Cedric in the South

A blog about my South American adventure

III. Buenos Aires

Day 2
September 25, 2013
Buenos Aires
I am now at Pax Hostel, and getting here was not trivial. After landing and making it through customs, I had to find the shuttle that would take me the 22 miles into the city. Unfortunately, my Spanish isn't nearly as good as I thought. After a few very confusing conversations, I found the shuttle and made it to the Retiro subway station. The subway brought me within a block of the hostel, but my sense of direction is so disoriented around here that it took me another 30 minutes to find the right street. Now, I'm finally here at Pax, sitting on my bed.
I'm staying in an eight-bed, L-shaped dorm on the second floor. There are four bunk beds crammed very close together in a little space. I'm on the bottom bunk near the door. I have a little curtain that slides beside my bed and across from me there are tall, thin, gray lockers. There is a door in the back wall that leads out to a small balcony overlooking the street. I haven't seen the rest of the hostel yet, but so far this place seems pretty grungy. I guess that makes sense since it was one of the cheapest hostels I could find.
My hostel bed — photo by Cedric McDougal
Now that I'm here, I'm not sure what to do! I didn't make any plans before I left and I only did some cursory research about the city. I'm also kind of exhausted from the flight. Maybe I'll read my book. I brought Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan. It's a fitting accompaniment for my journey because Sagan writes about the inate need humans have to travel. On second thought, I flew all the way down here and I only have a month on this trip, so I should get out and explore the city. I'll head to the front desk and ask where I should go. Let's see what Buenos Aires has to offer!
Day 2
September 25, 2013
Buenos Aires
I'm back from my walk and I've learned that Buenos Aires is huge! I got a pocket map from the front desk and Davíd, the hostel owner, drew a route for me to follow, but I ended up getting lost anyways. My walk took me on a big loop through the city. Despite being 5,000 miles from home, everything still feels familiar. There are tall buildings, lots of people, city monuments, shops, bars — I even ate lunch at a McDonald's! Buenos Aires seems to be a very Westernized South American city. Despite this, I was cautious while wandering around. The guys at the hostel told me that some areas are very dangerous for tourists and should be strictly avoided. I also feel wary about travelling alone in an unfamiliar city so far from home. Until I get to know this place a little better, I'll continue to take things slow.
With that said, I think I'll read my book for now. Pax has activities every evening so hopefully I'll meet a few other travellers tonight!
Day 3
September 26, 2013
Buenos Aires
I am feeling a little better about my trip today. Last night was a lot of fun. Pax runs a small bar in its basement where I spent most of the night talking to the other people staying at the hostel. I met a chef from Finland who doesn't speak Spanish but is trying to get a job in Buenos Aires. I met Trent from New Zealand who is hiking all over South America with a little guitar. I met Mark and Atish from England who are on a year-long world journey. And I met Isaac from Colorado who was vacationing in Buenos Aires but liked it so much he decided to stay. So far, I am really enjoying the atmosphere and the people here at Pax. You can also buy a liter of beer for 15 pesos (about $2), which definitely helps.
Today I walked East to the Río de la Plata, the big river that separates Argentina and Uruguay. It seemed like a short distance on my map but it took me over an hour to get there. Along the coast there's an enormous ecological reserve with a number of walking trails. I randomly followed one trail all the way to a small beach that looked out on the river. I spent a while there reading my book and people watching.
View of Buenos Aires from La Reserva Ecológica — photo by Rcidte (Wikipedia)
I left the beach after about twenty minutes because I was getting cold and because I started to notice tiny neon green spiders crawling all over me. It was a long walk back and I was getting hungry, so I stopped at an "Irish Pub" called The Clover. Sitting at the bar listening to American pop songs and seeing English signs on the walls felt like a real slice of home. I even heard some people in a booth speaking in English. I wanted to strike up a conversation, but walking around the city alone I find it hard to be my normally outgoing self. It is easier to meet people at the hostel because everyone there is also a traveller.
Tonight, I might go on a pub crawl with Isaac. Since Isaac is from the States, I have a much easier time relating with him than with most of the other people at Pax. Last night, we talked about taking a ferry across the river to Uruguay. In Uruguay you can get US dollars, which you can exchange for pesos on the "blue market" in Argentina. The blue market exchange rate is nearly twice as good as the official exchange rate. A few years ago the Argentinian government tried to artificially inflate the value of the peso, but this just led to the creation of a burgeoning off-market exchange business. Unfortunately, I didn't know this before I left so I only brought about $100 cash with me. Hopefully this Uruguay trip happens sooner than later.
I think it's about time to head down to the bar and see what everyone is up to tonight.
Day 5
September 28, 2013
Buenos Aires
There is a reggae festival today. I want to go but I don't know when people are leaving or who is going. Everyone has such different sleep schedules. Matía, one of the hostel employees, didn't sleep because he was working the night shift at the front desk and he has been walking around in a daze all day. Dom and Sonia, a couple travelling from England, went to bed sometime around 10pm. I went out to a club with Isaac and Davíd, which we didn't leave until six in the morning. I'm not sure if anyone is even going to make it to the festival today.
Yesterday, I did my now normal routine of walking randomly around the city and reading my book. I also tried to buy a little travel guitar, but all the music stores were closed for some reason. I miss playing. It is such a good way to pass the time.
View from the Pax Hostel balcony — photo by Cedric McDougal
Right now, I'm out on the balcony drinking some tea and watching cars drive by in the street below. This has become the spot I go to when I want to get away and think. I found out that Mark and Atish are planning to leave for Iguazú Falls tomorrow. Iguazú has been highly recommended by everyone I've talked to. It's a waterfall that's larger than Niagra Falls and one of the New7Wonders of Nature. I think I'll ask Mark and Atish if I can travel with them for a little. It would be nice to have company. Either way, I have been in Buenos Aires long enough. I need to get going on the rest of my journey or I won't have enough time to see other parts of South America. Tomorrow, I will wake up early and go to Retiro Station to buy a bus ticket for the Falls.
Day 6
September 29, 2013
Buenos Aires
This is my last day in Buenos Aires. I leave for Iguazú at 3pm. I bought a ticket for the same bus that Mark and Atish are taking. They are really nice guys and I think I'll enjoy travelling with them.
I never made it to the reggae festival yesterday. I also had to postpone my trip to Uruguay with Isaac. I did, however, finally taste Argentinian steak. It is often said that Argentinian steak is the best in the world. It was certainly the best steak I've ever tasted. If I come back to this city, I will make a point to eat it more often.
To be honest, though, I am glad to be leaving Buenos Aires. It is a wonderful place, but I need to get a fresh start. My stay here has been overshadowed by loneliness and uncertainty. If I were to travel again, I would definitely travel with a companion. If nothing else, this would help me feel more adventerous, less timid and probably safer, as well. I am getting excited for the rest of my trip, though. I wonder where it will take me? After buying my bus ticket today, I realized how easy it is to just pick up and leave a place. I have true freedom right now. If a city doesn't suit me, I can move on to the next. I have been in Buenos Aires for six days, but it feels like my real adventure is just beginning.

Next Chapter:

IV. Puerto Iguazú