From Mendoza we arrive at the huge Retiro bus station about lunchtime. We’re a couple of hours delayed due to the horrendous traffic we hit as we get into the centre of Buenos Aires. At some stage we pass only a couple of hundred meters from the Elefante Rosa Hostel who we’ve booked with, but there is of course no way we can get off the bus on a flyover highway even though the bus is stuck in traffic. At first we consider taking a taxi when we arrive at the bus depot but we then decide to see if we can find the closest Metro (Subte) station and figure out how it works. As there is no signage for the Retiro Metro station at the bus station we ask for directions at an information booth and find it without major problems. On the way there we pass through a very bustling and colourful market with many stalls selling various street-food – the cooking-smells are killing us. The metro system is really easy to understand and manoeuvre through, and it’s very cheap to use. Before we know it we’re at the station by our hostel and after a bit confusion of directions, as we surface from underground, we get to the right address. We’re at first a bit confused as we can’t see any signage anywhere, not even on the door, but then we discover a very discrete pink elephant painted on the window above the door – this must be the right place and we test the doorbell. We soon hear footsteps coming down the stair inside and the door is opened by one of the two brothers running the hostel. We get shown the room we’ve booked and are amazed at what we get for our money. It has a mezzanine where the bed is located and the bathroom is also up on the floor above. The downstairs has a table with chairs and a large sofa-chair. We also have a TV and a small balcony. It’s the kind of room you don’t particularly want to leave to go out and do sightseeing – we feel like just chilling and enjoying the luxury.
After a little freshen up we decide to go and have a look at a few museums recommended by the hostel, but first it’s about time we got some food in the belly. Our guide recommends a Parrilla (grill) called Parrilla al Carbon so we head over to it not knowing what we had in store… we get served a mountain of various grilled meats – it’s way more than what we can hope to finish so it’s good we didn’t order any sides. Our lunch therefore consists of meat, more meat and even more meat and nothing else but a shared bottle of beer to wash it down with. Completely stuffed we continue our sightseeing adventure, and due to our very heavy lunch we decide to head over to the museums by foot to try and burn off some calories – should have run a marathon rather than a wobbling walk to compensate for our meat feast… Unfortunately we have some problems finding the museums and as the evening is approaching fast we’re quickly running out of time. We find the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Art) recommended in our guide and have a look around. It’s a nice gallery/museum and we have to settle with the fact that we won’t have the time to venture further to the Museo de Artes Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art) and we start heading back towards our hostel, with a few stops on the way to sample some bottles of beer of course. We get back and get working on our blogs for a bit before an early night – we’re completely bushed.
We don’t have much time to explore Buenos Aires, and it doesn’t help that we’re still affected by the jet-lag from our Singapore–Santiago flight – when are we supposed to be back to normal? The jet-lag of course makes it very difficult to get up in the mornings and we lose a lot of time because of this. Luckily the breakfast doesn’t have a cut-off point in the hostel which means however late we get up we won’t miss out. On our second day it becomes after mid-day before we finally get out of the hostel and we head into the centre to book up a guided city-tour for the next morning and buy our bus tickets to Puerto Iguazu for the evening. All this takes quita a lot of time as we have difficulties finding the tourist office from where to book our tour, and we also have a bit of trouble finding the right office from where we book the bus tickets – then their card machine doesn’t work, so we’re left to search for another company that we can book from which takes even longer… the joys of time-wasting… The rest of the day we use for wandering about the streets of Buenos Aires doing a little bit of essential shopping – my sunglasses are positively falling apart and are partly held together by a bit of sewing thread – very stylish I’ll have you know… We return to our hostel fairly early in the evening – we both feel really tired and blaming the jet-lag, so we have a fairly early night after a bit of packing and lounging in our private “living room” downstairs in our suite – we’re so impressed by this room and try to utilise it as much as we can.
It’s our last day in Buenos Aires and we start the day with the half day city-tour we booked the day before. We manage to arrive at our pick-up spot a little late and we can see the van pulling out and disappearing only 20 seconds before we get there – we call the office but they’re not willing to tell the driver to come back for us but instead instruct us to take a taxi to another pick-up point not too far away… reluctantly we hail a cab to catch up with our impatient sightseeing van. The tour is not quite what we had hoped for anyway – the tour starts off with a lot of drive-by sightseeing, and needless to say we’re not impressed by this (especially after the stress with playing catch-up with the van). We decide if it continues like this we’ll jump off at the most interesting part of the tour, the La Boca neighbourhood, and make our own way back. We’re in luck though and the van does stop at some sights later on in the tour – including the La Boca neighbourhood where we actually get a fair amount of time to explore the area. The La Boca neighbourhood is a very poor but colourful part of the city (also the sketchy part of town), traditionally it was the neighbourhood inhabited by the dock workers and its colourfulness is due to the workers using the leftovers from the painting of the boats. The neighbourhood is now home to many artists, which is reflected in many murals and lots of street art, and there is also a handicraft market in the most touristic part, and with heavy police presence around this touristic centre it’s now completely safe to walk around. Most of the other sights on the tour went by in a flash, so I don’t have too vivid memory of them. Boca was one of the main reasons for taking the tour anyway, so although a little disappointed we at least got to see the main attraction.
In the evening we go to collect our bags at our hostel and head over to the Retiro bus station for our 19 hour bus journey to Puerto Iguazu. Everyone we’ve met during our travels who’s been to South America has been raving about it and so does our guide – we’re quite excited to go there on our way to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.