Been in the air a lot lately. Having flown to Australia from Zambia, and then back to South Africa and then on to South America, it seems that we are taking the long way around the southern hemisphere. I have to admit though; there is something nostalgic about making your way around the globe by skirting Antarctica all the way along. I almost thought I could see it on some of those flights! Oh well, at least we saw the penguins around Capetown, does that qualify as an Antarctic experience?
We really have to brush up on our Spanish, since the rest of the journey will be mostly in that language. Having reached Buenos Aries, we are now heavy duty into the Latin American portion of the journey. On first impressions, BA is huge. A large city of over 13 million people with the city blocks to prove it. It looks and feels like a very modern city as you walk around, with a touch of Spanish colonial feel. But there are lingering forms of decay around; hinting at the tumultuous political history the country has had, with many elements of the recent currency crisis and even the Falkland Islands war resonating in the appearance of the city. There are abandoned construction projects (Well, what city does not have any of that these days?) scattered here and there, and there is just enough urban decay to make you think that things could go either way here. I suppose that is what the IMF and World Bank think as well, as it seems that the country is still deemed to be a little risky.
There are some beautiful squares and parks though, and some compare the city to say New York or even Paris. That I'm not so sure about, but it is certainly worth a day to walk around. In the main square, there is a pink building where Evita Peron made her famous speech to the Argentinean public back in the 1950's, and the streets radiating out from the square are reminiscent of Madrid back in Spain. A giant modern obelisk in the centre of one of the main intersections betrays the age of the city with it's segmented metallic construction.
Yet the people carry themselves with a very proud air. Some of the reading I have done calls this arrogance, but maybe it is better explained as the bitterness associated with having a great country always on the verge of greatness, and having the carpet continuously pulled out from under you by various political debacles. People certainly dress well here in Buenos Aries, and the cafes and restaurants are all first rate.
They eat pretty well too. Steaks, pizza, and pasta figure prominently on most menus, and the coffee is pretty good everywhere in the city. One thing though, I am on a bit of a mission to determine the truth behind the rumour that the Argentinean beef is the best in the world. You could understand how I might be a little skeptical on that one having had my fair share of Alberta grade A prime over the years. Our friend Mark in Dublin was sure convinced when he was here, but I'm not sure if he has been to Alberta. Well, for lunch today we went to one of the famous steak houses in San Telmo, the tango district of the city. Incidentally, the tango was invented here in Buenos Aries, did you know that? Anyway, we both ordered up some of the lunch steaks on offer, and sure the flavour was good, but they were really chewy! Not sure if it was just the lunch menu or what, so we are going to try again for dinner tonight at another place. Stay tuned for the report on that.
Tomorrow morning we head up to Foz de Iguazzu, another one of the world's great waterfalls. It will be neat to compare this one with Vic falls in Zambia in particular, as they both fall off a precipice into nothing. The falls are located right on the triangular border between Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. After a couple of days up there, we are heading all the way down to the bottom to Patagonia to see some glaciers and prepare for our trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Things are liable to get a little chillier down there. Get it? C-H-I-L-E ier. I kill myself. If it's not insightful socio-political commentary you get from me, it's incredible verbal wit.
Maybe you don't want to invite me to your dinner party after all...