Buenos Aires is a lovely city with a very European/Spanish
feel. The only really obvious clue to us being in South America was the
grid iron street layout with virtually every street being one way. Oh,
and traffic was pretty insane with every one overtaking where they can.
This became progressively more exaggerated and dangerous with each new
country. The biggest revelation for us after South Africa was the constant
buzz of the place. There were always people walking around and it seemed
that most shops were almost always open. And shops were everywhere in
the vast central part of the city. Mostly small, they made up the ground
floor of most buildings, the upper floors generally being flats. We stayed
in a shared apartment on the 5th floor of an ugly concrete thing looking
onto similar buildings across a narrow street. It was owned by the hostal
we'd arranged to stay at. They took one look at us and decided we needed
to be somewhere quieter...Only $28 per night which for BA is dead cheap.
Best of all, we had the use of a kitchen.
We spent about 5 days seeing the sights and generally being
tourists although I got most pleasure out of just lying out on the grass
in Plaza San Martin when it was sunny. The hostal was certainly right
Watching the mothers of the disappeared march outside the
Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace) where General Peron and Madonna addressed
huge crowds was very interesting. Far off history and politics becoming
One of the biggest tourist traps in BA is La Boca, an area
where Italian immigrants settled in the 1920s and constructed their houses
using steel and paint from the ships they arrived in. It is very colourful
although this sight is confined to one street, La Camonita. It is also
justly known for its street Tango shows every Sunday. What it is not so
well known for is the awful smell from the adjoining river. Polluted doesn't
begin to describe it. There's even an abandoned capsized ship next to
the new pedestrianised area on the quayside and don't forget about the
smell. The Tango shows are good though.
Well, transporting the bike to BA and clearing it through
customs went incredibly smoothly. Amazing after the Kenyan experience!
We took about 3 hours to clear customs which did involve having it moved
from one warehouse to another so it was in an appropriate place to ride
away from. In fact the customs people couldn't do enough to help us and
the warehouse people were only too happy to take the crate apart and dispose
of it for us. We only had to pay a fee of US$67 to the authorities and
that was it - we were free!
....and into yet another bout of rain! At least it held
off while we were being tourists.
The following day was also very wet which is not the best circumstance
to be introduced to riding in South America but it eventually dried up
nicely for us and we had clear blue skies and smooth roads all the way
to Iguazu Falls.
Our luck didn't entirely improve however as on Ruta 14, a couple of
hours north of Gualaguaychu we were fined at a police checkpoint for speeding.
We were initially asked for $1000, which we didn't have. We were then
asked if we had half the amount. Nope. OK, how much money do you have
we were asked. I looked in my wallet - 7 pesos. Definitely not enough
to keep them happy so I took out 100 pesos from a separate wallet, half
my pesos. Don't you have any dollars they asked? Nope, that's all I have.
(Lie). I explained I only had travellers cheques but relied on ATMs to
get whatever cash I needed. This was accepted, they took the 100 pesos
and then gave me 20 back pocketing the remaining 80.
I was furious. We were effectively robbed but I have no idea if we could
have got away without paying anything at all or at least a lot less. Maybe
if I'd had a Met Police ID. At Iguazu we met a German couple who'd had
a similar experience at the same checkpoint but eventually didn't have
to pay as the woman made herself cry. She'd heard that the macho nature
of Latin American cops makes it hard for them to be nasty to young weeping