And almost 7 years later, I am back in the saddle!
22:00 - I didn't sleep very well last night (it didn't help that I set the alarm at 8am on my phone running on London time and so it went off at 5am!). Today I took a day off from the group. Having done the tourist bit around Buenos Aires for the last two days, I asked Sally to book me on one of the Gaucho Fiestas trips. You get to visit a 'typical' argentinian ranch. Obviously, these ranches are for tourists, but, still, it's the only way to see one and to do something different for the day. So I got picked up after breakfast and whilst the others went off to visit the cemetery, I was driven 90km north of Buenos Aires to the Don Silvano ranch. The group was a funny mix: koreans, a couple from Perth (Australia), a bunch of loud people from Chile, bolivians and a very extrovert colombian woman with her husband. The drive north was a little different from the one i had taken a couple of days ago when I arrived from the south. There are no shanty towns as such on this side. Just industrial estates and the odd residential patch here and there. We were reliably told by Mariel (the guide) that more and more people are moving out of Buenos Aires (30/40km) and commute in every morning. One thing did strike me though. Much like Buenos Aires itself, there is rubbish everywhere... Even in the countryside... Bottles/paper/plastic bags/cugarette butts... Now and again you see an orange dressed man picking up the rubbish (presumably he works for the government), but they either don't do a good enough job or there are simply not enough of them... It seems clear that the common man does not care about littering (and surely it cannot be the tourists only!). In Buenos Aires itself ther are also a lot of graffitis on even the most beautiful buildings. Sally had explained yesterday that there are a lot of protests (pretty much every week) and that the protestors tend to 'write' everywhere. With the exception of a few buildings, the government has stopped cleaning the graffitis off the walls. It's a real pity. Still, let's get back to my day. We got to the estancia in just over an hour. We were greeted with food and wine (empanadas). You could then wonder around, ride a horse, a carriage or do nothing :-). I rode a horse... First time since the marrakech experience (back then I was carrying a gun with me). And I realised that I still don't feel comfortable on it! Still it was great to have a little mozzie round on it. The gauchos made sure we didn't hurt ourselves. There's also a small hotel in the estancia. Really pretty inside. By the time I met the lama and the vaca nana it was time for lunch. A huge barbecue of sausages, chicken and beef. There was also a show with typical music and dancing but in fairness the one at the Ventana on my first night was way better. In their defence though, they tried to get people involved in the dancing. Food was great and I sat across from a couple from Venezuela with a 7 month old baby (Diego) that kept laughing at me :-)... Cute. To finish off, there was also a rodeo type thing with the gaucho and the horses (it did get very dusty for the koreans sitting downwind). Before taking the bus back we were offered mate and some fried dessert (and no I don't remember the name of it). The mate is foul... Smells and tastes pretty bad. It's a green enfusion made with coke leaves. I can see why people opt to sniff the stuff...
Got back to the hotel pretty late (7sh) and Jolanda was getting ready to go out. The rest of the group was off to see a dinner and tango show. Having already seen one I was having an early night. Still, I needed to eat...so having set aside the idea of finding Olsen (a place I had wanted to try but that was pretty far from the hotel), and armed with my best spanish, I asked the concierge to recommend a place where I could eat anything that would not be meat. I have had meat twice a day for the last three days...and I have a feeling that might not change! I needn't have bothered...he sent me off to a pizzeria called Roma. Unfortunately, it makes possibly the most awful pizza in the world...the dough itself is possibly not bad, but I am really not sure what that mountain of cheese was really...still, good enough to take my malaria tablets with... My right shoulder is now very painful. What started off as a strain is getting gradually worse. I have bought a voltaren spray and taken ibrufen before going to bed... Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. This is it folks... Day over. Tomorrow we catch a flight to Salta. I am hoping to get to Cafe Tortoni for breakfast as we have a late flight (12.45) and pick up is not until 11am.
It will also be the moment of truth... I have way too much luggage for my internal flights :-).