We left Córdoba and headed to Buenos Aires on an overnight bus. We chose the bus company el Turista which cost us $900 Argentinian pesos (£40) for the 9 hour tip. We arrived to an absolute torrential downpour and when we got to our hostel at 8am to leave our bags before checkin, we discovered that their whole ground floor had flooded overnight! Fortunately it cleared up for the rest of our stay. Buenos Aires is a huge capital city at 203km squared, so there’s quite a lot of public transport available. However, the city felt safe and we found ourselves just walking everywhere in Buenos Aires and ended up walking about 10-20km per day. I suppose cost effective given how painful withdrawing money in Argentina was. Firstly it was usually a faff to find an ATM that actually accepted our cards and once we had, the withdrawal fees were absolutely extortionate; the maximum you can withdraw is £100 with a £5 charge!
We did one of our favourite free walking tours ever here; Buenos Aires Free Walks. They were really professional and even had microphones which was a first. The walking tour stopped at various landmarks, all with interesting stories such as the Palacio Barolo whose architecture reflects the Divine comedy with floors representing hell, ascension and heaven with a lighthouse at the top and we saw Auguste Rodin’s statue of The Thinker (who knew there was one in Buenos Aires?!).
But the best thing about the tour was that he actually gave us a political and economic commentary of Argentina whereas most tours try to avoid too much bias. It was even better that he said off the bat, that obviously this was his opinion but it was still a really interesting insight we wouldn’t have otherwise got to see. I think we were both most shocked to learn that last year, Argentina had a 40% inflation rate! It helped to make sense of why everything was so expensive and Buenos Aires had the most homelessness that we’ve encountered in South America so far. We did a food shop for eggs, bread, ham and cheese which came to an insane £10. It was also linked to the fact that all monuments, statues and important buildings are gated due to the protests against the government in 2011.
La Casa Rosada (the pink house), the main government building, is located in what is considered the heart of Buenos Aires; Plaza de Mayo, (May, the month of the Argentinian liberation). The floor surrounding the central statue is painted with the symbol of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo (the mothers). The symbol is of a nappy made of cloth that belonged to all the lost children of the dictatorship. These mothers are praised for their silent protests when they demanded information on their missing children which brought light to the human rights violations on an international stage. During the dictatorship, newborns were taken from their mothers and given to parents within the military junta. The organisation offers blood tests to a certain age group who have questions about their heritage and who might be one of the lost children. The organisation has apparently located 122 lost children, including the grandson of one of the founding members, Estela de Carlotto. The people of Buenos Aires seemed to be really engaged in politics and human rights. We saw so many references to the lost children of the dictatorship, so many posters about a rally against Benjamin Natanyahu (Israel’s Prime Minster) to account him for his human rights violations in Palestine and finally, everywhere in Buenos Aires you’ll see “Where is Santiago Maldonaldo?”; on posters, in graffiti, in shop windows. Neither of us actually knew about this recent case but it refers to a protester who went missing in August 2017 and the mystery surrounding his disappearance, the Argentinian people fear it is history repeating itself with the disappearances under the dictatorship (1976-1983).
When you think of Buenos Aires, the main thing that comes to mind is Tango! Though there are many places, including our hostel, that offered tango classes, Dave and I (as we have 4 left feet combined) decided we’d leave it to the professionals and just wanted to watch a show. On the walking tour, we’d been pointed out Cafe Tortoni as more of a landmark. It’s the oldest cafe in Argentina founded in 1858. Whenever you walk past, there are queues round the corner for the food though apparently its more just for the experience of the cafe. Anyway, we’d asked our hostel about the tango show they offered but it was more expensive than the one hosted at the historic Cafe Tortoni! So we decided to go there instead. We went early in the day to book our tickets for the evening’s show. There’s an 8pm and 10pm performance, we opted for the earlier show and it was $400 Argentinian pesos each (£17). They led us to the downstairs area and we were seated at a table right in front of the stage. The seating must have been based on who bought the tickets first as the waiter had a specific seating plan, so definitely worth us going early. We settled down to a bottle of Tortoni red ready to enjoy the show. Neither of us had ever been to any type of dance performance so we didn’t know what to expect but it was absolute incredible! The dancing was mesmerising and we were just nudging each other in awe at how they move their feet so fast, kick so high and somehow don’t kick their partners in the crotch. The show was telling a story and there was a man singing in between each dance, but to be honest, we didn’t really understand what the story was. The only words I got from the song were ‘corazon’ and ‘amor’ (heart and love).
Our final stop in Buenos Aires was the ecological reserve. We’d tried to go on the first day we arrived but it had been closed due to the flooding from the previous night. The reserve is 360 hectares and full of wildlife. The stars of the show being Coypu who swim in in the lake. We’d never even heard of them, they are like beaver/rodents with long tails and bright orange front teeth. We also saw Brazilian guinea pigs who only stay on land. This enormous reserve is on the edge of the ocean as well. It’s very surreal seeing the outline of the buildings of the biggest city in Argentina behind you whilst you’re walking through a huge park full of wildlife and on the other side, the vastness of Rio de la plata which feeds in to the South Atlantic Ocean.
We also really enjoyed strolling along Puerto Madero, we ended up there when we were buying our onwards boat tickets to Colonia, Uruguay. But its a lovely area for a walk, and also the terrible Westerners we are, we got Starbucks but Dulche de Leche flavour. I don’t know how I’m going to live my life after South America without Dulche de Leche.
Thanks for reading, join us next time as we head to Uruguay!
Sophie & Dave