(I am sorry in advance for the size of this post hehe but its going to be a lengthy one)
Two weekends ago I fled the country of Uruguay and headed across the river to the booming city of Buenos Aires. Two things motivated this trip- 1: I had to leave Uruguay within 90 days of arriving because I didn't get a visa to come here, 2: why not!? I mean its Buenos Aires and its only a 2 hour bus ride and a 3 hour ferry ride away, not many people can make that claim. I went with a group of 5 (1 Nica-or Nicaraguan, 1 French madam, and 3 US citizens). I am not sure exactly what we were thinking, but we booked our departure for about 2am!? So on Thursday night we were off to Buenos Aires and we arrived at a bright and early 8am.
I'll have to admit I wasn't really sure what to expect since my only comparison to a South American city was Montevideo. They aren't really anything alike, but I am glad I went there without any expectations at all. Sometimes no expectations makes things easier to enjoy in my opinion.
Our first experience in Buenos Aires: getting robbed by the taxi drivers. We didn't really know it at the time, but they charged us a 3-4 times more than what our ride should have cost and they definitely the long way around. What should have cost us about 15 pesos cost us 50 pesos. Lesson 1- we are no longer in Montevideo, and tourism is much more popular therefore, tourist sharks are much more popular. This was a lesson and an annoyance for much of the weekend. Buenos Aires was a gorgeous city (as far as the beauty of cities go, most of you know I prefer things that don't include cement, steal, or car horns haha). I think that is what I loved about the area so much- yes Buenos Aires is a HUGE city, much bigger than Montevideo, but many times I felt as if it were smaller because there is space to breathe there. The entire city isn't compacted into an area of 30 city blocks, it is spread out, and they have many wonderful parks/ gardens where people can go enjoy the little pieces of nature the city has preserved.
Even though we didn't sleep really at all Thursday night we took full advantage of our early arrival on Friday morning! Of course we visited the touristy areas of town because that is generally where there are interesting things to see. We started off the day at La Boca was one of the first areas of Buenos Aires colonized and (if I am not mistaken in my information). The houses are all very brightly colored and Tango is on every street corner. This was also the first experience we had in a very touristy area- there were many outdoor restaurants and the people stand in the streets practically grabbing your arm and seating you as you walk by.
Personally I was fairly annoyed by this, also I heard more English spoken in 2 days there by street vendors and people trying to get me to buy things than I have heard in my 3 months in Montevideo. The funniest part was we had two people with us who don't really even speak English and by the end of the weekend we were all claiming we were French and didn't speak English- that really confused them! It really made me appreciate the not-so-touristy aspect of Montevideo. I may stick out as a foreigner here, but at least I don't have people trying to cater to me and speak English to me 24/7- that would have made for a long 5 months for me personally. I love the fact that I am forced to use my Spanish in public it has really pushed me to get better.
Anyway- enough about that rant. The other places we visited included- Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Obelisco, Cemeterio Recoleta, and various plazas/ parks. The previously named are all fairly famous "must see" destinations for people who make their way to Buenos Aires. I really enjoyed getting to know a different city in South America. I was semi-astounded by the differences- especially considering they are right across the river from each other. There were certain aspects I loved about Buenos Aires (parks, open space, and clean streets!!) but there were other aspects that really made me appreciate my choice in Uruguay!
|The look of PURE happiness!!|
Just a quick insert before I get on to big even #2- I finally went to a Tango lesson! I don't have too much to report on, unfortunately it wasn't quite what I expected. I really enjoyed the experience and it was cool to take part in something so important here. I got to dance with a couple people (just the basics, nothing too crazy) and the instructors were very adamant and focused on form and posture with all of the participants! It was pretty hard work, but I really enjoyed it. My feet, however, took a beating- I didn't walk around my house enough to break in my new dance shoes and after 1 1/2 hours of dancing that became extremely apparent (an painful).
Onto big event #2- La Redota. This is something I have been waiting for since one of my first weeks in Uruguay when my host family mentioned it to me. It is kind of hard to explain, but is basically a representation of the journey that occurred when Artigas fled Montevideo and the citizens left all of their belongings and followed him. It is a way of holding on to their history and maintaining it as a huge part of their culture today. I think that had a lot to do with why I loved the experience so much.Oh and if I haven't already previously mentioned this journey is made on horseback through the countryside.
My host family had talked a lot about how difficult and trying these couple days would be. At times I almost felt like they were trying to talk me out of it, but the more they said the more interested I became: something challenging, I've never done before, camping, gauchos, mate- not something I could ever pass up! I love to challenge myself in different ways and so long before they were convinced I wanted to go I had already made up my mind- I was going on La Redota in Uruguay!
There is such an amazing sense of pride in so many people I have met and this weekend was the icing on that cake. The slogan of the weekend was "Arriba la Patria" I wish I had a good translation of what that signifies- I think the best thing I can think of is "long live the country" but that just doesn't give the feeling of it justice.
We started off the weekend in San Jose with a "parade" of sorts to signify the start of the journey. Not only were there about 250 on horseback starting, but there were hundreds of people lined up along the streets to see us off.
This journey was a lot for me, but first off it was a crash course in "how to ride a horse for 2 days without killing yourself" something I wish I could have taken lessons in before we left! I have ridden horses a couple times, but it was always such short distances/ amounts of times that form never really mattered. Well 3 hours into this trip and I already new- it was either learn how to ride the animal properly or don't make it out alive. So I watched, I listened, and I took every piece of advice I could to get it down. I think finally toward the middle of the second day I had it down more or less and thank goodness because my body was feeling the effects if the previous day!
|Our crew of horses|
The first night at camp was memorable just due to the nature of it- nothing crazy happened, but sometimes I forgot that here I was in 2011, if I hadn't known better I would have sworn I went back in time. The military had set up large military tents for people to sleep in, others were in their own personal tents, cooking fresh meat over the fires, drinking mate, playing guitar and "singing" around the fire. I say "singing" because the type of music I heard was more a spoken story accompanied by the guitar. That is actually what I fell asleep to that night and it just felt right to have the night end that way.
|My horsey for the weekend|
|What I saw as I stepped out that morning|
|Notice the meat on the grill...|
It is actually a 13 day journey from San Jose to Paysandu which is something like 300km or 186 miles. And as hard as it might be to believe- there are people who are doing the trip in it's entirety. I think two days was just about perfect for me.
|Finishing off the weekend|
with the sunset and Mate!