After a few peaceful days in Puerto Iguazu, taking in the glory of the falls, I hopped on a long 20 hour bus ride to head straight down to Buenos Aires to meet Anthony. At long last we were meeting back up, but it was under unfortunate circumstances- the day he arrived in Buenos Aires, only minutes after debarking his bus he was robbed of his backpack which had his wallet and passport inside of it. Look for a guest post coming soon on this unfortunate event and how to watch yourself and your things while in Buenos Aires, which is notorious for this type of theft.
This threw a bit of a wrench into our plans to head into Patagonia as he was now stuck in Buenos Aires dealing with the huge amount of paperwork and headaches that comes with replacing a stolen passport abroad. I arrived in BA and carefully guarded my bag until I got to the hostel. I wasn’t getting robbed a second time! I gave Anthony the biggest hug, squeezing him tightly to show my condolences for hard times. South America had really taken it’s toll on both of us, proving to be a hard continent to explore, often ending in trouble for us. But we still love this continent, nonetheless.
We sat down and filled each other in our travels, which had started together, but taken us in different directions at different times. We were both just relieved and happy to be back together at the end of our adventure. We talked about our future plans, as it seemed Patagonia just wasn’t going to be possible. I decided to stay in Buenos Aires for a week or so to stay with Anthony, help him get the passport stuff taken care of, and then I would head back up to Ecuador to end my time in South America.
I only had two weeks left in South America and it simply wasn’t enough time to do Patagonia justice. There was also the factor of the Northern border crossing being closed, as during winter it was often closing sporadically and at unpredictable times due to changing weather. If I ended up at the border and it was still closed, I would have to bus back to Salta, then get a flight from there to Santiago to catch my flight over to Europe in time. It was just too risky and might end up costing me a huge amount of money. I sadly resigned my plans of Patagonia and instead planned to head back up to Ecuador for my last two weeks, to spend some more time on the beach in Montañita, my favourite spot, and then to meet some friends in Loja and explore Cuenca, two places I never had the chance to visit the last time I was in the country.
Anthony resigned to head home early, cutting his trip two weeks short, so he could visit his mom and sister in the Rocky Mountains and await his new passport in Canada and get ready to move over to Germany for school. We had one week to enjoy the lovely Buenos Aires and so set out to explore. I had been told time and again that Buenos Aires is basically a European city. You can see the influence and imitation all over the city, especially in the downtown core. The architecture is undoubtedly reminiscent of Europe, the beautiful buildings with their Parisian influenced facades, the abundance of cafes and medialunas (their version of the croissant), the people walking their dogs on leashes through the neighbourhoods (as opposed to wild street dogs wandering in packs). The streets were clean and bustling and all the restaurants boasted gnocci, pizza, and pasta. It was nothing at all like the rest of rugged South America that I was so used to! I felt transported to a place I’d never been, but had seen so much of through media – Europe. People were not exaggerating in the least when they compared this place to Europe, the influence was undeniable. I suddenly felt out of place in my thick alpaca socks and sweaters, while everyone whisked past me in their suits and fancy attire.
We spent our time in Buenos Aires exploring the streets and visiting many of the cafes, but most importantly, I reunited with a friend from back in my high school days- Fede, an exchange student from Argentina, who spent a year in Yellowknife. Thanks to the wonders of facebook, we were able to keep in touch, and ten years later, be reunited!
Anthony and I attempted to make our way to his place one evening and got pathetically lost. We found ourselves wandering around the street we thought to be his, calling out his name in hopes his window was open and he would hear us. After asking a few people in our pathetic Spanish, and being responded to in condescending or pitying, (I’m not sure which) English, we were left no better off. We didn’t want to spend the money on cabs, so we decided we would walk back to the main drag – one of the widest streets in the world- Avendia 9 de Julio – and catch the bus from there. But we got lost. Again. We ended up near the bus station where Anthony got robbed, only now in the dark, near a park with some sketchy looking folk that freaked us out, so we huddled together arm in arm, and ensured we didn’t speak English so we didn’t become even more of a target! We began laughing when the coast was clear at the fact that, for near two hours now we were utterly lost. We had both chosen to leave our phones at home, so we didn’t get robbed of them, and were regretting it now. We were finally able to hail down a cab and of course were taken for a joy ride that cost more than it should have and got dropped off not even close to our hostel.
Defeated, we went home and contacted Fede to explain. I felt awful, knowing he would be worried since two hours passed and it should not have taken more than a half hour! He in turn felt awful and said he was on his way to us and we would go from there! The great thing about Argentina is you never feel rushed. Even though it was 10:30pm, we weren’t late for dinner, and were still able to go out to a restaurant to eat. Then we headed over to his friends house around 1am for some drinks, and didn’t even attempt to go out until around 2am! This baffled me. Eating dinner at 10pm? Not heading out to the clubs until 2am? But that’s when they closed back home! Not in Argentina. Some clubs didn’t even open until 2am! It was a bizarre schedule that didn’t make sense to me, but did fit well with my hate of rushing around to be ready for an evening out; there was never any rush in Buenos Aires!
Thanks to connections, we got to cut the massive line and get in to the hot club where an Argentinian band was playing- apparently they were a big deal and when they came on stage around 3am the crowd went insanely wild with screaming girls- it sounded like a Justin Bieber concert, I swear, the way the girls were shrieking! They began playing and everyone sang along to every word, and Anthony and I just pretended we knew what was going on and had a blast.
I had noticed the fashion in Buenos Aires of the women was rather strange. In fact it was frighteningly reminiscent of the 90’s. This was glaringly confirmed when I walked into the bar bathroom that evening. It was as shock to the eyes. I was sure I had stepped onto the set of the 90’s hit movie Clueless. Every girl was wearing some variation of the following outfit: a black choker necklace, a plaid shirt tied around the waist, crop tops, hideous platform shoes and dark purple lipstick. What the hell was going on in Buenos Aires with the ladies?! Didn’t they know the 90’s were a disaster?! I laughed in disbelief and went back out, feeling the urgent need to escape the strange fashion disaster in the bathroom. Getting home around 5am was hard times for us old folks and we slept in late the next day. It was so great to be reunited with Fede and he played the perfect host, taking us out to explore the city – the famous cemetery, the beautiful neighbourhoods and the renowned old sector- La Boca.
I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in this fun city and to have great friends by my side. I met up again with Fede and friends on the eve of my birthday. I was feeling lazy and tired and didn’t want to go out, and nearly bailed, partly because I was scared to make the public transit journey on my own and get lost again (Anthony wasn’t feeling well and stayed in), but I pushed that old anxiety aside and felt proud when I left the hostel alone. I found my way and met with Fede and his friends, where they brought out a chocolate bar with a candle in it and sang me happy birthday. Later we went over to another friends house and when they found out it was my birthday they brought out an orange with a candle in it and sang again! I tried my best to catch the conversation around me in exceedingly rapid Spanish, but Argentinian Spanish is like another language altogether. They hardly open their mouths, everything has a “jah jah jah” sound to it, they drop their s’s and I simply couldn’t wrap my head around a word they were saying. It was so frustrating! How could this be Spanish when I couldn’t catch a single word!?
Around 2am, yet again, we went out to a bar and while waiting in line to get in were treated to a silhouetted show of two lovers getting down and dirty through their lit up bedroom window. Our explosion of cheers alerted them and they rather grudgingly pulled their pants up and retreated to the more private and darker depths of their home, surely to continue without the audience (where’s the fun in that?!).
The next day was my birthday and after a lovely cafe breakfast with Anthony of medialunas, cafe con leche and fresas con crema, I went over to Fede’s who was sweet enough to bake me a cake Argentinian style- cut in half, covered in dulce de leche and put back together. It was a perfect day!
After a week it was time to say goodbye to Anthony and make my way back up to Ecuador for my final two weeks in the magnificent South America. I bid a sad goodbye to Anthony, not knowing when I would see him next, as he no longer lived in Yellowknife and to be honest, neither did I, as I was now a full time nomad. I hopped on the plane and cruised back up to Ecuador, hoping to get a last little bit of sunshine before heading off to the next leg of my journey over in Europe, soon to be crossing the big atlantic for my first time!