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Published: February 28th 2016
Travelling to Argentina was a last minute decision. I had been backpacking for a year and so much had passed with family and friends that I was wondering if it was the time to go home, plus with spending nearly 4 and a half months in Australia and New Zealand I had been in a safe place, with English being spoke everywhere and it being just like home. South America was going back onto adventure territory and although I was ready to get a bit of normality in my life, I took the big leap of the 11 hour flight to get to Buenos Aires. I had attempted to learn Spanish via an app on my mobile phone but only got a few words that would not really be helpful on getting around. Things like an apple, the dog, the man and some water was not enough to get me by in a shop and therefore for me the big adventure was being continued.
Leaving Auckland I was 11 hours in front of UK and now I was in Buenos Aires it was 3 hours behind. Even with my brightest of brains, I couldn’t work out if I was going to be jet lagged or not but to get around it, I stayed awake on the plane catching up with films all the way. I got through customs no problems and found the bus that took me directly to the hostel, life looked too easy even though not one person spoke English. Thank god the hostel I booked had given instruction on how to get there. After the quietness of New Zealand it was back to crazy driving and beeping horns.
After all this time I now have an instant feel of how a hostel is going to be within 5 minutes of stepping in. The Amercican del Sur hostel was a revelation and I loved it. Everything from the staff speaking perfect English, to seeing a decent sized kitchen that had people cleaning it. I was not disappointed and although I was tired I was determined to stay awake till at least 10 so I could have a decent nights sleep. Dropping off my bags I had a short wonder round the area to see what there was to see. One thing about Buenos Aires is that there are so many outstanding beautiful old buildings that look like they might be important, there are no signs to say what they are and nothing in the guidebooks to say either. I guess it’s an City that when the boom hit in the 1800’s they wanted a bit of European style for living in so all these French and Italian style houses and buildings were built. I walked around for about 2 hours getting my bearings and then was too tired for anything else so went back to the hostel to chill. One thing I was glad of was I had no toothache going on for the first time in a few days and I was able to hit the sack and sleep like a baby.
The next day was a Saturday and I was feeling refreshed to explore. Knowing nothing about Buenos Aires at all, like most cities I’ve been to, the best way to explore is to get lost and try and find your way back to the hostel, with help using my phone with maps. Cheating I know but I don’t want to get proper lost and never find my hostel again! I headed towards the river and went west knowing that it would get me towards then main centre. The riverside is meant to be updated with upmarket flats and walkways but comparing it to the way to Western standards it has fallen short and was a bit disappointing but thats without seeing what it looked like before they did it. There were a lot of homeless lying around on benches and not many people walking around so not sure if they have the desired effect that they were after. Walking through the various monuments and seeing everything was still a mystery without knowing what they were, but the Malvina/Falkland War memorial was one of the things I wanted to see. However there was so a fence round it stopping people from looking over it and it looked like it had been either wrecked or getting repaired with lots of stones lying around. Not the most impressed I’ve been. Going on further into the main centre still wondering what things were but took plenty of pictures to make it look I’m seeing stuff. I don’t know what was up with my body that even after a decent nights sleep I was still tired. Was this jet lag kicking in with the time difference? I headed to a cafe and grabbed some coffee and some food (with an English menu) and even though I had benefit for 3 hours I had to go back to the hostel to just chill as the caffeine wasn’t working.
Getting back to the hostel, I settled into the chair and watched a bit of Friends in Spanish and grabbed a bottle of wine to relax with. Talking with other people within the area helped me from falling asleep and after a couple of hours doing nothing, thats when I heard the music from outside the hostel and the sounds of a big crowd. It was about 9 at night and I was curious to see what was happening and walked out to CARNIVAL. It was explained by the reception that Carnival happens all over Latin America leading up to Lent with the biggest being in Rio De Janeiro. The festival wasn’t as big as the Brazilian one but my god they know how to put on a show. The main street around the corner from the hostel had been closed off to traffic and there were a mass of people on both sides of the road while in the middle there was a procession of people dressed up in the most craziest costumes, dancing to music and it was amazing to watch. There was also for some reason a lot of people with cans of foam spraying random people, of which I was one. I was there for 2 hours feeling the music and tapping my feet is the way that other Brits would. I don't think that we as a nation are well known for randomly dancing in the streets unless there is alcohol involved. The procession in the centre was a mixture of the old and the young and although they probably had been dancing for hours they were still going for it with smiles galore.
i went back to the hostel feeling happy and decided that it was bed time at 1 in the morning even though the carnival was still going strong and thats when the toothache decided to pay me another visit. The pain this time was the worst I’ve had and it kept me up for most of the night. i found that drinking cold water helped but the more water I drank the more I needed the toilet, so it was a catch 22 situation that didn’t allow my body to lie down at all.I managed to get some sleep at 5 and was up at 9 a few hours later. I was determined that this would not let the experience of Buenos Aires get me down so after a decent breakfast after the pain had gone down with pain killers I went along to the famous Buenos Aires market. Although its more famous due to the tourists these days and the sellers had all the tourist tat on their stalls. What was impressive was the fact it went on for about 6 streets and never seemed to end. I looked around and thought about getting souvenirs to take home at last but remembered that the room in my backpack was limited so that was an interesting idea that went into the trash can in my brain. My toothache managed to stay away and I still have no idea why it would just come on randomly every now and again. With a lack of sleep and a couple of hours in the market, I grabbed some food from a non English speaking cafe after randomly pointing to what I think was chicken and headed back to the hostel. I collapsed into a chair and started chatting to some of the other backpackers that had been around the dame time as me. The receptionist overheard me talking about my toothache and gave a recommendation to go and see the Dental College which was only a few streets away. Seems her mum had been a few months back and they did an excellent job on her fillings for FREE. With that in my head I had to have an early night and I managed to drop off very quickly but only for an hour or so before the pain came back and I was up again for most of the night.
After a couple of hours sleep it was a Monday and it was time to go and see a dentist, I needed to get rid of this tooth that was causing all the problems. I followed the map to get to the Dental School and although no one spoke English at all I managed to give the right mime for pain and pulling a tooth out. The people that i was talking to (or miming to) got very excited when they realised they had got the right answer but I wasn’t given any prizes out, I just wanted to get rid of it. Unfortunately they explained in mime back there was no students until April as it was the end of the year and (I think) the new term started then, so I was out of luck! Walking out feeling dejected, I found a wifi hotspot and managed to google a nearby dentist which i knew I would have to pay for. Only a couple of blocks away, the American Dentist had one review which stated he was “very good”. I suppose that with the word “American” in the title of the practice and the fact the only review of the place was in English, i took my chance. Once there I filled in paperwork and kept asking how much it cost, but with no English speakers available I had to wait for the actual dentist. His English was perfect and was quick enough to have me in his chair, poking around in my mouth with various implements. He told me that the tooth that was giving me problems was not the original tooth that started giving me problems in Mongolia but was in fact the one where the filling had dropped out 2 months earlier and was causing the pain to work itself around the whole of my left hand side of the gums. The examination took less then 5 minutes and then he gave me options of what I could have done along with prices and gave me his professional opinion of what he should do, which was to remove the tooth completely. The cost? the equivalent of £50, which was a lot cheap er then New Zealand where I was previously or even UK which I would have had to wait at least a month for an appointment. I agreed with him and 10 minutes later of lots of painkilling injections and the twisting left and right of the tooth with dental pliers, I was back in reception with a lot more drugs and paying the bill. All in all I was in the dentist for a total of half an hour. The advice I was given was to rest, take the tablets at the correct time and eat lots of ice cream which was cool and would help the swelling and more importantly I was to rest! Ice cream and resting? I was into that and thats what I did for the next day and a half and since then I have had no pain at all, even when the pain killers wore off. I was impressed and I had the best nights sleep that night.
It was 2 days later that I was to leave the hostel and do more exploring. I was still on soft foods and plenty of mouth wash to keep it all clean, but I signed up for a walking tour from the hostel. It was lead by a woman who for all the knowledge she had, asked a lot of questions about where we were expecting us to know the answers! We were all new to Argentina so how would we know, but anyways the tour took us to the ‘posh’ part of Buenos Aires and although we did a lot of walking the only knowledge that I got from the tour was that there was a lot of French influence when building the area. We did, as a group, go into the cemetery which there seemingly are only another 2 similar in the world; one being in Milan and the other in Paris. It’s designed for famous people who have died in the area and are commemorated with fancy ‘houses’ for their coffins. There were a lot of statues and it was a big area. It didn’t feel like your normal cemetery, it felt more like an outside art museum and it didn’t feel eerie like some places do. The guide explained who the more important burial grounds were for and then took us to where Eva Peron ‘Evita’ was buried, which was her family plot and not with her husband. it was an interesting day and it ended at the cemetery, which was a hell of a long way from the hostel. Everyone else in the group decided that they wanted to explore more but I took to foot and walked back which took an hour as I was feeling a bit tired, not as tired as I was after the extra hour walk back! It was then I decided that I had seen enough of Buenos Aires and time to head somewhere else.
It was hard to decide for my next destination in a country that the only city I knew of was where I was staying in. After looking at various websites to get hints and look at maps and taking advice from reception then it was Iguazu which was north and a 18 hour bus ride, which I took as it was cheaper then flying.So I booked the ticket at reception for the next day and had an early night. The next morning I booked out but hung around the hostel waiting for the time to leave. The bus left from the station at 1530 hrs, the taxi would take about 10 minutes to get there so I had it in my head that I was to leave at around 1500 hrs. Half an hour before I decide that I was hungry and went out and grabbed some street food where I was joined at the table by a old man who started speaking Spanish. After explaining yet again that i spoke only English, he started speaking in my native tongue with ease, however he was not very good at listening and even though I was speaking slowly and clearly,he would demand that I spoke slower still and more clearer!! It got to a point that I had to get away from him as there are only so many times you can say I am from Newcastle in a speed of a letter at a time. Looking at the time I discovered it was 1500 hrs and I was late! Running back to the hostel, they girls realised I was running behind schedule and flagged down a taxi while I collected my bags. Getting into the vehicle I showed the driver my bus ticket and the address that was on it. He understood and thats when I discovered that on a Friday afternoon the traffic stops to a stand still. He kept looking at me as he knew what time my bus was, shrugging his shoulders I did discover afterwards he was actually heading the opposite direction to the right bus station so whatever had happened i would not have made it anyways. I grabbed my phone to find out the time to discover I didn’t have it, I had left it in a rush to leave, on the reception desk. I had to make the command decision to go back to the hostel. The girls there were a little surprised to see me, and smiled as they handed over my iPhone. I found out that there was another bus and it would be leaving at 2100 hrs and if i was to make sure thatI was to make it, the reception would explain to the driver where I was going to and I would be there half an hour early, which I did and so that night I left as a sleepy person on an over night bus.
For me Buenos Aires was a return to the happy adventurous side of me, trying to work out language, deciding what food is what and transport difficulties. It has its history but not knowing what South American history is, can be a problem when they say the ‘famous’ Buenos Aires bloke and you have no idea who he is. It can only get better 😊
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