Living Like Geckos
21.11.2012 - 23.11.2012
Overnight Stays: Somewhere between Tacuarembo and Buenos Aires; Buenos Aires (2 nights)
DW - The awesome gaucho Pedro and his beautiful bride Maria dropped us at the Tacuarembo from our splendid weekend on the estancia and we soon boarded our first bus for the night, towards Buenos Aires. Sadly the direct bus to BA only runs every four (4) days and we weren't so lucky to pick the right day, so jumped on the first bus to Montevideo (Uruguay's capital) in-hope of picking up a late-night connection there to BA, fingers crossed. It all started incredibly well and we arrived into Montevideo with a few hours sleep under our belts around 10:30pm. We also managed to snag two (2) of the last tickets to BA, leaving about fifteen (15) minutes later, winning. Given that the trip from Montevideo to BA is across borders the ticket lady had to check our passports to make sure we were legal etc; this is when the wheels started to fall off. Remember when we crossed the border from Brazil to Uruguay and didn't get checked or stamped? Well now was the time when we got bitten, as the ticket lady had no idea when or how we entered her country, uh oh. Strangely she sold us the tickets anyway, but explained to us in Spanish something we completely didn't understand, and when we went to board the bus, only minutes prior to departure, they told us to go get our tickets stamped at the ticket counter, weird. So back to the lady and she initially refused, but thankfully it was the end of the night and I think she just wanted to get home to warm bath, so she gave in and stamped our tickets, boom. But our fun wasn't over yet...
A few hours later, deep asleep at 3am, we were awoken at the Uruguay/Argentina border by immigration, checking everyone's passports and bags etc. The lady walked the bus, checking and returning passports to everyone, where they subsequently returned to their slumber, until she reached us and searched and searched for what she was looking for, but to no avail. It was obvious what she couldn't find, because it wasn't there, an entry stamp into Uruguay, shit. She then kept our passports, finished the rest of the bus, then requested we follow her off the bus to the immigration office, not the place you want to be at 3am straight out of a deep nod. There she explained to us in Spanish why we'd been taken off the bus, but what we didn't know was what we were meant to do, what was going to happen next. She led us to another man, who looked remarkably like our host on the boat we sailed in Croatia (pretty sure it wasn't him though, or at least he didn't recognise us in return) who sat us down and explained in Spanglish that we had entered the country illegally and were going to be fined the equivalent of $35AUD each, big deal, not so bad, could've been worse. He then dusted off his typewriter (yep) and began the time-travel journey, incredibly slowly issuing our fines while the entire bus outside waited for us two (2) illegal immigrants. In all seriousness, why would we smuggle over the border into Uruguay, then just get a bus out? Anyway, just as he almost finished our fines (it seemed like hours on that bloody typewriter) I asked if we had to pay the fines then and there, of which he answered with a 'si' (yes). My second question was whether they took Visa card, to which the answer was negative, oh what a pickle. I then explained that we had no cash as we were leaving Uruguay, and after asking if we had anything, even US dollars, to which we answered 'no', he ripped up the fines, stamped our passports, and sent us on our way, whoop whoop! A comical debacle, and to be honest we weren't concerned we were in trouble at any stage because we really did nothing wrong, the Brazil/Uruguay border just seems non-existent which really isn't our problem. So here's a tip, if you want to enter Brazil illegally, I reckon Rivera/Santa do Livramento is your best bet, not that I condone it.
Back on the bus for a another few hours and we arrived into BA a shade after the sun and reacquainted ourselves with BA's friendliest hosts, Mike and Elena. Having been offline for nearly a week (given we barely had electricity at the ranch, let alone internet) we'd missed an email from Mike, notifying us that Argentina were playing Brazil that night at Copa Stadium, did we want tickets? F*^k yeah we wanted tickets, and thankfully we arrived early in the morning, as he was just about to book them. I'd said to Loz over the days prior that I was a bit sad we wouldn't be able to get to a game in South America, as it's one (1) of those things everyone recommends you do. Given it was a Wednesday and we'd only planned one (1) night in BA, I'd given into the fact that there wouldn't be a game, but it seemed luck was on our side, and not only that, the tickets were only $14AUD each, chicken dinner. At that very moment we decided one (1) more night just wasn't going to be enough in this wonderful city, so we booked another and shifted our next bus-trip.
After a day of pretty much doing nothing at all our adrenalin was running high around 6pm when we had our first beer on the rooftop, inhaling the delicious fumes of Mike's chorizo grill sizzling only metres away. You've got to love this couple; it's a B&B they run, but you couldn't feel more at home. It feels not like you're staying at a hotel or hostel, but sleeping over at a friend's house and living as they do. We're so lucky to have made such a wonderful connection with Mike and Elena and they know they always have somewhere to stay the next time they visit Oz. Anyway, enough soppy stuff; the BBQ and beers were the perfect delicious warm-up to the soccer, and enjoying it all on the roof of a beautiful old home in the guts of BA just doesn't get much better, with clear blue/pink/black skies overhead (sunset).
When we arrived at Boca Stadium we were fronted by some of the greatest craziness we've experienced in our lives. The line for people with tickets, just simply trying to get in, was the longest we've seen at any event, anywhere. It went for hundreds of metres, before curving around the corner of the block, continuing again to the next corner, then just a little further, probably nearly a kilometre from the start of the line, ouch, and this for people who already have tickets! We almost gave up hope of even seeing the game at that stage, as the line didn't seem to be budging, and the crowd were starting to get rowdy, South American style. The scores of police seemed to have things under control though, and the line did start to move, as we heard the roars from inside this infamous stadium. As it moved, the line seemed to speed up and about ten (10) minutes before half-time we found ourselves amongst the locals, in the nosebleeds, at the Argentinian end of the ground. It wasn't the number one (1) Arg and Brazil teams as it was the SuperClassico which meant all players had to be living in their nation of origin to qualify to play, and it was the second-leg of the final (which we didn't know at the time, mind you). The ground can be described as nothing short of mental. On all four (4) sides there's a 7-metre high fence, barbed at the top, keeping the hooligans at bay, barely. Surrounding the immediate edge of the ground you have steep steep levels, three (3) high on all sides, making the atmosphere like nowhere we've been, f$%king out of control!
Like many soccer matches, the game was fairly uneventful until the last ten (10) minutes, when three (3) goals were scored, one (1) to Brazil and two (2) to Argentina, whoop. It was the most electric final ten (10) minutes and we went naturally ballistic when Argie scored the winner; soon followed by a hot-foot out of the ground before shit went down. What we found out days later was that Brazil had won the first leg of the match and it went to a nailbiting shootout, of which Argentina won (I think), oops. What a shame we missed that tense finish, but to be honest we left on a such a high it didn't matter, we couldn't have spent our $14 any better. Like any big event getting home is a bloody nightmare, and after half-an-hour of no bus action we decided to walk home, 20 blocks, through Boca, one (1) of Argentina's most notorious neighbourhoods (and not for friendliness). But we assumed safety in numbers as there were about nine (9) of us, so stayed tight, and arrived home safely at god knows what time, for a nice little settling night-cap. Game at Boca, tick.
Wherever we go, the rain comes with us it would seem, and as we awoke late the next morning, seedy, the heavens opened, clearly sad that Brazil lost the soccer. Knowing we only had limited time left in BA, which had become one (1) of our favourites in the world (look out London, look out New York, look out Amserdam) we boarded a bus across the city towards Palermo, well-known for its nice bars, parks and cafes. Palermo is a place we could most certainly live, and actually really reminded us of London in a way. It's green, clean, and saturated with cool, hip cafes and bars, none like the other, all kind of quirky and very very much up our alley. WIth the rain pelting and continuing we sadly skipped the parks and sat in a trendy little cafe for forever, until we headed back towards Mike and Elena's for a Parilla nearby. My God I love Parrilla Grills, they'd have to be my happy-place I reckon. Seriously, you get the most gigantic pieces of meat, and accompanied with delicious beer and grilled vegies, there aren't many other places I'd want to be in the world.
An arvo siesta was well and truly in order, of which we obliged for about four (4) hours, until we had a few beers and wines in the B&B courtyard before hitting the town with Mike and Elena, talk about hosting commitment! Around 10:30pm we arrived at La Catedral, a place Elena had recommended as what she reckoned we were after, somewhere with Tango that was a little bit different; somewhere the locals go. It was freakin' amazing, one (1) of the coolest bars in the world. From the outside it looks like a rundown warehouse, with no signage or indication at all that it's a club. From the inside, once you've wound through the not so obvious stairs, you arrive into what also looked like a run-down warehouse, although there's a few people around, surrounding the dance-floor that is filled with tango dancers; not just what we were looking for, but far beyond what we were looking for, perfect.
Tango is not what we thought at all. Having had one (1) of the nights of the trip at a Samba club in Rio we'd expected a similar style of dance, something you can shake your hips to and just wing it. It's not that at all, it's the most serious and non-enjoyable looking dance I've certainly ever witnessed, so so serious. Thankfully when the Tango class finished an awesome band braced the stage and started playing awesome Argentinian Folklore songs, much more upbeat and so so good and engaging. The music was accompanied by a male and female dancer who were both very impressive, although the fella may have something to tell his parents if he hasn't already (not that there's anything wrong with that). As the hours passed and beers flowed we ran into Boris the Frenchman, the other guest staying with Mike and Elena at the time, and a legend at 40 years-old. He'd had a belly-full as well so the five (5) of us (and a couple of the Frenchman's mates) carried on and had another ripper night together, BA just keeps delivering!
Hungover again the next morning, knowing it was our final hours in this magic city that keep giving, we made our way to the famous cemetery, towards the other side of town. I think it's most famous because Evita was buried there, and she has a very special part in the history of Argentina and Buenos Aires. It's the strangest cemetery we've seen, for two (2) main reasons:
1. All the headstones are as tall as houses, more like shrines than headstones.
2. The headstones have windows and you can see all the coffins, really weird and a little freaky to be honest.
It was definitely worth a visit given its total weirdness, but still feeling under the weather it was time for some grub in the guts. Loz picked on this day, and she was on-fire, the perfect local place, I don't think they'd ever seen tourists before. The place was stacked with locals and smelt a dream so we wandered in, grabbed a table, and ordered two (2) completely random dishes of the blackboard menu, not knowing what to expect. Loz's dish turned out to be veal snitzel, and mine an omelette, wow, not what we thought at all. Together they were scrumptious and we left very satisfied.
We weren't so satisfied when we made our final goodbyes with Mike and Elena, but our time in BA had to come to another end, at least for this trip.
At the bus station it was total chaos and we didn't know what was coming or going; if we'd missed our bus or if it was running late. Eventually it did arrive and we were pretty stoked with the oodles of food, the booze, and the nice touch of a glass of champagne after dinner before bed-time. Buenos Aires is a bloody amazing city, and as far as we're concerned there's two (2) great reasons to go back: Mike and Elena.