Backpacking in Argentina: Buenos Noches Buenos Aires
It was time to say Buenos Noches (goodnight) to Buenos Aires exactly this time last year in order for me to fly south down to Ushuaia – the world’s most southern “city” which is located in Argentina at Tierra Del Fuego – “land of fire”. Ironically one of the coldest places you could go! (So called however due to the fact that fires were lit there to keep warm).
It wasn’t easy negotiating my way out of the dirty, over hyped Argentine capital. Indeed it’s not a bad city and I have good memories there, but it’s just not my thing. I find a lot of Argentinian people too arrogant in truth and their over hyping of this dodgy and bland capital do themselves no favours to travel sceptics like myself. Indeed you’ll be much more welcomed in Paraguay and Uruguay, both border countries of Argentina.
I have to thank Maria immensely in helping me. Maria Drzazga worked in the Limehouse Hostel (well recommended by the way) in Lima in Central Buenos Aires. My Spanish wasn’t the best at the time (though that did actually improve) so a phone call to an airport or bus company would have been a waste of time for me. Besides I didn’t have a working phone. Just 12 hours before I was due to fly to Ushuaia, I received an e-mail saying the flight was cancelled.
This had worried me a bit as I had already booked a very dear trip to Antarctica just 2 days later (but in the confusion I thought it was 1 day later) from the port of Ushuaia and desperately needed to get down there ASAP. The flight had already been changed and cancelled and put back on before, all via e-mail. It was with Aerolineas Argentinas.
This time the problem was the airport I was due to fly out of no longer existed! (Or at least did, but was under renovation for a long period of months). The Jorge Newberry Airport, which is only 4 kilometres from the city centre and not too hard to get to from the hostel. So the airline had basically CANCELLED that initial flight, given that it’s departure point (Jorge Newberry) was closed, but assured me it was to fly from the other airport in Buenos Aires 45 minutes earlier than original. Sounds OK so far.
But throw in the fact I was staying at a hostel in the centre of BA, close to the “closed” airport Jorge Newberry. And that the main airport, the other one, Ezeiza Airport is 35 kilometres away from the city centre. Add to that the fact I was on an all night pub crawl due to begin in 43 minutes from a hostel in Obelisco Suites, Florida Street, so had to be there for that of course. Add to that no night buses to the other airport that are “recommended”, and furthermore throw in the stupid fact that I hadn’t packed, my fault for doing a bit of late afternoon sight seeing on my last few hours of daylight in BA.
So Maria made a few phone calls. Firstly the flight was indeed flying from the other airport, Ezeiza and that Jorge Newberry was indeed shut. Secondly it was now an earlier flight, meaning I’d miss the included hostel breakfast and have to leave from the hostel at 5.30 am in order to make it. I’m a budget traveller at the best of times, so was NOT prepared to fork out the money for a direct taxi. (I had caught a bus from the airport before and was expecting to take one to get me back).
Thirdly I could get a dodgy nightbus, but that would involve a walk or a taxi to get to it, and then the timetable may not have been on my side. That bus takes longer to get to the airport, meaning my pub crawl would be cut short, something I also didn’t want given Buenos’ reputation as a party city. BUT fourthly there was a slightly better bus, called Manuel Tienda Leon which goes direct to the airport from downtown Buenos Aires. This departed from a location easily reached by a cheap taxi from the hostel. On that note, I thanked Maria for all her help, packed my bag and locked it away and ran to Florida Street to start the pub crawl. The pub crawl came to a climax at 4am!!! I then hadn’t brought enough money for a taxi home to the hostel, and was alone in the middle of Palermo somewhere, without a map.
So I decided to get in a taxi and tell the driver how much money I had and to head in the direction towards Avenida 9 de Julio (the main street and widest street in the world) and dump me off when my money had come up on the meter. He did just that, about 20 minutes walk before the hostel. Past dodgy tramps, local hookers and with an excessive amount of drink on me, I somehow found my way back very confidently as a sun was beginning to rise.
To this day I have no idea how I did that, could easily have got mugged or attacked, or most likely, totally lost. I got back to the hostel no problem in the end. I had paid for the night in the hostel I hadn’t even used my bed or been able to take the free breakfast that morning (as it starts serving at 7 am), but I had used their showers and lockers and Maria’s help alone was worth the bed fee. I grabbed my oversized bag, got either Maria or Javi to phone me a taxi and I relaxed with them, enjoying their company. It wasn;t enough time for a final beer in BA, but…
Before I left the hostel there was even time to quickly flick on my facebook, merely so I could say “Buenos Noches Buenos Aires!” I had waited a long time to use that phrase. Little did I know that in the following 5 weeks I would pass through and leave Buenos Aires twice more, as fate would direct me.
The taxi guided me through some nice street scenes at sunrise. And I was now at the Manuel Tienda station waiting. There weren’t many other people waiting on the bus, which left from Avenida Eduardo Madero. Having been knackered from the pub crawl, I barely even remember getting there. But it was another amazing part of a travel journey.
As some airport workers boarded the bus before me (there weren’t any other “traveller types” on that bus at 5.20 am), they gave off a sniff of disapproval. I obviously had done a full spot of sightseeing, a night on the piss, a walk home and some sweating in between, without ever thinking “where’s my deodorant?” I found a deep hypocritical irony in that and most of all in myself. The reason being my lasting memory of Buenos Aires will be of a dirty city. Perhaps it was my own neglect of hygience for the want of wanderlust that gave me such an impression of a city which pans out as good on the grand scheme of things.
I was on board a nice pleasant, clean, safe bus, iPod on and the madness of BA left behind me. The time there shows 5.52 am. In the previous 24 hours I’d had no sleep at all. The bus journey to the airport must have taken about 40 minutes and cost 46 Pesos (about 5 – 6 pounds at the time).
My last sighting on central BA as I drifted in search of the land far south and a childhood dream. Antarctica lay ahead.
Not before some more major hic-cups and travel tales which would only fuel my desire even more to see the world’s coldest continent.
The journey continues from Ezeiza Airport. At least this one wasn’t closed for renovation…
And given that it was now almost 7am, I really should have called this article “Buenos Dias Buenos Aires.” (and i know about the spelling mistake, it just ain’t funny otherwise).
Transport Used – 2 taxis, 1 Manuel Tienda Bus
Distance travelled – around 50 kilometres
Next Destination – Ushuaia, Argentina for a boat to Antarctica
PARTYING IN PALERMO, BUENOS AIRES PUB CRAWL:
SUNRISE CATCHING THE MANUEL TIENDA AIRPORT BUS, BUENOS AIRES: