The final leg of my flight from Phoenix to Buenos Aires stretched from Florida, across Cuba and then down to Buenos Aires. During the flight, I had the pleasure of sitting next to an expat who was returning to Argentina for the first time in over 20 years. As the hours ticked by he shared stories of his childhood adventures, insights into the Argentine culture, as well as tips and suggestions on how to stay safe and things/places to avoid. The tips were useful, they re-affirmed what I’d already been told, and added finer details on places to be mindful of, signs to keep an eye out for, and ways to dress and present myself which would reduce my appeal (shoes, clothing, watch etc.).
After a long wait to get through immigration, he mentioned that he was meeting his brother and that there was a possibility that they’d be heading into the city to drop some stuff off. He cautioned that he couldn’t promise a ride, but if they were heading in my direction, they’d be happy to give me a lift. I evaluated my interactions with him and decided it was a great offer.
As it turned out, by the time we got out of immigration and connected with his brother and cousin they needed to head in the opposite direction and wouldn’t be available for a lift. Eager to help though, they played the role of translator and made sure I found the stand for Manuel Tienda Leon. The company offers budget shuttles into downtown Buenos Aires which then transfer travelers into smaller taxis for door-to-door service. At a cost of 50 Pesos it’s a fantastic deal when compared to the ~150+ Pesos for a Taxi to/from Buenos Aires international airport.
My hostel, the Hostel Inn Tango City, was located in the heart of San Telmo which is generally noted as one of the oldest and most historical neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. The staff was friendly and the room was good. I checked in, found my bed, tossed my stuff on it and then headed to the shower before collapsing on my bunk for a hearty nap.
A short while later I awoke to the sound of rustling as several of my roommates returned from a day out on the city. As it turned out the room was an 8 bed dorm of which 6 beds were occupied by a great group of 6 Australian girls on a multi-month knockabout. The 8th bed was empty. Five of the 6 are pictured below, as well as two random guys we met on the Pub Crawl.
We quickly got acquainted before getting cleaned up, tracking down a bite to eat and then heading out on the town for a Pub Crawl we booked through the hostel. Usually hit or miss, Pub Crawls are an ideal option for travelers interested in getting a fun dose of night life. The crawls themselves usually have a ~$10 flat initial fee which results in a mixture of free drinks and night long drink specials. Pub Crawls typically also offer a guide who leads the group through 3-4 bars and then eventually leaves everyone at a local night club. Despite an initial hiccup (the bar we were scheduled to start at had unexpectedly closed forcing us to re-locate to a pizza shop) the Pub Crawl ended up being a fun one with a hearty group of travelers from a mixture of hostels across the city.
We wandered through a variety of bars and pubs before eventually piling onto two chartered buses for a quick bus ride to an industrially themed night club which boasted a multi-story layout, pumping music and a fun ambiance. Eventually, foot sore, sweaty and hungry we abandoned the club which was still in full swing and set out in the hopes of finding food. No small task at 4:45AM as it turned out, as most of the local fast food joints were closed (albeit briefly) for cleaning.
As we enjoyed a quick meal and tall glass of water dawn came and went. Eventually, with only a brief grumble about the sun we hailed a cab and wandered our way back up to our hostel bunks hoping to stealing a little sleep before the day began in earnest.
My first full day spent in Buenos Aires was simple. Mostly one of transition – I meandered the San Telmo district aimlessly. Still stiff from the club the night before and the long plane ride from the states, I found the architecture and general feel of the San Telmo district to be very similar to rural areas of Madrid, only with a slightly dirtier/grungier South American feel.
Fearful of pickpockets I left my camera at the hostel, though now in retrospect and after subsequent time spent in Buenos Aires that was completely unnecessary.
In San Telmo I quickly tracked down a small hole in the wall. The place lacked a major sign and seemed to be serving one of two meal options. I saddled up to the small bar area and was nearly dumped onto the ground by loose screws securing the bar stool. With a chuckle and only slightly ruffled pride I tentatively eased into the next stool along the bar and was met by a minor wobble.
I ordered my meal, and then looked on with mixed feeling as I realized I was sitting directly in front of the Chef’s grill/hole in the wall. A small dark pit recessed into the wall which housed just enough room for a massive open faced wood grill piled with meats, large sweaty man in a dirty white apron sandwiched between a small table area piled with raw (and cooked) meats waiting to be heated and served.
Eventually my brisket(?) arrived with a coke, some bread, delicious fresh fries and some local seasoning. I dug in greedily and chewed away contentedly before heading back to the hostel and re-connecting with the girls for another night out on the town.
The following morning promised a new adventure. It was time to catch my flight from the local regional airport (a fixed 50 peso taxi cab ride) to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.
The time had come to visit the ends of the earth.