Paraguay had been short, sweet and mental. There were midgets, a champion's league final equivalent, karaoke, train museums and a Paraguayan mansion. It definitely offered more than we expected and perhaps it was a mistake leaving Paraguay so early after hearing about several other great places to visit in the country, but it was too late we had booked our ticket to Buenos Aires and were off ski.
Robert Smallbone asked me in Asuncion, Paraguay 'so what do you do on an 18 hour night bus.' It was hard to justify the answer I gave of sleep, read, eat and play solitaire on my iPod it semt like there sold be more but that's exactly what happened on our way to Buenos Aires, infact the sleeping part was not hard at all after only getting three hours sleep the previous night. The main hassle of the bus was getting on it. I'm not sure what happened but there were glances at my passport, phone calls and then they repeatedly asked where I was from, it was a strange occurrence I put it down to not having my passport on me when we were booking the tickets. All in all the bus went smoothly it was not as spectacular as our last NAS bus with the armchair seats but we did get a meatball and rice meal along with a banana cake and coke.
We arrived in Buenos Aires 18 and a half hours after setting off, we headed straight for the hostel - Limehouse. It was where we first stayed at the start of our South American Adventure and now we were back approximately half way through our adventure. Unfortunately when we arrived the cheap twelve bed dorm was already fully occupied, as was the slightly less expensive six bed dorm so for nostalgia sake we had to fork out the 90 Argentinian Peso asking price for the four bed dorm. We were later met with more No's when we went to try and get tickets for the second leg of the Copa Libertordes when the San Lorenzo shop said they were only selling tickets too members. Then Earl got turned down by the bank trying to get his traveller cheques exchanged and then I ran into a brick wall trying to buy replacement converse as the shops didn't have the colour I required or had none of my size which I found hard to believe, it wasn't like the Argentinian blokes were a small bread. Being back in Buenos Aires hadn't got off to a great start, but I did manage to cross the fifteen plus land main road in one swoop which was a personal goal ever since arriving in Buenos Aires, I had normal always been caught short by one or two intersection but this time a brisker walk sealed the deal.
After a pasta Bolognese dinner we were joined by a Swiss girl we had met in Mendoza - Anja. Earl and she had previous history; he went back to hers where she threw up on him, so I think he kind of wanted to put the record straight. After about five minutes of being in her presence I wanted to get away. I never realised how annoying she was the last time we met, I guess because the last time I had the pleasure of more interesting company. Her stories were tedious, she was only interested in talking about herself, she was loud and I'd have rather listened to a brick wall or even Captain Disney who I hugely disliked from our hostel in Rio. I don't think I've ever met a girl who has irritated me in such a short space of time than her. I tried to escape, going for a burger at Nac'n'Pops but they followed, which was fortunate because she actually came in useful when she was able to translate the member of staff asking if I was sure I wanted a Vegetarian Burger. It was also good as I had a photo I could send Allie to remember the good times we had dancing there. I eventually lost the couple when I retreated to the room to finish off the first season of Game of Thrones.
Earl turned up the next day at noon, he had missed check out by two hours meaning we would have to stay in the expensive dorm another night. It caused a bit of friction between us and had a bit of a tiff, which resulted in clear the air talks after we had both simmered down. The talk was much needed as we both aired our built up grievances and I know for me at least it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I guess being with each other 24/7 for around three months it was bound to happen. Anja had invited us both to a leaving BBQ as it was her last day in Buenos Aires before heading to work in Mendoza. Not being her biggest fan, I respectfully declined the offer, to be honest I would have rather done anything than be in attendance. Earl went, I can't fault him he was guaranteed some action. It turned out it was only them two as well, so I'm glad I didn't go and become the third wheel. I spent the day once again trying to track down converse, and was once again met with rejection. The only converse in my size was either not the boot style I wanted or white, and I reasoned that white would get far too dirty. That was about as exciting as the rest of my day got as the remainder was a mix of eating and playing Football Manager, but it was nice to have a relaxing pants / Basford day.
It was an early start the next day as I was meeting Julianna at 11am. Julianna was a girl I had met on my first trip to B.A. she had sourced me a Boca Juniors ticket for later that day so I went to meet her before she started work for breakfast and to collect the ticket. I forgot that when we had first met I told Julianna that I was from Australia, I had the opportunity to correct the mistake but for some reason I opted to continue the web of lies I was weaving. It got more uncomfortable for me as she asked so many questions about Australia. Anyway it was good to catch up and I had a Boca ticket. The problem with obtaining Boca tickets is that they only sell tickets to members. You could go and see the game through a tour but the companies often charge ridiculous amounts, for example the for the Boca game it would have cost 1200 Argentinian Peso / £86 but thanks to Julianna I managed to get a ticket for half of that amount. With our business complete we went our separate ways arranging to meet up again before we left. We had met near a mall, so after a cheeky Burger King I decided to look again for some converse. It turned out to be third time lucky as I managed to snap up a pair of blue connies and returned to the hostel a happy man.
It was quite funny about the timing of going to this game as the last time we were in Buenos we went to a game on the last day of the season, and this weekend was the start of the next season. I was advised to get to the ground at 4pm, it semt a bit crazy to me as when I googled kick off it was not until 6.30pm. I would be going on my own so I faced with the daunting task of getting there by myself, normally Earl is the navigator and I follow on. I managed to get there though, only getting slightly lost in finding the bus stop. Sometimes the language barrier can work to your advantage as I managed to get on the bus for free. I was told that I would know where to get off because I would see the stadium, this wasn't exactly true as it was hid behind some houses, but the many Boca fans on the bus made it clear when I should hop off the bus. Getting into the ground was quite the chore too, they had an unusual system where you had to queue to get into the grounds surroundings, and then you queue to go through the turn-styles. It was quite the palaver especially as the ground didn't have too many signs meaning I was passed from staff member to staff member to try and direct me to my right location. Finally I was in my seat, and I could see why Julianna said go early. The ground was impressive, well three quarters of it was impressive. One stand looked like a cheap hotel block and for me spoilt the stadium. If the ground maintained the look of the other three sides it would be almost Nou Camp esque, and with the stands being pretty steep it was like you were on top of the pitch making it quite intimidating. I think a term they use in football is it would be like playing in a cauldron. It was just a shame they had the hotel looking stand. Hat confused me pre game were that only the goalkeepers warmed up on the pitch, this was the same for San Lorenzo in Paraguay too, so I think it might be an Argentinian thing, and also they don't announce the teams, which I found baffling and disappointing. Also what was baffling was the kick-off time, I googled it and it said 6.30pm, Julianna told me it was 6pm and eventually it actually kicked off at 6.15pm it semt like they ick-off when they like. My seat was in a perfect location, I was sat only two rows in front of the various radio and TV commentators, meaning if I missed some action I could catch a glimpse of the reply. I was also just to the right of what was known as 'La 12' - which basically means twelfth player. In this stand the fans sing, bang drums, wave flags and chant throughout the ninety minutes. Unfortunately my battery died right on kick-off meaning I couldn't get a video of them going crazy. It was the fans who were the highlight of the game, them and the pre match Choripan I ate. This might have been the best match snack I have ever had, the Choripan coming straight from the grill unlike pre packed burgers, hot dogs or pies. Yet again I had gone to another sub-standard performance. Boca dominated the first half possession wise creating a few half chances and Newell's only chance was a shot being cleared off the line. It looked like the most memorable thing of the first half would be the dislocated elbow suffered by Newell's Paraguayan right back Caceres but with the last kick of the game Newell's took the lead through M. Tevez with a decent strike. It made it easy in the second half for Newell's to sit back and counter attack, but it helped that Boca's attacked posed little to no threat at all, even Newell's number 2 - Fernandez wasn't troubled and in the first half he looked like he would trip over the ball every time and couldn't make a two yard pass. All in all the game might have disappointed me, especially Boca who I expected to be much better, but the atmosphere made it an unforgettable experience. The ground was between 90-95% full of its 49,000 capacity so with these fans exiting the La Bombonera stadium traffic was manic, so I decided to walk back; my decision was aided due to the fact that I had no idea where the bus stop was. Approximately ten minutes into my walk I found the bus stop, but I decided to walk anyway for four key reasons - 1) the traffic was still crazy I would be able to walk home quicker than the bus 2) the bus would be mentally busy 3) It would give me chance to bed in the new connies and 4) After a burger king and Choripan that day some exercise would do me good. It didn't take as long as I expected, maybe only around thirty minutes as I power walked back to the hostel and re-joined Earl who had spent the afternoon finishing the first season of Game of Thrones. That need we had a couple of games of pool, using up the tokens we purchased when we were last in Buenos, then we decided to go to Milhouse to reminisce about the good times we had there over a few beers and to also check out their book exchange, each of us were now eager to find the next instalment of the Game of Thrones saga. Unfortunately, there were only as usual German books to be found there. So we just head a steady few pints and made our way back to the hostel.
Nostalgia was over now for Limehouse hostel. We were not able to move to a cheaper dorm room so decided to go elsewhere. It was fun to go back to the place where it all began, it bought back great memories of where we met Allie and Johnny, the fun times we had there. But they say never go back as it won't be as good as the first time and to be perfectly honest our latest period of time in Lime House was pretty lacklustre compared to the first. Our new hostel was pretty close, a hostel called Hostel Fiesta, and from the moment we arrived we were impressed by the cleanliness, atmosphere and rooms. We couldn't get in the cheap room as it was already full but decided to stay there anywhere. Now we had found a new home for the next three nights the rest of the day cantered on planning on what we would do, we spent about an hour trying to find a cheap tango show to go and see, because when in Rome, why not? And then after finding out flights to Chile were ridiculously expensive we decided to go the bus terminal in search of bus prices. We decided the most cost effective way was head to Mendoza, the Argentinian town on the border of Chile and then get a bus from there to Santiago. It would be exciting and nervous living on the edge as sometimes the Chilean border is closed because of snow and high winds, meaning the potential location of my birthday would be the bus terminal or even worse a night out with Anja who was now in Mendoza! We had a few days to worry about that though.
As a backpacker you eat whatever's cheap, I'm sure when I finally return home my Mum and Dad will be astonished with how far I have come. From only eating cheese spread sarnies and requested onions to be picked out of everything I was very fussy, but nowadays I eat whatever is in front of me, and on this particular day what was in front of me was cow or pig brains. Earl found them in the supermarket for the equivalent of 60p, not one to pass up a bargain we purchased them and Earl combined them with a pasta and tomato sauce to make our dinner. I wouldn't say the meal was delicious, but nor would I say it was rancid and disgusting. The brains looked like pieces of chewy fat, so was surprised on the first bite that they were actually mushy and soft and didn't even really need chewing at all. After polishing off our brain food we made our out to find the tango place we found earlier that day, after a brisk walk there though the place was nowhere to be seen so we made our way back where we had a beer and a few games of s*** head.
My alarm woke me up at 5.55am; I was up early so I could skype my nephew who was turning five. It also gave me an opportunity to speak to my sister, brother-in-law and Ma and Pa. After a quick skype I had breakfast which consisted of two bowls of cornflakes and some toast with jam and dulce de leche. The best thing about the breakfast at Hostel Fiesta is that they leave the breakfast out all day so if you fancy a snack at any point you could have some toast, or even a bowl of cornflakes. As soon as Earl woke up we decided to do some exploring, our first stop was a library called El Ateneo, I once mocked Allie for visiting said library but once we found out it had an English section we were straight there to see if we could find the second instalment of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately we didn't, the English section was tiny especially as the library was enormous and most of the books were by James Patterson or Jonathan Kellerman. Like I said though the library was huge and impressive but with 90% of the books being in Spanish an us not having a clue we decided to move on to our next tourist spot of the day - La Recoleta Cemetery. Yeah we went to a cemetery, the cemetery contains the graves of notable people, including Eva Perón (Evita), presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy and a granddaughter of Napoleon. In 2011, the BBC hailed it as one of the world's best cemeteries, and in 2013 CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. The tombs, statues and monuments were impressive and had beautiful architecture but I just felt it a bit odd going to visit a graveyard, it wasn't creepy I just felt it a bit weird. It was an odd experience to say the least. Streets upon streets of what look like mini houses, many of them you can peer through the doors and see the coffins, flowers, photos of the dead. It was very eerie but peaceful at the same time. If you looking for a particular tomb like Evita's it can be challenging and hard to navigate but there is a map at the front or there are also guided tours for a small fee. Despite the oddness it is well worth a trip, plus it's free! With a bit of time on our hands we thought we'd check out the cinema as Earl was pretty keen to see the Guardians of the Galaxy film, unfortunately though the cinema only played the movie in Spanish meaning we wouldn't have a Scooby Doo as to what was being said despite the odd word. So instead we got some food (a super pancho hot dog and coke) and after not having a proper winter for around two and a half years I stocked up for the cold times ahead in Chile by buying some football socks and woolly hat. We then made our way back to the hostel to relax and chill out a bit.
We gave brains a miss that evening and had something more normal with our pasta and tomato sauce - hot dog sausages and carrots. The rest of the night wasn't exactly the most exciting of the trip as we stayed at the hostel and chilled out, I played some football manager while Earl did whatever he did on his phone. It was strange though I expected more to be happening from the hostel seen as though in English the name translated to Hostel Party, but literally nothing was happening at the hostel apart from a group of four / five people playing poker.
After waking up at 6am the previous day a lie-in was definitely on the agenda the next morning. I arose at 11 and had breakfast and got ready and waited for Mr Johnson to awake so we could go on out to see La Boca. La Boca is a neighbourhood, or suburb of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. Boca is best known for being the home of world renowned football club Boca Juniors. La Boca is a popular destination for tourists visiting Argentina, with its colourful houses and pedestrian street, the Caminito, where tango artists perform and tango-related memorabilia is sold. Other attractions include the La Ribera theatre, many tango clubs and Italian taverns. So we set off getting another free bus thanks to the language barrier. Our first stop in La Boca was the stadium which I had already been to watch Boca Juniors vs Newell's Old Boys, we walked around the stadium and I pointed out to Earl a house I saw last time, it looked like a shed I built with my own hands with just wood, nails and a hammer, it looked derelict but infact there was people living inside, it looked like a tornado had been through it several times I couldn't see how anyone could stop there. We then headed into Caminito with the colourful houses, we only expected maybe one street, but there was much more with plenty of bars and tango performances, I nearly had my photo took with one of the beautiful female dancers but the 100 peso price was far too steep so we made do with one of them boards you can put your head through like you get at the seaside. After admiring the street art, colourful houses and tango especially the female participants we carried on our tour of La Boca and next ame across Puente Avellanede which is a transporter bridge. It was completed in 1914. The bridge was in use until 1960 and then preserved as a historical monument. The transporter bridge was the first link to connect Buenos Aires with the outskirts on the other side of the Riachuelo River. The bridge links the Avenida La Plata in the neighbourhood Island Maciel of Dock Sud with Avenida Almirante Brown in the La Boca neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. The name of the bridge refers to Nicolás Avellaneda, a former president of Argentina, who also gave the name to the Avellaneda Partido on the right bank of the river. The platform of the transporter bridge measured 8 by 12 metres and could be operated from a control stand on itself or from the machine house. It was designed to carry pedestrians, carts, cars and trams. We he headed to Barrio Catalinas park where ate lunch which consisted of bread and some sort of meaty**** which looked like dog food but tasted like potted meat. Our final destination was to be the floating casino we saw on the map but mainly due to heaps of road works we couldn't find it for love nor money so we made our way back t the hostel via a small market, book store and up the street we were meant to go the tango show to see if we could spot it in the daylight, but the address we had noted only took us to a camp looking estate agency, but we had seen some tango in Caminito, La Boca so it didn't matter. I would thoroughly recommend La Boca especially Caminito, it was a nice afternoon out. Although it was very touristy it did offer a nice look at Argentina and the suburb.
That night it was the second leg of the Copa Libertordes with Buenos Aires based team San Lorenzo facing Paraguayan team Clun National. I did try to obtain tickets to the game, but the club were only selling to members which once again delving into the black market. After a brief look on the Argentinian version of EBay - mercadolibre.com.ar I thought I would be better off watching the game on TV saving a few pesos and just joining in with the celebrations after as if they won I thought it would be like the day which River Plate won the league and they took over the 15 lane highway near the Oblisque. In truth what put me off was that I did not know if the tickets would be real or fake and also navigating and trying to pay on an Argentinian / Spanish speaking website is muchos difficult. We still had some Old Tradi whiskey left from Paraguay so after dinner we watched the first half of the San Lorenzo game whilst riding the bus and seeing off most of the whiskey and coke we made. The remainder we polished off playing fives on the way to the Milhouse hostel. In truth I can't tell you much about the game apart from that San Lorenzo grabbed the win and the Copa Libertordes final thanks to a penalty. I was too busy playing various drinking games with Earl, chatting with two girl from Wiltshire and Yorkshire who me at Bristol Uni and then chatting with some Chilean ladies who were in Buenos for the weekend. I was definitely drunker than I thought I was or maybe it was just a sugar rush from all the coke we drank but it was a good night.
We were fortunate that check-out time was at 12pm so we could have a lie-in after our drunken shenanigans the night before. After the usual cornflake and duche de leche on toast breakfast we decided to go to a street called corrientas which Lonely Planet described as having many book stores. We thought we might be able to find the second instalment of the Game of Thrones series, and we did about four times, unfortunately all of these in Spanish, we also found it in a comic book format. Despite finding English versions of all of the twilight trilogy, the girl with the dragon tattoo trilogy and bits of lord of the ring books and other popular books, an English version of Game of Thrones - Clash of Kings was untraceable in each of the fifteen plus book stores we went in, all was not lost though as I managed to pick up a book called The Cocaine Wars for a couple of quid which looked an interesting read. We headed back to the hostel where we had a quick lunch before heading off to catch our bus to Mendoza and see if we could cross the border to Chile!
So until next time stay safe and take care