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Buenos Aires - Monetary Devaluation

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Full Cama
Road distances are long in South America, and bus companies have evolved to offer airline-style service in every respect, except that they still can’t get you there as fast. Pullman, Classico, Semi-cama, Ejectivo, Coche Cama - these options and more exist to offer a level of comfort to suit every pocket, and to confuse the weary traveller.

As we boarded our full cama coach for the 12-hour trip from Mendoza to Santiago, we knew we could look forward to a more comfortable ride than the average business-class air passenger. Three abreast in place of the usual four, seats reclining close to horizontal, supportive footrests, plenty of legroom, hot meals and in-flight, or rather on-road, movies.

Our attendant clearly modelled himself on the more exuberantly friendly and enthusiastic flight attendants he had encountered. While we picked up only a fraction of his lengthy “welcome onboard” speech, every sentence ended with an exclamation of “Bueno!”, “Perfecto!” or “Fantastico!”, and he seemed to bestow a broad, white-toothed smile on every passenger individually at some point in his chat.

The highlight of our trip was yet to come - bingo. With my competitive streak, I played two cards as Caelen had drifted off to sleep. Admittedly, any ruthless determination to win at all costs was undermined by the fact that I hadn’t understood the rules. I managed to catch most of the numbers, though, and that alone had me more excited than I’d been in days.

This hostel is just for Israeli people
We arrived in Buenos Aires’ Retiro Bus Station with no reservations but a handful of recommendations. We picked one that sounded nice, and jumped in a taxi. Our driver asked us where we were from and suggested we should go to a hostel on Avenida San Juan. We were wise to the ways of taxi drivers, after nearly a year on the road, and insisted on being taken to the address we’d written down.

We rang the bell, and waited while a young woman came down the stairs to meet us. “Where are you from?” she asked. We told her we were Irish. “Ah, this hostel is just for Israeli people. You want our other hostel, around the corner on San Juan.”

We were shocked. Why travel if you want only to mix with people from your own country? And the Israelis who’d chosen to stay in our hostel, rather than their national ghetto, were equally bemused.

Bad, Bad Tango
Plaza Dorrego was reputedly the place to go for Sunday afternoon tango in the open air. Technically, I suppose that’s what we found, but it wasn’t all we’d hoped for.

He looked like an aging gigolo. All smarm and sly looks, slightly corpulent where perhaps there had been a fit figure not so long ago. His slimy smirk revealed dubious teeth as he encouraged the ladies of the audience to dance with him.

She was much, much worse. The tango tradition is of course one of overt sexuality. With slightly more clothing and a lot less makeup, this lady may have been able to exude voluptuous sensuality. As it was, with her too-tight, much-too-short shiny red dress and her apparently randomly applied black eye makeup, it just seemed sad.

We spent much of the next week trying to find good tango, but somehow our efforts were always thwarted. So our lingering memory of Buenos Aires tango is of this slightly sad, slightly repellent couple strutting their stuff to passers-by.

The Puppeteer
The man careened crazily down the street, staggered drunkenly, and managed to grab a lamppost to slow his inevitable fall. On his knees now, he turned his eyes to heaven and sang a painful, imploring song bemoaning his fate. Spotting us, he stretched out his hand, begging us to help send him further down that selfsame road.

The crowd was mesmerised. The puppeteer’s control of his man was total, the movements, gestures and, it seemed, expressions were compelling. Never had I seen a puppet seem to exude such genuine emotion.
For a moment, I let myself believe the puppet was an extension of his controller, a voice for his master’s pain and ill fortune. I shook myself back to reality. This was clever and entertaining, and the puppeteer had earned my few pesos, but this was a well-crafted tourist show, not some heartfelt cry for help.

Four floors of bad salsa
The clubbing of Buenos Aires is justly famed, and we planned a serious night out. The sort of night where you go to bed sometime after lunch, and stagger up at beer o’clock. The sort of night where you make dozens of new best friends, get invited to parties all over the city and everyone in the nightclub seems like a soul mate.

So when the recommended “mega club” seemed to feature nothing but four dancefloors all playing bad salsa I was less than impressed. “This isn’t salsa,” one of the group advised, “This is much worse than that. It’s Rock Nacional!”

We did the only thing we could in the circumstances. We installed ourselves in the techno room and danced until dawn. Only in Buenos Aires could you consider that a tame night out.

Pictures - click to enlarge
Picture of a Buenos Aires puppet - Argentina travelogues
Photograph of bad tango in Buenos Aires - Argentina travelogues
Puppet show

Bad tango

Picture of a dance show in Buenos Aires - Argentina travelogues
Photograph of Barbara Buenos Aires - Argentina travelogues
Afternoon dance show
Browsing the paintings in San Telmo

Picture of dancing in Buenos Aires - Argentina travelogues
Photograph of Buenos Aires puppet master - Argentina travelogues
Couple dancing
The puppet master