Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Salta

It´s Saturday morning in Salta, Argentina, a long way from where I last posted in Puerto Madryn! We´ve traveled a long distance since then as well and we have seen a huge variety of climates and landscapes. First, we spent about 4 days in a cute little mountain town called Sierra de la Ventana. I´m not entirely convinced that it is a legitimate mountain town since most of it´s surroundings are beautiful grasslands, fields of sunflowers and rolling hills but the closest thing in the Buenos Aires province to a mountain, the 3,720 foot Cerro Ventana, is also nearby. Of course, since I´m always looking for the views, I climbed up the steep rocky slope to the large hole in the rock face known as the Ventana that opens up amazing vistas to the countryside.

Next stop, Buenos Aires, by way of a very cheap, very interesting train. Brad and I decided to be super cheap and go with the first class tickets in order to have reclining seats but no other services. The train itself was marked by grafitti and had no numbers to describe the cars or the seats so we made our best guess as to where we needed to sit and spent a very long night trying to sleep under ever blaring flourescent overhead lights and beside windows with a film of dirt so thick that even when the sun rose it was hard to tell. But it was fun! And we made it safely to Buenos Aires and Meghan was waiting for us at the train station to take us back to her cute, comfortable apartment in a very neighborhoody area of the massive city. I know I have mentioned before that big cities are sometimes a bit difficult for us as travelers but when you have friends who can also be tour guides, big cities are made much smaller and much more attractive! Meghan and her boyfriend, Pablo, created space in their packed work and study schedules to show us all of the best corners of Buenos Aires and of course the sights that all tourists must see as well. The center of the city choked with cars, buses and a mix of business suited men and women, tourists, students and protesters milling about in the famous Plaza de Mayo and the tree lined streets shading adorable sidewalk cafes was frenetic and exciting. The shopping streets in the trendy neighborhoods of Palermo and Villa Crespo were fun to explore and a great place to observe the beautiful fashionable people who live there but actually making purchases was out of the question because prices were high! I fulfilled my long standing desire to actually buy things by visiting outlet stores along Cordoba and Corrientes streets and among the street vendors at several outdoor markets. The weekend was a whirlwind of activity that ranged from wandering the relaxed hippie market and the famous Recoleta cemetary where Evita is buried (Brad and I somehow stumbled upon her very simple, unassuming tomb) to discovering antiques and clothing by young designers and street performers dancing the tango in the bohemian San Telmo area of the city. Thursday evening found Brad, Pablo and I at an important River vs San Lorenzo soccer game at the huge stadium where fans shouted and sang their devotion to the team for hours until River came out victorious in the end. The weekend nights started late, usually after a 7pm nap, a 10pm dinner and then drinks or dancing at hidden jazz clubs or techno clubs which kept us out until the sun came up and we found our weary selves on a bus back to Meghan´s apartment and to our beds until at least 2pm! We had fun visiting with some friends that Meghan has made in the city and we spent Sunday evening at their apartment having a large and delicious asado with meats, salads, breads and famous Argentine wine.

Buenos Aires is so huge and there are so many people who live there that activity and action are on every corner at every hour. I definitely could spend more time there especially hanging out more with Meghan! This wish will be granted because on April 5th, Brad and I are hopping on a flight bound for Vancouver BC (the cheapest destination close to home) that leaves from Buenos Aires. So we will definitely try to return to the city a couple of days in advance to spend every last minute possible with Meghan and Pablo and to do a few more exciting things in the capital. It feels funny putting a cap on our trip that for so long has be indefinite but it also feels pretty good to be thinking about heading home to be back in Portland just as the good weather is rolling in (hopefully)!

After spending one week in Buenos Aires Brad and I got an 18 hour bus ride up to the northeastern most corner of Argentina to see Iguazu Falls. The minute we stepped off of the bus and were immediately drenched in sweat caused by the stifling humidity of the rainforest we realized that we were very far from the bustling capital city, the windswept Patagonian planes, the sunny beaches, and the mountainous lakes district that we had experienced in our other Argentine destinations. This part of Argentina is bordered by Brazil and Paraguay and, in fact, there is a park from where you can see all three countries divided by 2 rivers that converge at the junction. The lifestyle is very laid back and slow, appropriate to the oppressive heat. Iguazu Falls is made up of hundreds of waterfalls of various sizes and levels that thunder over grassy cliffs and between gorges in the landscape creating spray so dense that often the bottom half of the falls is not even visable. It was an impressive experience to stand on the catwalks and balconies that are built sometimes directly over the edges of vast cascades and it took us the entire day to get our fill of one of the largest waterfalls in the world. We even got to take a short boat ride to more closely observe a couple of the waterfalls but the main purpose was to get completely drenched when the boat drives directly into the crashing spray! It was a great relief from the heat!

Two days in Iguazu was all we needed and then we were off on probably the last over 20 hour bus ride of the trip. Our destination, Salta, is in the northwestern corner of Argentina and we have been enjoying our time here wandering around the beautiful plazas and ornate churches that characterize this city. But more than the sights, I am loving being back in a more Andean feeling city. We are very close to Bolivia here and it is obvious in the darker skinned residents, the woven artisan crafts, and the hectic mercado central scene packed with musicians, fresh fruit, cheap food stands selling tamales with spicy hot sauces, and odds and ends that keep you entertained for hours. We will spend a bit more time here in Salta and then use our last 3 weeks to make our way down through the central part of Argentina until we end up back in Buenos Aires in time to fly home.

And now my time is up on the computer and I´ve gotta head out!
Love, Anika

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yo te quiero, no importa nada.

video

Anika and I went with Meghan's boyfriend Pablo to Buenos Aire's largest stadium to watch River play against San Lorenzo. It was an impressive experience; the energy and passion were beyond anything I have seen at any sporting event. The cultural differences were equally fascinating and are on display in the video.

The fans from the different teams are separated by seating section and there was a large crowd for the visiting team as well. The two groups of opposing fans take turns singing insulting songs to each other. In the USA, when have you ever seen tens of thousands of men, sober men (no alcohol sold plus searches and breathalyzers upon entry), singing to each other? Here in the video the home town fans are singing to their team. The text of the song is roughly -

Ole ole ole
Ole ole ole ola
Jugando bien
O jugando mal
Oh yo te quiero
No importa nada

In english: Playing well or playing badly, I love you, nothing else matters.

It must feel good as a team to have tens of thousands of fans sing that to you. Our team, River, won with the only goal of the game coming late in the second half. When the game was over all the home team fans stayed in their seats and waited another half an hour for the visiting fans to leave, to ensure that they do not mix on the streets outside the stadium. I hope the post and video give a small impression of this magical experience.

-Brad