Argentina, Part II – March 11 to March 23, 2017
BUENOS AIRES >> Cordoba >> Mendoza
Buenos Aires (con’t)
Over the next week I continued to live in Buenos Aires. I just got to know the city better, enjoyed times with my new friends from the school and enjoyed St Patrick’s Day here. One thing I will admit that I found very frustrating about this city (just because of what we’re used to in the US), is how pushed back everything is throughout the day. Many bars don’t even open their doors until at least 6pm, sometimes 8pm. Most people don’t eat dinner until between 9-11pm. On the weekends, bars are completely empty until maybe 10 or 11pm, and many clubs don’t even open until past midnight.
Being used to US culture, there were plenty of days a friend and I would decide we wanted to grab a beer in the afternoon, but often times this was, quite literally, impossible, unless we wanted to sit down at a restaurant or something similar. People also have the tendency to go out in groups here, so it’s much different than in the US where you can go to a bar if you want to talk to someone or meet someone new being a solo traveler.
Another incredible (both in a good and bad way) thing I got to experience was ESMA, the human rights museum that had been opened in remembrance of the military government that held power from 1977 – 1983. I knew a little of this history, but honestly didn’t have any real understanding of what had actually happened here during those years. Basically, a military government took power and opened various detention facilities throughout the country. These detention facilities were used to torture and kill political dissidents and oftentimes those close to them. Yes, the government kidnapped, tortured and killed citizens that spoke out against it. Over the length of this government, there were an estimated 30,000 people that were abducted and killed, with many of the bodies simply being dumped in the river. Many Argentinian’s seemed to refer to this as their “Holocaust”.
One of the things that made this all the more impactful was that this “museum” wasn’t just a museum, but was an actual detention facility that was used by the government. It looked like a building from the 70’s (obviously, it was) with similar styling to places I’ve been in throughout the US. As another point of reference, at the time of this happening, my parents were the age of many people that were taken there (likely yours too if you’re a millennial). To add even more to this, there are still a number of people that are not only alive, but still on trial, that worked at these detention facilities. For this reason, everywhere had platform inserts to walk on and they asked us not to touch the walls, as the building was technically still evidence for ongoing cases.
Also, shout out to Lucia for being an amazing host for my entire time in Buenos Aires! Super kind, flexible and and amazing chef. I couldn’t have asked for someone better!
I next spent a few days in Cordoba, the second largest city in Argentina (although much, much smaller than Buenos Aires). If you’re into hiking or rock climbing, there are lots and lots of amazing day hikes and other adventures to be had within only and hour or two from the city.
When I first arrived (6am on an overnight bus from Buenos Aires), I found a tour and just paid for a full day tour, which cost about $40. The guide was from Pennsylvania, but has lived and studied in Cordoba the last 5 years–it was also interesting talking to him about his story. We started the hike slow, and it looked like it wasn’t going to be a super intense day, but he then offered to go on a hike that he’s never been on but heard was cool. Fuck it, I’m in. We work on trying to find the trails and make it about 75% of the way up the mountain before losing every trace of every trail. I guess now we had to climb through the brush at like a 60 degree angle for the rest. As I love to say and try to remember during hard times, “memories happen when things don’t go according to plan”. We had come too far, I’m making it to the top. We do eventually make it to the top and the view is absolutely stunning.
Honestly, what sold me about Cordoba is how incredibly kind and giving the people were that I ran into. I was extremely hungry after the hike and took a friend’s recommendation to go to an empanada place. Damn good suggestion, the food was awesome! Best empanadas I’d had to date on the trip. While I was sitting down eating, there was a man sitting next to me with his wife and two young daughters. He struck up a conversation with me, was asking me where I’m from and what I was doing. After a bit of talking I had mentioned I was going to grab a beer after eating. He briefly said something to his wife, then proceeded to tell me he knew a couple good places but couldn’t remember the names, so he was going to walk me to them after we were all done eating. For the obvious family reasons, he couldn’t join me, but it was such a kind gesture to do that! I went to a couple bars, but being a Monday it wasn’t too crazy. I ended up at an Irish pub and was grabbing a beer by myself when a group of guys drinking told me to join them. One of the guys worked at the pub and was also celebrating his birthday that night. I met them and they bought be beers and shots and we talked for the rest of the night. Thanks to the kindness of the people here, an otherwise boring night turned into an incredibly memorable one, so thank you!
The next day and a half, I just did a walking tour to see the historic sites of the city and check out some other restaurants and bars. Unfortunately no more hiking, but it was a beautiful city. From there, I headed to Mendoza.
Unfortunately I only got to spend one evening in Mendoza because I had to get to Santiago for Diego’s upcoming wedding, and I didn’t want to arrive too late. I do plan to stop back there and experience it more at a later point. I was fortunate to have a really interesting evening, though.
I did fly from Cordoba to Mendoza (it was an extra ~$40 to fly versus take a bus). When I landed, I was trying to find the public bus and couldn’t, so I started walking. As I was walking along the highway, a couple of guys stopped and told me there’s lots of thieves in the area and that it wasn’t safe. I told them where I was going and they said they could get me most of the way there, so I figured I’d have a little more faith in humanity. They drove me to the city center (about 10 blocks from where I needed to go), I got out, thanked them and went on my merry way. I got a good read from them and decided to trust them, and all was good.
I booked a random hostel in what I thought to be a good area to stay (it was a good area, I just didn’t know ahead of time). When I arrived to check-in, I turned around and saw Travis, a guy I met in Uruguay from NYC and spent a few days with. Talk about random! About a month later and neither of us having any idea where we were traveling to, we both happened to be in the same city and book the same hostel. We took advantage of this and went to grab dinner and drinks before I had to head out the next morning.
From here, I took a bus through the Andes Mountains to Santiago. They were huge and impressive, but also kind of dry and bland. We did drive by the tallest mountain on both American continents, so that’s another cool bucket list check! See the picture of the border crossing between Argentina and Chile.
Stay tuned for another update soon on my time in Santiago. I do love this city and the people here, so I’m excited to write about it!