At long last, I made it to Buenos Aires, the biggest, and last city for me in South America. I’m staying in an apartment, which is making a very pleasant change. The price is quite reasonable, and I get my own space, my own kitchen, cable TV, aircon. It’s an older place, so it’s nothing fancy, but it is very well located. Comes complete with the clunking lift with manually operated folding grill doors. The sort you could stick your hand through when it’s moving. I still haven’t gotten used to the sickening lurch every time it starts moving.
Having my own place, I’ve been taking it easy, doing a bit of wandering around, but not too much in the way of museums, etc. The city isn’t the best for walking anyway, footpaths are generally crowded, narrow, and in poor condition. Plus I find it just depressing crossing 15+ lanes of traffic to get to the other side of the road. The other day I was trying to get to the Post Office, and I could see the building, but it took me a long time to get there. To cross the enormous roads, and chaotic intersections, I had to move away from my target, circle around, and finally approach it from an oblique angle.
When I got to the Post Office, the next difficulty was how to get in. Lots of fences, cars, but not many doors. Found a door, a small crowded room with lots of hot, stressed looking people. Not quite sure what they were doing. Just didn’t look right though for sending a package overseas. Let’s try door number two: Hmmm, everyone sitting on rows of seats, facing forward, with a blank, bored look. Not sure what’s going on here either, although I see someone get up in response to some unseen signal, and go through a turnstile at the end of the room. Hmmm, try door number 3. Aha! This looks more like it, only a handful of people, and an unmanned Customs desk. I meet an Australian couple, also looking to post stuff. When the Customs official turns up, they get a grilling about the items they want to send. They speak no Spanish, but Customs official speaks English. I chat a bit with him in Spanish, he just takes a half-assed look at my stuff, doesn’t even want to open the bags, just says sure, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. A bit later on, everything’s boxed and shipped. Bloody expensive though, only service is airmail, costs me around NZD$200 for 6kg. But that’s 6kg less for me to carry.
I spent a day over around the Palermo area, a bit fancier part of town. It’s a bit strange, it’s very high density living, but it’s hard to see why so many people want to live there. Perhaps it’s because there’s more parks than most of the city, although still not enough greenery. I wandered through one of the parks, where people were sunbathing in bikinis, in a small park overlooking a busy intersection. Portenos are strange. There was also plenty of evidence of leathery skin, jutting collarbones and shoulder blades, and ribs you could play the piano. All the things that come from severe poverty, or in this case, from decades of being a trophy wife. Lower and middle class people are overweight, sometimes you need to be very rich or very poor to be severely skinny.
There’s an interesting method used by the hawkers on the subway. They walk down a carriage, with a box of whatever they are selling. A sample is placed on everyone’s lap, for them to look at, or ignore. Then the seller comes back down the carriage, either retrieving the trinket, or better yet, getting some money for it. The guy selling small lights wasn’t doing so well, but the young man selling a bunch of hair ties, targetting women with long hair, was making quite a few sales.
I’m not quite sure what it is with the city though, but I haven’t quite gotten into it. Not sure, maybe I was expecting a more interesting place, but so far it just hasn’t grabbed me the way that Asian cities do. There’s hints of an interesting past, but many of the buildings are a bit anonymous. Not modernist anonymous, a little bit older, but anonymous all the same. I wandered over to Retiro station, where the long distance bus station, train station, and subway converge. This is packed with people, stalls selling random stuff on the street, dodgy standup eating joints, etc. I picked up a very cheap striped bag to put my panniers in on the plane. You see poor people all around the world with these bags, but I’ve had great trouble tracking one down to buy here. Anyway, I got one, then went into a dirty restaurant, the sort where the seats and table are sticky. No airconditioning here, but the fan tries hard. There are packed seats outside, but it’s empty inside. I agree with Peter Robb, better to sit inside, less hassle that way. But as I’m sitting inside, drinking my cheap beer, I’m feeling much happier about the city. Perhaps I just need to try and find my sort of area.
The weather here is like Auckland in February – high twenties, high humidity. I can’t give my Scottish readers a comparison time, they just don’t get weather like this. Sometimes a touch warm, but very pleasant, and I’m going to struggle when I get to the UK on Friday. Currently it’s raining and cold there, it’s going to be tough if I try and ride out of Heathrow airport…