We just concluded our time in Buenos Aires - what a beautiful city and great way to start the trip. Noah and Eli arrived last Friday morning, and I flew in the next day. We had a nice little Airbnb in the "Eleven" neighborhood near Abasto Shopping.
After arriving on Saturday, we decided to explore the city and walked to the Recoleta park and Cemetery. The Cemetery was amazing - almost like a little city of tombs with small 'streets' and trees between the graves. I overheard one woman talking about how over 50 of her family members were buried in their tomb and that there was a waiting list of 35! She explained how the caskets were taken deep below the surface of the tomb. (See pictures of the cemetery attached)
After our time in Recoleta we went back to our neighborhood to look for our first Argentinian beef experience... We'd been told that Casa de las Papas Fritas was a good spot, but it looked a little posh for our attire, so we decided to be completely conspicuous and sat outside on the street at a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed more meat that we're likely to eat in one sitting for the rest of the trip.
On Sunday, we traveled to the center of the city and to the waterfront. We watched kids doing bike tricks, walked in a beautiful park, and ended up in San Telmo - a touristy, but beautiful area of the city. After enjoying sausages and a steak sandwich, we bought some veggies for dinner (the vegetables and eggs are the freshest we've had in a long time) and continued through the streets of San Telmo. We happened upon an outdoor bar/music venue where we decided to hang out for a while, taking in the local scene. While watching the live salsa/reggae music and drinking a couple local beers we met a couple from the States who were traveling and writing guidebooks with a more Afro-centric focus - it was eye opening to hear about the often white/European focus of most guidebooks. Soon after meeting them, I began talking with Remy, a photographer for the Discovery Channel from Ecuador who had been living in Buenos Aires. We had a great time talking about the objective of our trip and Remy shared stories and photos of his time with the Discovery Channel. Remy was joined by two other guys from Ecuador who he'd met that day, Bolivar and Jimmy - both doctors, also from Ecuador, and living in Buenos Aires. Though the three new friends really only spoke Spanish, it was a lot of fun to dive back into the language and for Noah and Eli to do their best follow along. We shared many laughs, jokes, and even tried a bit of salsa dancing in the street.
After getting back to the house that night, we fried up plantains, and made rice and a great salad - cooking this week has made us excited to be able to shop for fresh food, and maybe even do some foraging and fishing once we're en route in Patagonia.
On Monday, we met up with a woman from Buenos Aires - Victoria Ramos (Vicky), an English teacher. Vicky had reached out to me directly about getting together after I posted a public trip on Couch Surfing (a great website to check out if you haven't already!) We met Vicky in Palermo at a great little restaurant where we sat outside and ate quesadillas and shared stories and told Vicky about our travels. After lunch, Vicky offered to take us to gardens and to a planetarium north of Palermo, so we set off on about a 40 minute walk north. The gardens and small lake/pond were really beautiful (see photos), but ultimately Eli needed ice cream, so we returned to what Vicky called the best ice cream shop (we didn't disagree).
That night, we made a trip to the supermercado and picked up a bunch of food and a couple cheap bottles of wine and had ourselves a nice night in cooking and playing cards.
On Tuesday, Vicky invited us to come to her apartment for homemade empanadas with her and her friend, Macarena (also an English teacher) - we obliged. The empanadas were delicious - two types, one with spiced ground beef and the other with just cheese. After lunch, we spent several hours on the roof of Vicky's building where there was a pool and reclining chairs. Eli couldn't sit still and kept us entertained with poolside antics.
After a 45 minute walk back to our Airbnb, and a quick homemade dinner of rice and cabbage and cucumber slaw, we made our way back to a brewery in Palermo where we had the closest thing to an IPA I've ever had in Latin America. We were joined by Vicky, Macarena, and another friend, Aguillar. Aguillar didn't speak English which made for more spanish lessons and laughs. We ended the night with a late visit to the ice cream shop which was open well past midnight.
Yesterday, we woke to some alarming FedEx messages indicating that our bikes (which we'd been forced to ship due to an embargo preventing us from flying with them) were being held up at customs at the international airport about 20 miles outside the city. We decided we didn't have much choice but to get ourselves out to customs to figure out what we had to do to either claim our bikes and take them on the next flight to Ushuaia with us, or to at least ensure that they would be traveling on to Ushuaia. After a wild goose chase through the airport, getting security clearance, and getting ourselves to the correct office, we were greeted by a goofy crew of customs workers. Though the back and forth between customs, the fedex office, and the package handlers was anything but efficient, we did at least manage to get to the bottom of the issues. For whatever reason, I had to pick my bicycle up in Buenos Aires - it was not going to make it down to Ushuaia. But Eli and Noah's bikes (supposedly) are continuing on to meet us in Ushuaia, though it may take another 10 days... The additional $350 in customs fees definitely hurt a bit, but we're hoping that once we're actually on the road, we should be able to really cut down costs and eat on the cheap most places we go. (See the picture of us and the customs agents... we're pretty sure we were yesterday's source of entertainment for them)
After a bite to eat in the airport, we returned to our Airbnb with one bike in tow.
All in all, Buenos Aires was a welcome transition zone before we head off into more rural South America. We've all been able to find our bearing with each other, and I think being in the city with other people has been a good Spanish primer for us before we're in the country and maybe less able to immerse ourselves in Spanish speaking situations. Buenos Aires also stuck out as incredibly relaxed city (at least by American standards) - from the walking pace, to having to flag a waiter for the bill just to leave a restaurant, most things move a bit more slowly and with more focus on being present.
We're about to land in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Keep your fingers crossed that Eli and Noah's bikes make it south soon. We're ready to pedal from the end of the world.
-Los Tres Amigos, Cameron, Eli, y Noah