September 7, 2007

Buenos Aires

Last night I caved in and paid $20 private car ride into the city instead of paying 30 cents for a 90-120 minute bus ride. I told the driver to take me to someplace cheap downtown, and he delivered.

I stayed at a hostel on the outskirts of downtown. It was the affordable $7. The down fall was that I was on the top floor, and it was difficult for me to do stairs with my bad knee. Once again, I was delighted to find myself to be the only person from the US. However, the hostel was a lot different from my previous one in Buenos Aires.

The first hostel I stayed at was part of hostelling international. I would label the typical HI person (this is a generalization and is obviously not true in all cases) as a 20 something affluent traveler from Western Europe, North America, or Australia. The kids there probably booked in advance, paid to have some organized excursions, already had concrete plans for their whole trip, and like to go clubbing and brag about the designer drugs they have done. Every hostel has its own clientele, and this hostel was very specific as well. All these travelers had been on the road for mounts/years and had no date to leave (many were living there). Everyone loved marijuana and probably a solid third had dread locks. The walls of the hostel were painted as pot leaves. Being very tired from practically no sleep the night before, I elected to turn down their activities. It proved to be a great place to sleep because everyone was so mellow. I slept almost 9 hours straight through. In the morning, I wasn’t sad to leave, and I bet they weren’t sad to see me go.

Having many hours to burn, I decided to just walk and see the city more and learn more barrios. I was probably on my feet for 6 hours just roaming. I had no direction in mind, but every once in awhile I’d rest in a park and check my location. My bag was being stored at the hostel, so I just tried to walk the streets as a porteno. I was wearing shorts and that definitely made me stick out. Apparently, other tourists didn’t notice my shorts and even asked me for directions. It was fun to watch the city work. I wasn’t in tourist areas much, so I felt I was getting the true sense of the day in a life. From the commuters, the school children, the cartoneros pushing their nights bounty in the middle of 12 lanes of traffic. I felt I knew the city. After buying a late lunch from a street vendor in front of congress, I felt I could now leave. I really like Buenos Aires and could live there. However, there are other places on my list to see. I need to return to Argentina someday to see the western Patagonia and Mendoza, but I’m happy with my 2 weeks here.

After reflecting on this and thinking I knew the city, I jumped on the bus to the airport. Buenos Aires has—I’ve been told—over 1,000 bus lines. I didn’t believe this statement because I had only see buses with routes into the 300s. Then, I got to be a gringo, and I got on the wrong bus 86, 3 times. I’d assume all 86s would be the same, but I was wrong. From trial and error, I know there are at least 3 different routes called 86. Knowing this, I can see there being over 1000 routes. Discerning between them is another mystery I’ll have to figure out another time.

The bus ride was very exhausting. The bus was packed to capacity and then some. For 2 hours I was standing, just dying to get to the airport. With my full bag on my back and the constant filtering of people through the hot, sweaty bus, my knees were not feeling very happy. Finally, I made it.

I now have a few hours at this airport and am quite let down with it. It is new and modern but lacks any amenities. One company owns the rights to all the food and that includes pre-made sandwiches and a Dixie cup of Pepsi. Argentineans have great pride in this airport, but I think it is the one thing they shouldn’t have pride in. Perhaps I’m being unfair because as a foreigner I just got hit with a big tax. I had spent off all my money and then learned I needed to get more to pay the tax. At least now I have some money to buy my Dixie cup of Pepsi.

Picture info:
1. Big trees in Buenos Aires. There are these huge trees everywhere, and they provide good shade.
2. Big next to Falkland Island War painting. I found it hilarious. (photo from earlier in trip, but I posted it on this page just to fill some space)

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