2008.11.05 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
We booked a flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires, Argentina the night before on LAN Air for 12:45 PM on November 5th which meant we were in Santiago de Chile for all of about 12 hours and most of this time for me was spent sick in the bathroom. I got up around 8 AM and felt a lot better but still very weak. I went out and walked the streets of Santiago for a bit and enjoyed the festive atmosphere with the news of the election of Barack Obama. We bought some local newspapers and posed for picts with our new president.
From what I saw in those couple hours, Santiago seemed like an amazing place and somewhere where I wanted to spend more time. I felt like I wished I could have stayed longer in Chile and was starting to feel really rushed as we took a cab to the airport and set off for BA, Argentina that morning. I’m all about seeing as many places as possible but it’s no point if you just stay there for a day or so. Chile is a very complex and diverse country and it takes a long time to see all it has to offer. I think it’s better to thoroughly travel through a small area rather than try to cover a large space in a short amount of time as what seems to be Z’s traveling mantra. His way is fun and you see a lot but I would rather get to know the people and place a little better. My brother travels the same way and it inevitably starts to irk me a little. Santiago made a big impression on me in those couple hours that morning is what lead me to return to Chile for four months in 2009 to get it out of my system. Everyone is different and everyone travels different but the more I get to know myself the more I like to travel solo.
We got to BA, Argentina in the afternoon and took the bus into the heart of the city. The city is friggin huge and has a really cool feel to it, very alive and European. We checked into a hotel walked the steets in our new environment. That night I crashed out early and helped my body get back to normal.
The next day we got up and cruised the city some more like any self-respecting tourist would do, it was nothing too eventful, just a lot of walking. That night was pretty interesting. We went to a Boca Juniors game in the legendary La Boca Stadium. I have never been to a sporting event so crazy in my life. We went with a group and got escorted into the stadium. We had to sign and agree to a waiver form before the game that basically said we would not wear the opposing team’s colors or cheer for them and to be aware at all times. The crowd was jumping up and down and singing and in the middle of the game they lowered this enormous Boca flag that covered a quarter of the stands. It was such high energy, so much more passionate than any American sporting event. It was really a highlight of the trip, something I will never forget.
2008.11.07/08 – Punta del Este / Montevideo, Uruguay
We had a full day to screw around without being on a bus, boat or plan so now keeping with the theme of this trip it was time to get on the move again. That morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to the port to get the Buquebus from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Uruguay. The boat was fun, it reminded me of one of the boats you take to get around the islands in Greece. It was a little expensive for South American standards with one way ticket around $120 US but I’m pretty sure it’s the fastest and easiest way to get to Uruguay from Argentina and it’s a little bit of well deserved luxury after being on crappy buses for a majority of the time. We got into Montevideo and hopped another bus and headed to Punta del Este which is a famous beach town. We snagged a hostel in Punta which was easy because it was off season and the town was dead. I guess in the summer it’s filled with Brazilians but this time of year it was somewhat of a ghost town. We went out again that night but nothing to crazy.
Z got up early the next day and caught a cab to the airport in order to fly off to Rio, Brazil. I had to stay back in Uruguay having not gotten the Brazilian Visa. It was a lonely feeling the morning I woke up without my traveling buddy. I was alone in boring Uruguay and Z was off to Rio. I really didn’t have a clue what I was gonna do next. I was set to go home around the 15th or so from Buenos Aires back to Denver so I had a couple more days to spare. I was still feeling a like crap from my stomach flu but picked myself up and got a bus back to Montevideo.
I got to Montevideo and toured the city a little after getting off the bus and getting warnings from the locals that I was in a dangerous area. This of course made me feel very welcome in my newest destination. The city was pretty rundown and for some reason seemed abandoned which was strange for a Saturday. I had given a thought to going back to Buenos Aires for “One More Saturday Night” but I knew it would have been more hassle than it was worth and I missed the last damn Buquebus boat anyway. I sucked it up and decided to make the best of things on a Saturday night in Montevideo and checked into a hostel.
That night I got a beer and went on the roof to figure out what to do with myself. I was feeling like I could go either way on going back to the States but as my health improved I felt like I really wanted to stay in South America for a little longer. I had this image in my mind of the mountains on the front of this travel book I read before I left on my trip. The mountains were from the national park Torres del Painein Patagonian Chile, some of the most amazing mountains in the world. I felt really drawn to go there, like I had no option, I had to see them.
While I was hanging out up there on the roof this group of three Chilean girls comes outside to smoke. I stroll over and start speaking with them in Spanish and we hit it off pretty easily. Chileans are always fun people and open. They were going out to the bars with people from the hostel and asked if I wanted to tag along. We headed out that night with a big group of people to the central bar and club district of Montevideo. Surprisingly it was actually pretty lively and I had an awesome night out.
2008.11.09 – Colonia, Uruguay / Buenos Aires, Argentina
I woke up in Montevideo and said goodbye to my Chilean friends. I had some options with my return Buquebus boat ticket back to Buenos Aires. I could leave from Montevideo or Colonia so I opted to take an hour bus ride into Colonia, Uruguay and hang out there for the day before returning to Buenos Aires. I got off the bus in Colonia and sitting there at the bus station was the guy who stayed at our hostel in Punta del Este. I really didn’t have any plans and he was rolling solo so we hung out for the day. He was kind of annoying but I figured I could tolerate him for the afternoon. He was teaching English in Argentina and was always complaining that he was broke. I guess that’s what happens when you teach English down there. He spoke good Spanish but with such a gringo accent that it sounded awful. It was like hearing English pushed directly into Spanish with no sort of pronunciation whatsoever. Anyway, we paled around that afternoon and got an asado dinner at a restaurant by the water. If you want to jack up your cholesterol level and sodium intake a Uruguayan Asado is perfect. An asado is pretty much just about every sort of meat from a cow you can think of grilled up and served in heavily salted enormous portions.
Colonia was nice, worth checking out for the day. It’s this quaint little town that seems more like a tourist trap and a place that older people would enjoy, rather than a functioning city. Uruguay in general was a nice country but a couple days is all it takes to get the gist of it. I was ready to get somewhere more exciting after three nights. The beaches of Uruguay are nice but the countryside is pretty flat, reminiscent of the Midwestern United States with some rolling hills and farmland. I just don’t feel the energy that I feel in other countries like Chile, Argentina, Peru or Ecuador, it just seemed a little bit lifeless but maybe it was just the off season.
The sun set and I caught the Buquebus back to Buenos Aires. The problem was that I was set to get into BA at midnight or later which would make finding a hostel miserable. I determined on the boat ride that since I had a couple days to play with before my flight back home that I was going to go to Mendoza, Argentina. I got off the Buquebus and went through Argentine customs. I told the guy checking passports that I was gonna go to Mendoza and he got all excited and with a smile on his face he says in a robust voice, “Yo Soy de Mendoza”.
My plan after getting through customs was to first go to the Retiro bus station and check the schedule for busses to Mendoza for the following day. I got out of the Buquebus building in Puerto Madero and decided to walk to the bus station. Looking back, this was a completely stupid decision. Walking alone in a desolate part of town at midnight in Buenos Aires with all my belongings on my back was completely idiotic. I should have taken a cab. The streets were completely empty except for this nice little stray dog that followed me all the way to the station like a guardian angel. Obviously he was looking for food but regardless it was nice to have a companion. I got to the station and was asking the bus companies what time the buses left for Mendoza. I found out everything left early in the morning, around 5 or 6 AM. It was already almost 1 AM so getting a hostel and trying to make it back to the bus station for an early bus was completely pointless. I decided to push my luck again and try to sleep in the bus station. This was traveling improvisation at its best! I found a little spot under these chairs and used my towel as a blanket. Retiro bus station is the main terminal in Buenos Aires and is not the safest place to hang out, let alone sleep at. There are just as many shady characters hanging out in Retiro than in the streets of BA, so it was a miserable and nervous sleep. Anyone that has ever tried to sleep at an airport knows the feeling of trying to pull this off, let alone trying to sleep at a place where there is a chance you may get robbed. Late in the night this kid nudges me awake and tells me something like “Cuidado, hay ladrones” and points at my backpack. It was a good warning and a reminder to keep sharp in this hostile territory. I moved my backpack further behind me and went back to sleep for a couple more hours.