of the hostel as well as talking about what we’re going to do from here on. He’s on his way to see a friend at the top of Patagonia and then to work at a Andean cross trail event (http://elcrucecolumbia.com/). After that I passed him the address of the finca in San Raphael but he is not sure on what to do other than he’ll stay traveling up south america for a while.
After a shower and a good catch up I head out for a little walk and I instantly am faced with reminders of the past of tis country that are obviously etched in the collective memory as well as around almost any corner.
Argentina had more military coups than people care to remember. The level of brutality of some of these regimes ranks high, making the comparison, in style, not in numbers, with the nazi not a silly one. During The Condor Years in excess of 30,000 Argentinians were tortured, killed or simply disappeared. The hand of the first world was never too far from these happenings, but it is also true to say that these dictatorships found a rather fertile ground in a country that is, I’m been told, at heart rather conservative if not outright reactionary.
As I walk along the pedestrian cobbled streets of the barrio that still sport the rails of a long gone tram network, I get to the Plaza de Mayo, the hub of the nation just in front of the Casa Rosada, the residence of the president.
The next token of the national conscience on display is the Falkland War veteran encampment. Not many people manning a large display of banner denouncing, among the other things, the fact that apparently the British also attached the main land near Rio Gallego, while publicly denying it.
I have to admit I have a large amount of a problems with the whole Falkland war event and with what has come to pass after. I think the invasion was a desperate gesture of a hailing dictatorship to remain in power, it was matched by the gesture of another “democratically” elected hailing dictator that used it as a tool to remain in power, and all this happened at the cost of nearly one thousand death and more than two thousand wounded.
The current dispute has a lot more to do with politics that with any other reasonable cause of disagreement. National pride in the shape of protecting a bunch of people that overwhelmingly say that they feel British is the standing of the UK which probably secretly would not mind saving some of the money that the current deployment costs. On the Argentinian side I have the feeling that beyond the hard core nationalist minority, the majority of the population pays lip service to a dispute that is only in the news when the government, whichever side it might be on needs a tool to distract the attention from whichever problem is afflicting it at the time.
The day is hot and I return to the hostel for the siesta and indulge in a chorri-pan, a local delight which includes, bread, chorrizzo and chips. Obviously I always keep a close look at how healthily I eat.
Saturday night is a rather sedate affair, bed early and ready to explore on Sunday. I walk a bit through San Telmo but the fair is just about being set up and I push along going along Avenida Florida where there appears to be a huge amount of people still changing money in the black market even if the new government I would have assumed this was not going to be needed anymore.
All very soave and I succeed in not surrendering to the temptation of eating half a dozen of things that I see along the way and look delicious. It’s time to turn back towards San Telmo and the fair which by now should be in full swing.
It is, more than a mile of stands selling nearly everything under the sun. Amazing and extremely cheap. If these people could beat the obvious logistical problem and land in the UK they would confine all the Christmas and other seasonal markets to the dustbin of history.
I saw a bunch of things that I will buy on my way back as I care not for carrying large amount of stuff around Patagonia.
Atmosphere is great without the complete feel of tourist invasion and admiring the relaxed way the people went around making deals was an entertainment in itself. In the end I bought myself a T-shirt with el “Che” and the witing Argentina below, let’s not forget that Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was an Argentinians after all.
If the day was great, the night was fantastic. Again no feel of anxiety at all and enjoying joining in the dance with both of my left feet.
Heading back to Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosata which looks enchanting at night too.
Altogether, wow. Old, new, local, imported, drunk, sober, harmonic and melodic mixed in a cauldron of fun and excitement.
Monday is a different day, chore time. I get a sim card and confirm that there is going to be reception in Patagonia, yea right!
Then the long walk for the sand pegs begins. Have to go through several camping stores but I finally get some, after ruing the day I did not buy them in the UK. The long walks exposes me more of Buenos Aires and the more I see the more I like it. I also interact with people and crack a joke or two, my espanol is getting better.
Then back to the hostel where I book the 40 hours bus to Rio Gallego, I cannot quite believe I’m going to spend nearly two days on a bus.
After I kickstart a little study session I get called to perform some translating duties as a Dutch guest of the hostel is not well and the attending doctor does not speak either dutch or english. Remarkably the doctor thought I was pulling her leg when I told her I have only spoken espanol for seven weeks. I was pleased.
The evening takes a bit of a social turn when I meet Mia (Oz) and Katie (En) and we decide to follow an hostel drink with a drink about town.
It was quite some time since i had a night of speaking English, it felt strange, much like it felt strange for a while speaking Italian with Livia in Uruguay. I guess we go on building these frames of references in our mind binding things to things and languages to places probably in the search of some sense in what is around us, but the truth is there is no sense and reality washes away all of our constructs like waves wash away footprints in the sand.
Ok, time to stop writing and getting on my way, on the other side of the bus there will be Patagonia and the start of the bike ride.