Well, it's been a while.
So here's the good news... I'm currently sitting in my friend Melissa's apartment in Santiago, Chile, just over 2 years since I left this amazing country.
The other good news is that I haven't just arrived ... I've been travelling around Argentina and Uruguay for 8 days as well. I thought I'd have more time to blog during that part of the trip, but lines for computer access in backpackers hostels plus only 20 minutes per user has pushed blog entries low on the priority list, below hostel bookings and transport bookings.
But the trip so far has been amazing.
It started off with 2 nights in Buenos Aires, a steamy, hot, bustling city with delicious smells, gorgeous people and a continuous beat of cumbia, reggaeton and of course, tango. Love.
We arrived there (I'm travelling with a friend, Genna), put our bags in our rooms up a tiny twisting staircase in the funky and friendly Hostel Ostinatto - definitely recommended for it's extraordinarily friendly staff and cool atmosphere - and went straight into the tiny hostel bar for a tango lesson. Can't exactly say I'm up for a 'milonga' quite yet. It was a Saturday night but after arriving at Auckland airport at 7am and waiting until 10pm for our flight to depart, sleep was required. (After eating some yummy empanadas from the take-away place down the road).
The next day we made friends with a Brazilian family over the breakfast table and ended up bussing it to La Boca, the colourful, postcard friendly district of BA to have a wander.
Colourful houses from corrugated iron, street vendors of painting and handicrafts, tango restaurants were what was on offer. It was definitely picturesque but also alive with peddlers trying to charge pesos for photos, hustling for money... that was the bad side. OVerall we found it quite fake and touristy - not a genuine Buenos Aires experience, but definitely a must see for travellers.
We had lunch back on the same street as our hostel (which coincidentally, was called Chile st), and unfortunately another mildly disapointed naive-tourist experience, in which we reached the end of the restaurant filled street and upon finding nothing that looked that it would fit our budget (the restaurants there all looked quite pricy but as we later found out, weren't) a pushy waitress ended up seating us at the worst looking eatery on the st (with the same prices as the other place) and we ended up ordering from there. Luckily Genna and I shared a pizza and got the bargain, $6 each for half a pizza dripping with cheese and herbs, wasn't so bad after all. Note: due to their Italian roots, argnetinians are big fans of pizza and make it very well! Not italian style but defintiely delicious.
In the afternoon we wandered around the usual tourist hot spots of Buenos Aires - the obelisk, La Casa Rosada and the Docks.
The first two were in the centre of town and there were a smattering of people with cameras taking photos there, we managed to hustle some American tourists into taking a few photos of us in exchange for the same for them. Got a few 'jumping' photos in which the Argentineans sitting on the grass a few metres away were very interested.
Due to good luck or something, we arrived at the docks at dusk and were rewarded by the city of Buenos Aires reflecting in the water, it was a very polished, clean part of the city with smooth pavement - thank goodness! and lined with restaurants and wealthy looking people. The colours were gorgeous as well and it was thriving at 9pm at night.
Upon our return we checked up on bus fares and got some good travel advice from a BRazilian about airfares - a Urugayan airline, Pluna, offers specials every Tuesday (kind of like grabaseat, but all of South America) and you can get flights for $29 USD. Worth a look!
Rather exhausted hot (after checking out of the hostel and storing our bags there), we headed to the botanic gardens in Palermo and a bit of the downtown area. The botanic gardens were shady and nice, surrounded by busy roads. In the later part of the afternoon we taxied to the bus station in a shiftier part of the city to take a 7 hour bus to Santa Fe to see a friend, Guillermina, who was an exchange student in NP last year.
Getting away from Buenos Aires seemed to take forever, it's a massive city. We seemed to have chosen not such a good bus line and it was quite dirty - at the same time, it also had a reasonable timetable for arriving in Santa Fe before midnight. It wasn't that uncomfortable apart from the dirt... But getting to Santa Fe was definitely worth it!