The Sea Explorer returned us to Ushuaia in southern Argentina via the Drake Passage. Once again, 80 percent of the ship was sea sick, but that is the price you pay for such an adventure to the Antarctic.
We had decided to have a couple of days in Buenos Aires on the way home to break up the journey and because a friend of mine suggested a number of places we just had to see before we died.
We arrived in the city after a plane trip of about 3 hours in late afternoon. The ride into the hotel was great – the guide told us all about the city and all about the wonderful avenue we rode along. It was in fact a recent addition to the city. The burghers decided that they wanted a monumental avenue so they bought up all the high rise along the route, levelled them and created this wonderful avenue of trees and walkways, with bus lanes, with an obelisk at one end and a memorial to Evita at the other.
We had decided that the adventure to Antarctica was probably going to be one of culinary indulgence without the commensurate exercise. Actually, it was wrong because when we got to the land, we had quite a bit of exercise trudging up hills of snow etc. But nonetheless, we booked a cycle tour of Buenos Aires to work off some additional baggage.
This tour was a whole day affair, taking about 8 hours and 26 kilometres of city traffic, bike lanes and all. We saw the city in all its historic glory, its modern architecture, its slums, its colourful Boca district, where the tango is danced in the street and weird images appear in the windows of the densely packed buildings. We saw in one window a life sized statue of Pope Francis waving to the populace as they waltzed by.
The Presidential elections were conducted on the days we were there and crowds gathered outside a building called “the Pink House”. This is where the President lives, a la “White House”. It was quiet when we went past but the next day there were about ten thousand people there. About 51% of the population supported a change in the President’s position and 49% didn’t want change. Pretty close and a flash point imminent.
What was strange also was that everyone stopped and watched the TV to catch glimpses of the new President. We went to a restaurant for lunch and all the waiting staff were glued to the telly! Everyone had an opinion! Wonderful stuff for a political groupie like yours truly.
The bike tour took in the swank Embassy strip, the commercial and banking strip, the colourful Boca strip, which I have described already. Interestingly, the bike paths were respected by larger vehicles but still, the larger vehicles had right of way, due to their imposing size. It didn’t take us long to work out how to manipulate our way around the city.
On the tour we went to a district called Ricoletta. This is an affluent area but has a large hilly garden in the middle. At the top is a cemetery. So what, I hear you say. Well, this is a city of mausoleums, which is a city for the dead. Streets are lined with family vaults and are spooky as!
I went back the next day and found the grave of Eva Peron — Evita to her friends and all of Argentina. It is in the vault of the family Duarte and not in the Presidential compound that her hubby, Juan, was interred. She rests, eventually, with her family. Interesting mythology about Evita too, I found out. That she was embalmed, the body kidnapped, taken to Europe and eventually returned to Argentina in circumstances which would make a good novel.
In the evening, we went to a restaurant which specialises in tango dance theatre. You book the dinner show and they pick you up in a bus, feed you sumptuously, water you with Argentine wine (Malbec for the wine buffs) and treat you to a demonstration of furious Argentine tango dancing, then take you home again. Mind blowing! And the orchestra is on a ledge above the dancers!
Here I need to say g’day to Gary Schafer, photographer at large. My phone photos are not bad but don’t take it all in and my wife’s camera has photos which are too large to post, being over 4 mb each. Damn!
Buenos Aires is a lovely city and well worth a visit. Planning is a good idea and being fit is a better idea. I recommend the bike tour and you get to see a lot of the city, with the tour guide giving all sorts of information the average traveller doesn’t know.
We had lunch at a traditional riverside food van, avoided food poisoning and thanks to sun block avoided heat stroke. I am not the fittest in the world but I did make it back in one piece.
After the majesty of Antarctica, it was nice to relax and see the sights of Buenos Aires in a leisurely ride around it. A nice way to end our intrepid travels.
We bid goodbye to South America having had a whale of a time.