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Published: July 28th 2006
After travelling about 9 hours including 2 bus rides and the requisite border crossing into Argentina (very smooth), we finally arrived in Tilcara totally knackered and starving. Can´t think of too many countries where you can show up at 11.30pm and get a full meal with no hassles.
Found this quaint (ie. tiny) family-run hotel situated next to a fabulous restaurant called "Pucara". Basically stuffed ourselves stupid over the next 2 nights, and then rolled into bed afterwards. I have got to bore everyone with what I ate there - llama carpaccio with a delicious sun-dried tomato and olive oil dressing, caramelised lamb shank (meat just fell off the bone) with local veggies, chocolate pudding (with melted choccy ozzing from within) with cardamom ice-cream, plus red wine. Arrrrrhhhhh, bliss!!!
Then it was onto Salta, and finally Buenos Aires which is massive. Been staying in San Telmo, which is the place to go for tango.
The following things have made a huge impression on me since I arrived in BsAs, not in any particular order -
(1) FOOD. First and foremost, it is all about the steak. You can´t go past the huge chunks of juicy and thick dead
Brazil on the left, and Argentina on the right
animal - very gaucho. Here's a totally random and useless fact - the average amount of beef consumed per year per capita in Argentina is 60kg (holy cow). Also love the medialunas (translates as "half-moons", or their version of croissants); empanadas (meat-filled pastries, like samosas); and submarinos (glass of hot milk in which you stir in a bar of dark chocolate).
(2) NON-STOP PARTY. For a country where 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, they sure know how to live it up and keep the good times rolling. But you´ve got to pace yourself. A typical day/night in BsAs from Thurs-Sat goes as follows - Wake up 12 midday & have brekky of medialunas; have lunch around 3pm; have coffee/snack at 7pm; have a siesta until you head for dinner from 10pm-midnight; then hit the nightclubs and bars at 2-3am; and finally head home about 6-7 am. Don't know how they do it. I went to Opera Bay nightclub the other night with some hostel buddies, and hit the wall about 4.30am. I'm guessing the 'Speed' (like Red Bull and vodka) and other chemical additives help a lot.
(3) FASHION. Not hard to tell who
are the tourists, as the locals look like they´ve stepped out of a Vogue mag. Got a reality check from the "Fashion Nazis" the other night. Sad to say that my scungy street-backpacker wear did not stand up to scrutiny and ended up being seated at the bar instead of at a table at a trendy Jap restaurant. Stuff here is ultra-trendy at a fraction of the cost with the low peso (about 2.3x).
(4) Everyone calls you "Chica" (girl) which is really cool.
(5) DOGS. Paris has cleaned up its act and moved all the dog-shit here. Whilst BsAs is a nice city to walk around, half the time I´m missing stuff because I´m too busy watching the pavement to make sure I´m not stepping in shit every third step. Very New York with dog walkers in the streets or parks with multiple leashes.
(6) EL DIEGO. Need I say more. Even visited La Bombonera (Boca Juniors stadium) where Maradona played as a youngster. No live games unfortunately.
(7) TANGO. This is one sensual and complicated dance, with so many versions. Been soaking it up by going to tango lessons, milongas (tango discos), and even
a tango show (brilliant). Have no bloody idea what goes where, but it´s great fun nonetheless.
(8) ARTS. Went to MALBA (Museo Latinoamericano de BA), a beautiful space filled with great art from Latin American artists within the last century. Also attended a performance (mix of classical ballet, modern dance and opera) at Teatro Colon which is BA´s equivalent of the Opera House. You can get standing tickets for 5 pesos (less than A$2.50), compared to the premium seats at A$200.
(9) DULCE DE LECHE - just like soft caramel fudge, and it's in all the things I love to eat like cake, ice-cream (best so far is the dulce de leche with brownies at Freddo), alfajores (shortbreads filled with dulce de leche), and as a brekky spread (like Nutella).
(10) MATE (pronounced mart-eh). The beverage of choice, and especially useful in keeping away the hunger pangs so you can fit into the trendy fashions. Apparently over 90% of households drink it. Can't help notice practically everyone carrying around a special mate gourd with filtered metal straw and a thermos.
(11) IGUAZU FALLS. Spent a couple of days here, and hate to say I was a
tad underwhelmed. Hardly any water with a lot of the falls dried up. Even though it is the dry season, apparently it´s been made worse due to several years of drought. No boats running to Isla San Martin either due to the low river. Could only look at pictures to imagine how magnificent the Falls can be with more water. Have to admit that the Devil´s Throat was still impressive.
Finally did a couple of day trips out of BsAs. Spent an afternoon in Tigre which is about an hour away. Located down near the river delta, it´s where the social set have their weekenders.
Also took the ferry over to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay with a couple of hostel mates (Alex & Lauren). A really cute and peaceful town with a historic quarter of colonial houses and cobblestone streets. Hired a moped for the half-day and did some exploring. Never ridden one before (noticed the local police having a good laugh at our efforts) but got the hang of it after a while. Almost freaked out when we got the lunch bill for UR990, but everyone there accepts Argentine pesos at a 7.5x conversion rate.
With Luke, Sam, Marie-Claire and Aaron (Excel alum's)
Argentina is a top country, and Buenos Aires is the crown jewel. Will definitely come back sometime.
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