(The title rhymes if you say it with a super American accent…)

More pictures forthcoming when I figure out why picasaweb is giving me “500 internal_server_error”

I didn’t want to bus anywhere from Ushuaia, the End of the World (or Beginning, depending on who you ask), I decided to buy a flight to Buenos Aires (it was cheaper than bussing, anyway). I arrived in Buenos Aires with a hostel reservation, a semi-novel feat for me. By the time I’d successfully founds said hostel, the time was 21:00, and as it was St. Paddy’s day, I had no choice but to begin drinking immediately. The group at the hostel was fun and friendly, and we went out on the town around 23:00. Then that thing happened (as will happen with a group of 12 foreign travelers) where the bar we’d aimed for didn’t have enough space and no one knew where to go and we ended up standing on a corner looking rather lost. Another American guy and I broke off to go to watch tango musicians in a bar with only space for two. Then, but of course, we found an Irish pub where the stout tasted Imperial and the walk back to the hostel was easy. I was quite tired for my first day in Buenos Aires.

BA activities… I took a free walking tour of the city. These free tours seem to be available in most major cities, and I’ve found that they’re a great way to get oriented upon arriving somewhere. Our guide was really into architecture and made me look upwards a lot more than I would have by myself. Another day I had lunch at a place called Rona’s, which I patronized with my friend Rona (from Seattle) in mind – the restaurant served up a salad and a cafe that Seattle Rona (a gifted cook herself) would have been proud of.

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Otherwise, most of my 4 days in BA were spent working out logistics for the rest of my trip. A lot of this involved getting to Uruguay. I’d run out of USDs in Ushuaia, just before coming to BA. Because it’s impossible to get USDs in Argentina, everyone goes across to Colonia, Uruguay for the day to withdraw USDs to exchange on the blue market in Argentina. So I bought my 53USD ferry ticket for 8am on Friday. In retrospect, this was a silly departure time for a Friday morning. Especially considering that Thursday night I’d planned to go to a milonga in the Palermo neighborhood of BA.

A milonga is basically dance classes (tango and rock, for this particular place) followed by social dancing until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve really wanted to learn tango, and being in Buenos Aires meant I had no choice other than to do it there, a city so famous for the dance. The beginner (principiante) class was taught in Spanish, but I’ve taken enough dance classes that I could infer what they were trying to teach us about lead/follow and partner connection. When we finally got to the basic steps and dancing, I was stoked to experience the feel of this dance. At the end of the class, we danced a whole song. Fortunately, there were fewer men than women in the class, and when I didn’t have a partner, a random guy stepped in to lead me. And oh boy did he know what he was doing! It was AMAZING.

That night, I danced a couple of songs with people, but I found it difficult to find partners. I’m accustomed to my dance community in Seattle, where everyone dances with everyone for the fun of dancing and nothing more (typically). Now that I think of it, this explains why the latino men in Seattle chat you up while dancing, unlike the non-Latinos… I think Latinos are programmed to use dancing as a flirtation/courtship tool, whereas many of the partner dancers I know in Seattle dance for the fun of dancing. While I’m not yet accustomed to the social aspects of dancing in South America, it’s been interesting (and sometimes often awkward) trying to figure it out.

In any event, the milonga was still a great way to se some incredible dancing. I also met a couple of Argentinians who were the type of friends that remind you of old married couples. Hilarious, those two. I left the milonga at 2am, knowing that I had to get up early. After bussing (and walking… missed my stop) back to the hostel, I was in bed by 315. In my dorm room, the stupid plug was loose and would not hold my charger, so I put it just outside of the room to charge. This was a poor choice, because my watch was on the fritz and decided not to sound the wake up alarm at 645. So at 720, I fuzzed into consciousness to the distant music of my backup phone alarm. The fuzziness of semi-consciousness fled like so many panicky goats when I realized what time it was. Fortunately, I’d packed my bag the night before, so I grabbed it and literally ran out the door and down the street in search of a cab. I found one and made it, although I had to withdraw Pesos from an ATM at the ferry terminal to pay my cab driver, because I’d left my 50Peso (apx 5USD) bill somewhere in my dorm room. (I have a bad habit of tucking money into my bra and then forgetting it when the bra goes away for bed time. Whoops.) It was a groggy morning.

I arrived in Colonia and found my way to the tour bus, which was full of people who seemed much older. The tour itself was not ueber exciting, with the exception of our guide, who was hilarious. She kept making sarcastic comments about the work ethic of the Portuguese settlers to the port and about the conflicts among the Portuguese, Italians, and Spanish for ownership of said port. I wanted to write down almost all of what she said, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one who found her hilarious. Maybe everyone else was having trouble hearing… anyway, from my notes about Colonia, via my delightful guide:

Apparently the main product of Colonia (and Uruguay?) is milk. The stuff they don’t use is exported to Argentina and Brazil. I found the midwest of South America! (which might explain why everything seemed so sleepy and un-happenin’…)

While walking through the main square of the old town, our guide and her charming accent quipped, “Parakeets: the crankiest birds in gods creation. You should be here in mating season.” And a bit later, as she was showing us the ruins of the wall meant to protect Colonia from sea invasion, “It took 47 years to build half a mile… they’re Portuguese not Chinese.”

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And finally, regarding the ultimate “winners” of settling Colonia, “The Italian way: wait for the Portuguese and Spanish to kill each other and then bring in the pizza and bring in the wine… 50% of the population now is of Italian descent.”

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After the tour, I wandered off in search of coffee and wifi (the latter was important, given the previous night). After caffeine-ing up, I went off in search of an ATM, feeling like maybe I was doing something illicit, even though importing USDs from Uruguay is common practice. I managed to take out 500USD, but when I put my card in for more, I was denied. Turns out, Charles Schwab flagged my card, and reasonably so. In the same day I’d withdrawn from Argentina and Uruguay, so it makes sense that they would suspect something. Fortunately, through the power of Skype and 800 numbers, I talked to Schwab and cleared everything up in time to withdraw another 400USD before having to catch the ferry back to Buenos Aires. (Note: Charles Schwab customer service has been outstanding) Also, I ate cheese and bread (strategically purchased with the very last of my Pesos) under the watchful eyes of some rather menacing pigeons…

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I arrived back in BA and went straight for Florida street, a pedestrian street full of people yelling “Cambio! Cambio!” (translation: exchange). I knew that my 900USD had haggling power, so when one guy offered my 10.6 Pesos to the Dollar (normal for that time period), I asked for a higher rate. When he found out I had 900USD to sell, he quite happily gave me 10.8. I think I might’ve made his day. After loading up on a giant wad of Pesos, I turned my backpack around into a tummypack and made a beeline for my hostel (obviously trying not to look like I was carrying gobs of cash).

The next day, I stashed all my camping gear in my hostel in Buenos Aires, to await my return. I wanted to try out a new light-and-fast travel style and I didn’t think I’d be needing/wanting to camp where I was going. Then I hopped on a 15-hour overnight bus to Mendoza and wine country.

One comment on “BA and one day in Uruguay

  • Cori, I’m loving all of your adventures and the pictures are beautiful! Be safe down there. My sister lived in BA for a year and loved it. Keep the posts comin!

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