Beautiful Buenos Aires

Saturday 10 to Thursday 15 February

It was another long day of travelling on a mid afternoon flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. It was 8pm by the time we arrived at our hotel and were directed to a great Spanish restaurant around the corner, Tankar. The air was different – warm, so the summer clothes were out.

There were still people from the Antarctic tour in Buenos Aires. We met them at our hotel and in the street. All heading off in different directions. We have a little more exploring before heading home. We are considering another 4 to 5 weeks to explore Argentina and Brazil.

We found the hop on hop off bus and completed all three routes in five hours. Buenos Aires is a big city. We loved the expanses of parks and the tree lined streets. There seems to be more green in this city than any other we have visited.

The domestic airport is close to the city and in fact the hop on hop off bus took us right around it. It is beside the Rio Palto which is a huge estuary separating Uruguay and Argentina.

We tried the Argentinian barbeque. It was much too much meat. Bruce had a huge steak and I had a half serve of goat.

The next day was Sunday so we used the last hours of our hop on hop off bus to go to the Palermo Soho district. It is a hip area with lots of cafes and restaurants. After we found a very decent coffee, we meandered back to our hotel through the many parks.

Our first stop was the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays botanical gardens. Nothing very special about them, but lovely to get out of the heat and wander through the shaded paths.

We especially liked the Floralis Genérica in the Plaza Naciones Unidas. It is a giant silver flower which opens in daylight, a living sculpture.

That evening we met the last of the Hampton travellers for dinner, Gail & Marilyn and Maggie & John. I’ve enjoyed catching up with old friends and a change from just-the-two-of-us.

We were in Buenos Aires during the festivities of Carnaval Porteño (Buenos Aires’ Carnival). There was quite a holiday festival in the air and shops and businesses were shut.

We had decided that I should replace my computer with an inexpensive laptop or tablet that will get me through the next few weeks. I need it for booking accommodation, managing any bills that come in and downloading and editing photos as well as keeping my diary stories up to date. We usually spend a couple of hours each evening ‘working’ on our computers. It was in this search amongst the limited shops open during the holiday season, that we realised how much poverty and poor technical infrastructure Argentina suffers. The best computer I could purchase was going to cost close to $AUD1,000 and was about five years behind current technology. The frustration of not having a computer would have to stay.

Meanwhile I had been trying to call HP to find out how to get my laptop fixed. They suggested I return it to the point of purchase – Panama?? The world wide warranty didn’t seem to have much value at this point.

We had also decided to send our big red jackets home, rather than lugging them through the hot climate ahead of us. We packed them up, with the thermals we would not need and the broken HP laptop and headed off to DHL. It was a slow laborious exercise as we ‘declared’ everything, and it was all inspected prior to being thrown into a box and sent home. Then our credit card wouldn’t work – so the emergency $USD500 was gone.

The next day we headed to the Teatro Colón opera house for a tour. The main auditoriums is lavishly decorated. I could easily imagine the wealthy Argentinians wandering its expanse in the days before the Junta took over.

We walked miles, stopping at the Plaza del Congreso and then down the Avenida Rivadavia, famous for its beautiful buildings. We final reached the Plaza de Mayo to see the Casa de Gobierno also known as ‘Casa Rosado’ or the pink palace.

The Plaza was cordoned off and there were a lot of riot barriers, ready to swing into action.

We learnt more about this the following day when we joined Nicolas Hidalgo for a private walking tour. He started at the Catedral Metropolitana which looks rather more like a town hall from the outside with its massive columns. General José de San Martín is buried there, he is considered the father of Argentina and worked closely with Simón Bolívar to gain independence for Argentina, Chile and Peru from Spain.

We walked down to the wharf Puerto Madero where he explained how it was built, not leaving enough space for ships to pass through its locks, therefore creating a high source of income to ferry goods from the mouth of the river into the docks for unloading. Mistake or clever manipulation?

Nicolas also talked about the period of dictatorship suffered here under various regimes, all military based, and then the rise of the Peron’s. Sadly, as we know from the musical, the Peron’s had captured the hearts of the poor, as they both came from underprivileged backgrounds, but the ruling establishment didn’t like them.

Eva Peron, like her mother, had cancer but she refused to treat it and died young at age 33. This left Juan Peron without the support he needed, and whilst he continued to implement social changes in the form of education, health care and support for the poor, he struggled with the establishment.

There was a lot of talk amongst tourists about crossing the Rio Palto to visit Uruguay. The temptation was great so we found ourselves at the ferry terminal, booking a four night package of ferry, bus, accommodation and tour to Colonia and Montevideo – another adventure.

The next day we left Argentina for a short journey to Uruguay.