A Travellerspoint blog

A hassled finish


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large_5550_14652573143708.jpgLooking across to Puerto Madero.
With an 1100 checkout I had the choice of waking up early and going for an early exploration, then coming back to pack and checkout ... or just having a lazy morning then checking out. I opted for the easier option.

Leaving my luggage in storage with the hotel, I had my full carry-on pack on my bag with plenty of water. I opted to go to the new part of town Puerto Madero which is just between Casa Rosada and the water.

It was a very nice modern area, but it is no different from other docklands in various cities. Even though there was a pedestrian bridge in line with Casa Rosada, the walk was a little convoluted due to a railway track and highway in between.

I had my final lunch at La Junta. The afternoon went quickly exploring new parts of town. I downed my remaining fruit for dinner before summoning my Uber taxi to the airport from outside the hotel.large_5550_14652573163307.jpgLooking at the "mainland" side.Little did I know that I was up for a hassled finish to my trip with theft, traffic and queues.

There were more protests tonight which played havoc with traffic. Standing outside the hotel and checking on the status of my Uber ride on my phone, someone rode past on a bicycle and snatched it off my hand. It wasn’t possible for me to chase someone on a bike.

I waited at length for Uber to turn up but with no luck. Protests meant that traffic into the small road on which the hotel was located was very slow. I was starting to get concerned but knew I had plenty of time still. I decided it would be best to walk to the main road a block away and hail a black-and-yellow taxi.

Once we got out from the city centre, it was a fast ride which cost me AR$480 including tolls. It was about the same as the Uber estimate but double what Kim had paid three days ago in different traffic conditions.large_5550_14652573188211.jpgLooking at the "mainland" side.

The check-in staff for Air New Zealand were very pleasant and I managed to get not just my boarding pass immediately (on a standby ticket) but also an upgrade.

I searched out for a police station but the office was PSA (airport police, which is more like Aviation Security). With the language difficulty, lack of interest on their part and time ticking away, I couldn’t get anywhere lodging a police report.

I had about AR$240 to change and there was a Cambio nearby. The queue was long and frustratingly slow moving. I don’t know what they have to go through just to do a simple transaction. I gave up and gave the money to some people from New Zealand behind me and took NZ$20 in exchange.

I managed to get some time in the lounge before boarding the 13h flight to Auckland departing at midnight.large_5550_14652573202998.jpgCongreso. The dome looks squished from the side; perhaps they couldn't decide between a spire and a dome and combined the two to have a tall/narrow dome.We had a shallow climb giving me a final overview of the awesome city by night.

Strangely the loss my phone didn’t dampen me. I had had an awesome time and was looking forward to coming back.
A few parting thoughts on Argentina though. It is a lot more developed than Peru and Bolivia and has the mod cons that are available in developed countries. However, there are just reminders that it isn’t quite there:

1. Metro breakdowns.
2. Lift breakdowns.
3. Street protests.
4. Queues for banks and ATMs.
5. Low limits on ATM withdrawals while not having widespread acceptance of card (even some flash places in Puerto Madero didn’t take card).

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Half-day off


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large_5550_14652569601576.jpgStreet protests.
I had considered walking in the park areas of Palermo today but the weather was very grey with some drizzle. I opted for a shorter walk along more sheltered route back to San Telmo, this time taking the roads of Defensa and Balcarce. It was certainly more interesting than yesterday with many antique shops. It certainly wasn’t an awesome sight but just a nice thing to do and absorb the feel of this great city.

During lunch near the hotel, I treated myself to a half-dayoff. I heard an explosion. More followed. Then drumming, trumpets and chanting. Protesters came into sight carrying various banners many of which said MILES.

I followed them to Avenida de Mayo where it was completely packed all the way to Plaza de Mayo. There were police but no intervention. The protest was peaceful (as in non-violent) and there was a carnival-like atmosphere. The explosions were from fireworks, I realised. There were vendors selling big roasts, bbq, burgers and sausages.

I had dinner near the hotel again before tucking in for my final night in Buenos Aires [Buenos-Aires-travel-guide-145260].

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires revisited


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large_5550_14652563003334.jpgBuenos Aires has many architectural gems.
Today, I wanted to revisit the sights from 16 years ago. It started with a walk to San Telmo but I didn’t see much as I had walked along a street parallel to the two with more things of interests. It was too early to take coffee in the peaceful square so I took a taxi to La Boca.

The famous colourful houses of La Boca had been sub-bleached and faded over the years. In a few ore years, they could be pastel!

The weather was cold wiith some chilly breeze but still sunny and pleasant. I felt that I could walk forever without getting sweaty and uncomfortable.

I must have bumped the timezone setting on my watch forward an hour and thought I was running late for my date with Robin to walk around Recoleta cemetery. As it turned out I had more time than that and took a small lie down for 20 minutes before walking along Florida pedestrian mall all the way to the Sofitel.

At the cemetery, we found Eva Peron’s tomb (Familia Duarte) quite easily. With that sorted,we wandered around admiring the grandeur of some tombs while feeling sorry for the departed whose once-glorious tombs are now in near ruins. Some of the covers had sunken in to expose the weathered and holey coffins.

Robin accompanied me back to Avenida de Mayo where he lunched at La Junta while I had a snack. I grabbed dinner near the hotel.

It was a nice relaxing day revisiting the sights; there’s certainly less pressure to do things when in a ciy when one isn’t a first time visitor.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Back after 16 years


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large_5550_14652561744026.jpgCasa Rosada.
We grabbed a taxi from outside the hostal after breakfast at 0745 and got to the airport after 0800. There was no queue at Aerolineas Argentinas for the 1050 departure. Despite being on standby, we were given boarding passes straight away.

We had to wait briefly before security opened. Our flight was a near new Boeing 737-800 with the bright open interior and calming blue lights. The light grey leather helped render a clean interior. A safety demo was conducted in Spanish and English before we roared away. The aircraft was awfully noisy down the back especially during takeoff and climb.

Wifi entertainment was equipped on the flight but not activated. A snackbox of “non”-perishables (various biscuits) was served with hot and cold drinks by a courteous crew. I get the feeling that the airline had turned itself around in terms of at least being courteous since we flew with them 16 years ago.large_5550_14652561765679.jpgGaleria Pacifico.

From Aeroparque, we taxied the short distance to our centrally located Centuria Hotel. It was close to Avenida de Mayo with many cafes. We settled into one called La Junta for lunch as our room wasn’t ready. We finally got our tortilla (potato and egg fritata) and flan after 16 years since we were last in Argentina. It was an apprpriate final meal for Kim on his last day.

Both our backs were a bit tired today, kinda tired-sore but not twitchy-sore. My adductors were sore too. We put it down to the horse riding. Funny, the horse did all the work but we are achey.

After a rest, I accompanied Kim for his final walk of the city down Florida peatonal, all the way to Galeria Pacifico which we thought was really nice last time. Somehow, it didn’t feel as posh or impressive this time.

Soon it was time for him to get ready for his midnight departure. I sent him off to the airport by Uber for about AR$240 including tolls whereas a hotel taxi would have cost double that. I didn’t feel hungry and got some fruit from Carrefour as dinner.

It was nice to be back in Buenos Aires [Buenos-Aires-travel-guide-145260] after 16 years. It seems more lively than ever. The old buildings are nice but some are a bit frayed around the edges, just like the uneven footpaths in various states of disrepair.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Horse riding


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large_5550_14652558159233.jpgHome on the ranch.
We were picked up after breakfast at 0900 for our half day of horse riding. It was about an hour to get to the farm house by car.

Driving around old Salta’s square blocks was a bit scary. The roads were about the same size at intersections which didn’t give any hint of priority. With no Stop or Give Way signs, traffic was kinda firsit-come, first served or whoever was more aggressive.

We had a second breakfast of bread and jam when we arrived at the permanent tent/gazebo attached to Enrique’s home before we mounted our horses around 1030.

There were five guests and Sergio the gaucho. I was on Cossack the horse. We went around the countryside for about 3h. It wasn’t exactly stunning (just scrubland and some bare tobacco farms, possibly post-harvesst).large_5550_14652558188219.jpgHome on the ranch.But it was relaxing and interesting being on a horse (not my first time but I don’t get to do it often).

The horses go at the pace they want to, and they don’t response to the supposed queues to go faster (eg. Tsk tsk tsk or slight kick with the heels in their belly). They sometimes break out into a faster pace when they want to or jostle for various positions amongst themselves.

Close to the end, we had a long level stretch where we were allowed to gallop back and forth once each. It was fun and the pressure on the backside was different - less on the perineum and more on the backside.

We finished up back at the farmhouse around 1330 where a BBQ was being prepared. We had elected the no-lunch option for AR$700 rather than the inclusive version at $1000.large_5550_14652558203242.jpgHorse riding.So after an offer of red wine which I declined, we were dropped off back at the hostal around 1430.

Feeling reasonably hungry by then, we went to a square for a snack-lunch of a dozen empanadas and a large beer (around 970 ml a bottle). It was nice to have a mix of beef, ham and cheese and not so nice cheese-only.

We tried not to overeat as we wanted to have a parilla tonight since it would be our last night together in Argentina; Kim had changed his flight to go home 3 days earlier to attend to some matters.

After a rest at 2000, we walked across San Martin park to La Fiamma again for a parilla of chorizo, blood sausage, quarter chicken and steak (translated as skirt steak). I tried swapping the blood sausage for a second chorizo but it wasn’t possible. I had explained that we didn’t like blood sausage so they left it out completely; I wouldn’t have mind trying it though. Again, we had a large salad to go with the meat fest.

The sausage and chicken were beautiful but the steak reminded us that we’re not steak people. The meal wasn’t as heavy as we had expected an we were pleased with that. Often, we get indigestion after heavy steak meals.
After that, it was time to pack for our morning departure.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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