Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cheap Paris- The City not the Heiress

19 hours on a bus? Surely no amount of money saved can be worth that brand of prolonged stationary torture. In most countries, this is true. Not in Argentina. In Argentina time on a bus is time to unwind, be still and glow the same way you do when you've just done something really clever.

The seats are generous, three to a row and they recline 180 degrees with the grace of a timelapse flower blooming. Wine, coffee, champagne and whiskey served on takeoff, hot food, and from our seats at the very front of the upper level, a view over everything else on the road to where this elegant machine is taking its payload of 24 passengers, 1 driver and 1 attendant. Yes, this is first class travel, comparable to 1st class air travel (at least I assume it is), and for just $80AUD. (Shot taken during one of the multitude of hair-raising overtaking manoeuvres we witnessed from on high. I am convinced that Argentinian bus drivers possess eagle vision and can see around corners)

After I had a relaxing and luxurious 19 hour bus ride we arrived in Buenos Aires. Angie's 19 hours was less enjoyable than mine, due to a second assault by suspected food poisoning. BA is a huge city, 30 million people live there. We jumped in a cab to take us to our hostel right in the middle of the nest. Angie was still recovering, so I went out and had I minor explore of this new city.

The feeling of arriving in a new city is something that you only get and can only keep for perhaps a few hours, maybe a day. Its the precious first impression, the intensity of meeting a city for the first time which is unique. Everything is brand new, there is no point of reference and you can't rely on anything being familiar to centre yourself. Its a magnificent sensation of new, and you have to drink it in, because as soon as you turn a full block and end up back where you started, the brief moment of pure virgin experience is diluted, and you start to know the place.

This pigeon slept outside our room every night

Of course, the more you try to extend this moment of newness (by not concentrating too hard on where you're going of where you've been) the more likely you are to have set yourself up for a royal case of 'I'm lost and have no idea where home is'. Which of course a got an acute case of. After deciding that I had wandered the streets long enough and it was now getting too cold and too dark for me to be out here, I tried to turn back and experienced the downside of new. A really good way to extend that feeling of being new is to go walking around at night, because then your points of reference tend to be much fewer. But by all accounts, Buenos Aires is not a good place to be doing this sort of accidental exploring at night, because there are places which you just don't go (dangerous places). With the sun now down and a rising sense of paranoid tourist panic now bubbling away below, I quickened my step and thankfully, found a map outside the 'Subte' station (subway). After returning to it a couple of times I managed to find my way back to the hostel, inches of daylight remaining.

20 lanes of pure urgency

Now it was tourist time. Over the next few days we wandered around the city (Angie calls it Cheap Paris), feeling a little overwhelmed by the size of the whole thing. Our hostel was on Avenue 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world. It's 20 jam packed lanes wide, full of motorists keen to beat everyone else to the end of the road, wherever that is. They're so keen that they tend to squeeeeeze in between cars next to each other at the lights, so often there'll be two lanes painted on the road, but three vehicle nestled together inside those lanes, engines revving like dragsters in anticipation.

Acres of trinkets

At San Telmo, we went and saw the largest markets I have ever been to. It was a combination of street stalls, show halls and blankets on roads, selling every kind of tourist trinket imaginable (with a brutally heavily emphasis on tango-themed souvenirs) along with really fascinating antique treasures. In the four hours we spent walking the market, we backtracked once to buy some vintage postcards, but that was the only time we doubled up on seeing anything.


stephen & ash said...

hey guys, hope your health has improved. can we make a request for a photo update of david's jesus beard?

stephen said...

splendour tickets went on sale today and sold out in 5 hours. camping sold out in 2 and a half. we scraped in for festival tickets but no camping. looks like it's a solid roof this year...

Marc said...

wow your photo's are really beautiful!! Havent checked out the blog & your latest adventures for 5 weeks due to time ticking away Pounds or Euro's in internet cafes. Looks amazing, wish I had the mental capacity to set up a blog, for now you will have to suffer my group emails, enjoy x