A Travellerspoint blog


The Subtleties of Argentinian Nightlife

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Continuing on my northern path to hopefully see the last days of Che in Bolivia I arrived in Salta, my last city in this visit to Argentina. I was here to see the foothills to the Andes, another sacrifice museum and also hopefully see some of the famous argentinian nightlife.

The first day it was off to look around and the city itself has a very quaint feel than what I am used to thus far, with a nice central plaza and a really quite spectacular pink church. The town also has a famous hill to climb with the associated religious statue. With a sign saying 1070 steps to the top I decided this was more than achievable and made my way up the hill passing many person that had succumbed along the way. Once at the top you are afforded some very nice views of the city and the surrounding valley.

That night it was out to the main nightclub area of town with my room mates all of which were Argentinian none of which spoke any english so it was a difficult night conversation wise but with a couple of beers and some hand gestures we were able to get by. The night itself was very strange not least of all for the fact that I went to bed at 8 to wake up at 3 to go out. Now there is nobody out much before 3am and everything shuts at 5am so it doesn´t really give people much time. But in the spirit of making the most of it we went off to see a live band play and then went off to a nightclub which interesting but not to different. Wanting to have a quiet night I was then introduced to particularly Argentinian philosphy whereby you pay to get into a nightclub but you also have to pay to get out of the nighclub! Yes upon leaving I was asked to reproduce the ticket that you get on entry, the same one that you exchange for a free drink, after much confusion it appears that if you don´t have this ticket to leave then you must by one! After much pleading with the stupidity of such a system and suggesting that I could stay, even though they were closing, common sense prevailed and we agreed that he would ¨throw¨me out! Crazy!

The next day I jumped on a mountain bike with a tour company and we headed off for a 5 hour ride of the surrounding valley and also the route of the tren de las nubes. This was a very good day riding amongst some quite nice scenery at the foothills to the Andes and it was nice to be away from a city for awhile.

That night we again headed out and had a good night out but it really quite strange to only go out for 2 hours and get back at 5am but oh well. This time we went out with a good mix of people some of which spoke english as well as spanish and it was much easier to talk amongst ourselves. The next day I visited the MAM museum with the three children of Incan sacrifice that had been perfectly preserved in the Glaciers above the town. Supposedly it is quite an interesting museum but overall the only real reason to visit is to see the almost perfectly preserved bodies.

Afterwards it was time to get my ticket to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, where I hope to see the final days of Che Guevara and also hopefully get into the patanal area of the amazon but this could be alot more difficult and i will need a lot of luck! Once again the joys of a night bus and a 24 hour bus ride await where we crss the border about 11pm and arrive there about 5am in the morning.

Posted by rhinoc 11:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)


No Oktoberfest but The Might One Atleast!

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I arrived in Cordoba without any fuss and was able to quickly find my hostel but couldn´t check in for a while. A walk around the town showed off a few of the sites which include some of the nicest cathedrals in south america apparently. Whilst they are quite nice the city feels kind of odd with both the main cathedral and square undergoing extensive rennovations that make visiting them extremely difficult and any photos impossible. However a few nice buildings around the rest of the town remain including a quite awesome gothic style cathedral. This is very much a university town with the two main universities outside of BA and lots of young people around. Something tells me the nightlife here would be good but I will only be here for Tuesday and Wednesday nights so maybe if I return back this way I might stop in and check it out.

The next day it was off to visit the little german town of Villa General Belgrano site of the Oktoberfest which is apparently going on for the week. When I got there it became very clear that it is mainly a weekend thing as there is very little going on except for a few open shops and a couple of pubs open. Despite this the town was quite charming and very obviously german in its make up and design. Without the Oktoberfest I wandered around town taking in the german feel of the place and attempting to find some accomodation, it turns out that you just don´t have any where there are only two hostels in town and the third biggest Oktoberfest in the World! Alas after failing to find some accomodation but happy to have seen a quite nice little village I headed to my other destination in the region.

A visit to Che´s house seemed easy enough and as I left Villa at 3:30 I arrived at Alto Gracia at 5pm. As I took the long walk from the high way following the signs I wondered if I had walked past the turn off as the irregular signs didn´t point out that it was over 4.5 kms from the highway to Che´s house (not a problem but it would have been nice to know). As I was walking along the street I just happened to come across a mate from Buenos Aries who was there also to visit the Che house - quite amazing just how small a world it is on the gringo trail in South America!

Che´s house was quite good retracing his development through childhood, covering his journeys through Latin America and his days as Fidels comrade and the CIA´s most wanted man. The muesum was free on this day which was a nice tip of the hat to Che´s anti-capatilism life. It also includes a replica of the might one (che´s bike for the motorcycle diaries) and the letter that Che sent to Fidel renouncing his Cuban citizenship. The museum is quite well regarded and includes Fidel and Chavez as its most famous visitors, not bad to a town that has only 45000 people. One thing I did find ironic though was that a bust of Che sits on the verandah framed by Argentinian and Cuban flags, the two countries that he renounced!

Next its off to Salta a smaller but apparently nice town set amongst the foothills of the Andes. Here they have also have museum where they display incan sacrifices from the nearby volcano.

Posted by rhinoc 13:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aries

A visit to Boca Juniors and an Attempt at the Tango......Success and Failure!

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Well after a long trip, some 40 hours on local buses I arrived back into Lima where I had the pleasure of catching up with Rocio again and had my own tour guide around the city. There isn´t alot to see in this city but there is some good food to be had and we made the most of it having some quite awesome cebiche while I was there. After a couple of days it was time to farewell Peru and head to Argentina which I am told is the most european of the south american cities and where the spanish is at best almost comprehendable.

The city is very civilised and nice carrying a very modern feel about it apart from perhaps the San Telmo area which is very much the old area of town. This is where I stayed and is home more to the cafe & alfresco dining options more than the nightlife of which Palermo seems to be the most popular. This had its pros and cons and whilst it was quite nice to be able to visit an alfresco restaraunt in a plaza/square the hostel I stayed in was quite dull and I didn´t really have the option to head out much from there.

The city does have some rather nice areas though and the main walk through town from san martin plaza past the recoletta and towards the evita plaza offers the best parks in town. These parks are a nice place to grab a drink laze on the grass and watch the world go by from and there is always plenty of people doing so.

The recolletta is ofcourse the main cemetery in town where hundreds of people everyday flock to see the monument to Evita. Strangely her monument is in one of the less important areas of the cemetery and is rather plain given her stature within the country. If it were not for the large queue to see the monument or for the roses that contiunally adorn it it would appear as normal as anybody elses. Still nice and a kind of fitting tribute.

The food here is quite good with steak obviously forming the main part of the diet and it is quite a nice change from the chicken everywhere else in Latin America. The difficult thing to get use to though is that there is just no way that you can eat dinner much before 10pm as the restaraunts are all pretty much closed and pubs/nightclubs don´t really get going until well after 2am.

The highlight of my visit to BA (and also the reason I stayed an additional 2 days) was to see a Boca Juniors game. Boca Juniors are one if not the most famous club in South America, home to Maradonna in his early days. The stadium was incredible to visit and the crowd was into it from the moment we got there, about 10 minutes into the reserve game. Whilst the Boca reserves were looking shaky 1-0 down they were both playing attractive soccer and a goal looked on the cards with almost every attack. True to form Boca fought back and managed to win the game 3-2 with a well taken set piece. With the reserves game ebbing and flowing the crowd was building and had really got into the game. Boca seniors have had a dissappointing start to the seasons so the reserves win was welcomed but everybody was anticipating the seniors game where Boca were taking on last years champions.

Boca started nervously and there was both an air of expectation and frustration as the visiting team went 1-0 up almost immediately. In an almost carbon copy of the reserves game though Boca stuck at it and soon levelled not once but twice to have the crowd cheering them home. With about 15 minutes to go the game was still deadlocked at 2-2 and the crowd was really getting behind Boca urging them on however the visiting team had all the running and looked most likely to score. Then out of nowhere at our end (the Boca home end, their equivalent of the Kop) a botched clearance from the visiting teams goalie (who was off his line) saw the local Boca hero head the winning goal home from just inside the half way like - INCREDIBLE!!!!!! The fans went crazy and were still climbing the rafters and chanting for next hour until we got to leave the ground. Simply one of the best experiences you can have and an unforgettable moment in BA.

The next day was my last in this visit to BA (I shall return atleast once for my flight to Europe) so I decided to find a nice plaza and take in a good steak and have a nice lazy day. One place where I had consistently eat near San Telmo was a quiet sort of watch the world go by square where they set up some nice tables and have tango demonstrations and the like. With only a few people here it was really a nice relaxing way to finish my time however with everyone else being dragged up to attempt tango with one of the demonstrators I was also obligated. It is fair to say that this is never likely to be my strong point as the precision movements are beyond my ability. I did however my forte´in the stationary tango and atleast got some good photos of me holding my partner up.

Tonight it is my first Argentinian overnight bus ride (sure to be more comfortable and efficient than those of Bolivia) where I will head to Cordoba which is where Che lived for a period of his life after Rosario. Here they have a museum in his old house and also in a village nearby they have the third largest Oktoberfest in the world. I have been told I have no chance of getting accomodation but I will atleast try.

Posted by rhinoc 12:16 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)


Visiting the Kids in the Mines

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Next on the agenda was a visit to the city of Potosí, the richest city in the world in the 17th century owing to its ¨Cerro Rico¨ the rich hill which was full of silver. The mine tour at the rich hill is supposedly both brilliant and shocking and it will be interesting to see from a mining perspective. The hill has been mined for over 450 years and still provides silver and tin to the many workers who brave the mines on a daily basis. It still represents the best paying job that one can do in Potosi as it has no factories or industrialisation, as a result work in the mines has become a family exercise with kids as young as 13 drafted in to help out their fathers in the ¨family shaft¨.

The mining is still done in very colonial methods whereby the chisel and hammer are used to make hole in the rockface and then dynamite and ammonium nitrate used to make the rockface smaller. The mines are as a result a very dark and unpleasant environment with most of the recent mining happening up to 1000m into the hill and some 300-500m underground in the shafts, which are just big enough to crawl through and about the size of the tunnels in Vietnam. When you combine this with the fact that you are also at approximately 4300m above sea level the breathable atmostphere is borderline healthy at best. Add to this the instability caused by constant blasting and the dust created by it makes for some very unpleasant working conditions.

As the workers earn what they find they set their own working hours and days (usually around 12 hours a day, 6 days a week) with the average wage being about $A380 a month. It´s fair to say that the packaging shed at Murrin offers a slightly better working conditions! However I do know a person or two so if anyone is looking for a change of environment let me know....

The standard of PPE here in Bolivia is still in its infancy which whilst it does include the ¨relatively modern¨ helmet also consists of nothing more than a hankerchief for a dust mask. They also use a naked flame lamp as a gas detector, slightly above the yellow canary but not by much! The smoko breaks can be taken whenever but there is no food taken into the mines and instead the diet consists of cocoa leaves, cigarettes and 96% ethanol. Yep thats right dynamite and pure alcohol finally together, on a minesite of all places. Anyone fancy trying to get a JSA signed off for this? Anyone need to a hazard for the month?

Another disturbing point is that the dynamite and pure alcohol are available for unrestricted purchase in Potosi and I can only imagine that this leads to some very interesting festivals here. I will always remember two things from our dynamite shopping spree, firstly our guide explaining that here when people are not happy wth the government they simply buy some dynamite and set it off somewhere, feel better and don´t worry about the government anymore. Secondly the scream of the English girl in our group when the guide proceed to light the fuse in the store in which we were buying it. She apparently struggled to understand the concept of a 3 minute fuse!

After the material is blown up it is then carted using the old fashioned conveyer belt (a bag on a rope) and the old mining trolleys. Once outside it is taken to a very primitive flotation plant but it is however effective in producing a concentrate that they can sell to other countries, usually Chile for further processing.

All in the tour was very good but it was probably the most difficulty that I have had in health wise due to the combined effects of the altitude, dust and depth into the hill we experienced. The conditions are certainly a lot different to what we have back in Australia and it is sad to see in some respects that despite Chile, Peru and Brazil having extensive mining the system in Bolivia has not evolved.

Amazingly for me despite Bolivia´s terrible efficiency I have managed to get from the salt flats to Sucre, onto Potosi and finally back to Lima without any problems. I have also managed to do it a day quicker than I thought I could which is very suprising especially with three different countries involved (another cool fact: I have now used three passports inside Peru! Fair to say that I am doing better than an aussie I met who has been deported from both Brazil and Bolivia).

Next stop is Lima for a few days to catch up with Rocio before I fly to Argentina.

NB: Another highlight of the tour was a miner attempting to chat up the English girl in our group, he wasn´t going to let the fact that he only spoke Quechan bother him at all!

Posted by rhinoc 12:51 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Dumb luck 1 vs Forethought and planning 0


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The night bus in South America is an interesting experience especially when it involves stopping at another major town first. When asking about the ticket you are always told that the bus leaves at this time and arrives here at this time in the middle of the night, where you could sleep on the bus and catch the connecting bus at a certain time the next morning. This is very convenient, practical and also complete crap. The scenario that unfolds is that there is no connecting bus, you cannot sleep on the bus until the morning however you do in fact arrive in the middle of the night, with no accomodation booked. It is at this time you negotiate with the collectivo taxi ring (who a more cynical person would suggest is in cahoots with the bus company on the elaborate scam) to actually get where you want to go.

Having dealt with this before I chose the option of a ticket only to Potosi so that I could make my own way to Sucre afterwards. Two english I met along the way were not so lucky! Sure enough it unfolded as per the rule and they were left to rip up their bus tickets and pay the collectivo instead of waiting the 4 hours in town before the next bus was available. The collectivos however do not run until the car is full so we were stuck there for about half an hour as the taxi ring negotiated who would go with whom in order to maximise their profits. A thoroughly annoying experience however you do end up only paying the equivalent of $6 for a 3 hour taxi fair!

As we arrived in Sucre at the spritely hour of 4:30am we were left wander the streets looking for accomodation, which did not make us popular with a few of the hostels as we woke the owners only to be told they were full. Atleast Sucre is a nice town and is well patrolled by police and surprisingly for a south american capital (I won´t bother with the symantics of La Paz vs Sucre here) very few poor/homeless people on the streets. Eventually we found something and settled in a for solid couple of hours sleep and shower before heading off to Cal Orcko a calcium hill desposit that got rich in magnesium quickly causing the mining to stop. In a clear victory for dumb luck and poor planning it was at this time the winds sweeping through exposed some 5000 dinosaur tracks on the hill which had at one point been the shore of a major lake combining with what we now know as Lake Titicaca.

After this short tour it was time to have a look around what was quite a nicely presented town before continuing onto Potosi that night to tour its famous mines and continue my blitzkreig mission to get to Lima for my flight.

Posted by rhinoc 11:53 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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