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Argentina Life – 10 Things To Know

Argentina Life – 10 Things To Know

1. You cannot flush loo paper. Almost ever. A lot of the time there is a sign saying “Por favor, el papel en el cesto” or “No tirar el papel en el inodoro”, but if there isn’t, and there is a bin next to the loo, then you can guarantee you’re not supposed to flush the paper.

2. Returnable beer bottles. Going to the supermarket to buy beer, you spy a great deal – 35 pesos for a litre bottle, “I’ll get two” you think. Ah, but this could go either way. The first time we purchased beer in Argentina, a nice lady who spoke some English helped to translate the cashiers repeated demands – “You should bring the bottles back so you get the cost of the bottle back” which is around 9-12 pesos depending on where you are shopping. Ok, so the next day we took the bottles back – no refund. Strange, but whatever. These types of scenarios continued, mostly we had to pay for the bottle, and never bothered taking them back. However upon trying to purchase beer in Salta, we were simply denied. Being told that we must have bottles to swap. Others from our hostel had the same issue, and were equally as confused. A mystery we’ll never solve!

3. You can buy empanadas anywhere. From fancy restaurant, to person wheeling a poly-bin through a market, they are everywhere. The ones we have had were mostly good, some even better than the humble Kiwi mince pie!

4. Mate. A tea, a religion (or so it would appear). Almost everyone has a cup in hand, and it’s a necessity to carry around a flask of hot water for top ups. We’ve seen it being drunk everywhere from hostels and streets, to busses and even by tour guides while they’re walking around the city.

5. Bread, bread, and more pan. In our 3 weeks in Argentina, we had bread almost every single day. If you go to a cafe or restaurant, you get free bread. For breakfast, there’s a choice of bread, bread, sweet bread (ok, cakes or the likes) or cornflakes covered in sugar.

6. Dulce de leche – for the above mentioned bread, sometimes the only option at breakfast time. Mmmmm caramel for breakfast you say? Give it 3 weeks and you’ll be googling recipes for peanut butter!

7. Bus travel is better than flying. Yes Argentinean busses are expensive, but their seats are 10x more comfortable than any airline seat we’ve ever sat in. We haven’t yet come across a bus that serves wine (they apparently do exist) and the one meal we had was only just edible, but pack a picnic and snuggle into your giant leather armchair – remembering to bring extra clothes or a blanket as it probably will get cold.

8. Weigh your fruit and vege, before you get to the supermarket. We discovered this when the cashier started speaking very quickly, looking annoyed, and repeating “pesar” – to weigh. In most supermarkets, the fruit and vege section has a weigh station – and it’s for the customer! Go figure…

9. White lines on the road? Looks like a pedestrian crossing, but don’t be fooled into thinking anyone is going to stop for you! The way to cross the road – a well timed, semi sprint between lights. Cars have the right of way, always.

10. Argentina is expensive! We were surprised to find groceries were almost the same price as back home, accommodation was going to cost us between NZ$50-60 per night (double room) and bus travel cost us around NZ$10 per hour. We still managed to stick mostly to our NZ$100 per day budget (for 2 people) but for the most part, we cooked at the hostels, and sought out the “menu del dia” if we did go out.

Argentina – Bolivia Border Crossing & 4 Days in Tupiza

Argentina – Bolivia Border Crossing & 4 Days in Tupiza

We decided to leave late at night from Salta, and arrive at the border bright and early to have the best chances of avoiding the crowds and getting a bus to Tupiza, our first stop in Bolivia. The bus journey went well and we even managed a few hours of sleep as we wound our way up through northern Argentina in darkness.

Having never “done” a land-border crossing before, we were a little worried about how it all worked. Would it be similiar to an airport, with x-ray machines and loads of security? Would we need to pay a bribe? The answer is no – in fact, if you wanted you could simply waltz on into Bolivia (well it certainly looked that way!). It all seemed too easy…

Accompanied by two dogs, who followed us all the way from the Argentine side to the bus terminal in Bolivia (around 45 minutes walk) and two other travellers from our bus, we walked up to the first window on the right, and handed our passports over to the officer. 30 seconds passed – stamp. Check. We were had officially exited Argentina. We headed for the next window – entry into Bolivia. The only question we were asked – how long will you be in Bolivia? We answered around 3 weeks, which seemed to be enough information for the officer as he stamped each of our passports and we were on our way. The whole process took less than 10 minutes, there we’re no lines, no x-ray machines, no corrupt officers and basically no worries. Hopefully all of our borders are this easy!

We were now in Villazon, Bolivia, a dusty border town with “cambios” and souvineer shops lining the streets. With no Bolivianos to our name, the first point of call was one of the few ATMs in town. The first didn’t work (Mastercard we later discovered would be the thorn in our side!! We reccommend bringing Visa!) but a very friendly army-looking man pointed us in the right direction, and warned us to be careful of the delinquents in Bolivia. Boliviano’s in hand (or money belt rather) we decided to walk to the bus terminal, it didn’t look too far away, and we wanted to stretch our legs after 7 or so hours on a bus. It was a little hard to find, but locals were helpful in pointing out a large building at the end of a dirt road, which turned out to be the terminal.

Bolivian bus terminals can be a bit overwhelming – not only for the choice, but the ladies yelling the destination of their next bus trying to lure you in can give you a bit of a headache. We found what we thought was a good bus company, and for a mere 15 Bolivianos (NZ$3) we were on our way to Tupiza. I wish I got a picture of the bus, or the look on our faces, but what we were confronted with was a very old, very worn looking bus with stickers holding the windscreen together. Considering whether or not this was the best idea, we (and our travel-mates) decided “what was the worst that could happen?” and climbed aboard. Slightly suprised that we weren’t sitting on beer crates, we settled into our seats and braced ourselves for the next 2-3 hours. Apart from a few funny smells, and the steering being a bit off, the old girl didn’t go too bad and we made it to Tupiza in one piece!

Our hostel “Butch Cassidy” was across the bridge from the main town in Tupiza, however the stunning backdrop and fact that it was basically a hotel for NZ$30 a night made up for the short walk. The owners were the most lovely people – it seems to be run by a family with dad in charge of the bookings and their small supermarket next door, the son operates tours with his friend, and the daughters and mum in charge of house keeping and breakfast. Breakfast deserves a “best in Bolivia” award – fresh fruit salad, pancakes, donuts, different breads, cakes, cereals and hot drinks, plus ham, cheese and avocado. We were in heaven after 3 weeks of dulce de leche and white bread.

Pancakes, fresh fruit and dulce de leche (What? It goes great on pancakes!)
View from Hostal Butch Cassidy, looking towards town (over the river)

Our 3 nights / 4 days in Tupiza were spent exploring the markets in town (there is a street market each Thursday and Saturday by the train station – Thursday was much bigger than Saturday) and being amazed at how cheap it was to eat out, as well as eating out a lot. We became regulars at “El Alamo” which had some sort of funky American/Vegas/diner-bar feel and played old English songs just a little too enthusiasticaly. They also had “cerveza verde” which turned out the be exactly what it sounds like – green beer (with a very average taste). One night we even stumbled upon a basketball match – we just followed the sound of the band! Here’s a quick video if you are interested: https://youtu.be/G_XjtnfC4sM

Walking the streets of Tupiza
The town is surrounded by red rocks
From the pedestrian overbridge
El Alamo – our new local
Cerveza Verde – 11/10 would probably not try again!

 

Salta Free Walking Tour

Salta Free Walking Tour

Having already done free walking tours in Buenos Aires and Cordoba, we decided to head out on Monday morning to do the 2 hour walking tour around Salta. We were led around the city center by our guide (who’s name escapes me…) and visted historical buildings such as the Basilica Cathedral (the pope visited this church and led a mass – hence its now a Basilica) and a Convent that is still in use today. Outsiders can communicate with the nuns through a rotating table/door (put your letter on the table and turn it type thing) but you can never see them face to face.

Outside the Basilica Cathedral in Salta
Inside the Cathedral
Convent in Salta – if you look closely at the woodwork the name of the family is in the top left, and each side tells a story (seed at the top, through to flower etc)

One thing to always do on a free walking tour, is to ask about the best places to eat! Today was no exception, and although we ended up being the only ones in the restaurant, we had probably the best meal in Argentina! Meals always start with bread, and this time we got a creamy kind of mayo (maybe?) and a salsa to go with. A giant jug of homemade lemonade, with “hiebra” – we’re still not quite sure what this is but it tasted minty, and Darryl reckons almost like spirulina of sorts. It was delish either way. Entre was “sopa de mani” or, peanut soup. Quite possibly the best soup we’ve ever tasted, it was creamy and nutty and had chunks of pork making it almost a meal on its own.

Main was a lentil stew – full of bacon, tomato, beef and all sorts of yummy flavours, we “struggled” through this hearty meal, before rolling on back to our hostel (fortunately only 2 blocks away) for a siesta.

Oh my! Something to go on our bread? This is a treat!
Sopa de mani <3
2-4-6-8 dig in and don’t wait!
The best lentil stew!
Getting to Salta and Our First Few Days

Getting to Salta and Our First Few Days

Opting to arrive into Salta in the morning, rather than midnight or some other ungodly hour, meant we had to wait around in Cordoba for a full day until our bus departed at 9pm. Salta to Cordoba is quite a long journey – around 12 hours in total, and boy do they know how to charge for it! Costing almost 1300 pesos each (roughly NZ$120 or so) we chose “cama” seats in the hopes that we might be able to geta little bit of sleep.

Questionable bus food – a squashed luncheon and cheese bun, “crackers” and more crackers. Oh and a juice box.

While the seats were excellently comfortable, the aircon unit that seemed to be directly behind us, blasting freezing cold air all night long, was not. Lesson for next time: Don’t take the 2 back seats.

Arriving into Salta it was easy to notice a change in both temperature, and pace. Salta was quickly dubbed our favourite city so far – the air was fresher and there were less cars, busses, people etc roaming the streets. We were allowed to check into our room at Coloria Hostel early – like 9am early, which was greaty appreciated. Our double room “Amarilla” was downstairs, under the common area. At first a little strange, it ended up working out quite well for us as no one knew there was another bathroom down there 😉

We dropped our luggage off and ventured out into the city, heading towards the main square, in search of some breakfast. It wasn’t long before we found a great deal – cafe con leche, 2 medialunas, juice, and a soda water for only 40 pesos each (NZ$4). Can’t even get a coffee in NZ for that price!

Croissants (medialunas), coffee, juice and soda water!

San Bernardo Teleferico – Salta’s Cable Car

The following day we walked to the top of the “San Bernardo” hill, where there is a cable car or “Teleferico” that you can take up/down, or both. Being Sunday morning, there was hardly anyone about, and the walk to the top took around 40 minutes. There are apparently 1070 stairs, according to the sign, but there are also sections with no stairs, and the last 10 minutes or so is along the road.

The view from the top was amazing to say the least! We were told the best time to go is the morning, as the sun is behind you and you can take some decent pictures. As always with any tourist destination, there were things for sale at the top. Mostly socks, hats, gloves, bags and ponchos in an array of colours, which we would soon learn are very widely available – there is a whole market at the bottom of the cable car with this stuff, each seller having almost exactly the same stock as their neighbour. Another lesson: Don’t buy 30 peso wine from the market, if the homemade lable which is glued on crookedly doesn’t send warning bells, then the half a cork or even the taste might!

We chose to take the cable car back down, and the 10 minute ride cost us 75 pesos each (it’s 150 pesos each if you want to ride both ways)

Cable car selfies
Overlooking Salta

Back in 15 Minutes

Back in 15 Minutes

Being day 12 of our trip, we decided to search for a “lavanderia” on our way to the bus terminal – hand washing is only so good for so long, and we thought we’d stumbled upon a good one just around the corner. Leave your bag of washing, come back “manana” and for ochenta pesos, it’s washed, dried, folded and ready for another 2 weeks lol.

Our bus tickets from Cordoba to Salta, “cama” class, were quite expensive – NZ$240 for the both of us, but seeing as its a 12 hour journey, its still only $10 an hour which seems about right for Argentina. We are booked to leave at 9pm on Friday 19th, and will get into Salta at 9am on the 20th – so, we are saving money on accommodation 😉

Later that night we went to a meeting at another hostel called “English and Mate” – unfortunately no mate (we still haven’t tried it) but at least there was English being spoken! Most of the group of 15ish were locals – ourselves, and a solo Auzzie backpacker, were kind of the centre of attention as everyone wanted to know about the other side of the world, and why we were crazy enough to come to Argentina. “Cerveza y Espanol” was straight after – but we made it more cerveza and English.

Bringing us to today, Wednesday, the day we get to wear clean clothes again! Yay! After breakfast (at probably the best hostel breakfast buffet thus far) we went to the laundry. Their “Back in 15 minutes” sign must have been broken, as it was over an hour before anyone arrived. Not ready they say, come back at 2-2.30pm they say. Ok… so that kind of messed our plans up, but never mind. A quick look around a little museum (they’re free on Wednesdays in Cordoba) and back to our hostel to get changed, before going to find the “parrilla” restaurant we’d seen on our walking tour, and also been recommended at our English and Mate meet. “La Parrilla de Raul” didn’t disappoint – think char-grilled meat, meat, and meat. Ordering the “Parrilla Ejecutivo” we thought we may have bitten off more than we could chew. Not so – just enough perfectly cooked beef, chicken and pork to fill us up for the rest of the day. Accompanied by papas fritas, ensalada and an empanada, and followed by a postre of flan with what we think was golden syrup.

Succulent beef, juicy chicken breast, pork (with some sort of sauce…) and empanada and chips – only $16 for this plus dessert!

We waddled back to the laundry, arriving at 2.30pm, to yet another “back in 15 minute sign”. Ok sure, we waited 30 minutes, still no one. Empty handed, we went back to the hostel for an hour or so, before walking that oh so familiar path to the laundry again at 4pm. “Back in 15 minutes” hung in the window… taunting us. But, at least this time, someone surfaced after around half an hour of waiting. Not. Ready. We quickly come up with a “we’re leaving at 8pm on the bus tonight” story, and agreed to come back at 6pm to collect said washing.

5.55pm – our favourite place, familiar faces greet us (are we friends yet?) and, familiar clothes! Fortunately not with a familiar smell, but a a more pleasant warm, soapy, and very clean smell. Hallelujah!

We’re in Siesta Country Now

We’re in Siesta Country Now

We arrived into Cordoba after 7 hours on the bus from Rosario. We almost didn’t make it onto said bus, as the person who sold us the tickets, wrote the wrong company on the bottom of our tickets. Inching very close to departure (it was now just 5 minutes away) we started to ask other drivers where they were going and showing our tickets. At the 2nd or 3rd bus along, we found which one we were supposed to be on! Not a “Sierras Cordoba” bus, but a “General Urquiza” – very, very different. Never mind, we made it, and settled into our semi-cama seats in the rather foggy upstairs cabin.

A dozen or so stops, a few siestas, more tuna sandwiches and 7 hours later, we arrived into Cordoba city. As our taxi took us through the streets, we noticed it was a bit empty, but figured we we’re in a quiet part of town or something? Not thinking much of the quietness, we checked into our hostel and set off in search of a supermarket. Nada. Not a thing was open in the CBD at 3pm on a Saturday. Returning to our hostel empty handed, we set about Googling why, and what would be open/when. Seems most things were closed until Monday, and with an empty pantry (or grocery bag rather) we decided to take a taxi to Walmart, some 10 minutes away.

We were not disappointed. Not only did we find the biggest supermarket/department store we’d ever seen, there were also stores and a food court, all open! 650 pesos later, and a bit of confusion with the check out operator (they don’t like our pre-paid travel cards because they have no name on them) we had enough food for the week and a few beers.

Sunday (14th May) was spent updating the blog, and researching our next destinations. Having wasted the day, on Monday we decided to do the “La Docta” free walking tour around Cordoba city. We were a small group of 8 – 2 Swiss, 1 French, 1 German and 4 Kiwis – the other 2 Kiwi’s also being from Nelson, and living around 5km from our house (small world!). Ana was our tour guide for the morning, we visited several places such as the Iglesia Catedral, an Alfajores shop (where we got to sample some) and an old Jesuit Church/ruins of one that they’d found while laying cables. We we’re recommended a local restaurant, and had their vegetable tart with salad and a drink for only NZ$8 each.

Iglesia Catedral
Iglesia Catedral – Beautiful Ceilings
Iglesia Catedral
Jesuit Church – under the road

The following day we moved hostels, only a block or two up the road so we walked (faster than the traffic was flowing). We soon realised that Hostel Alvear was just ever so slightly better than our digs for the last 3 nights – for an extra 200 pesos over 3 nights (just under $7 a night) we now had our own private ensuite, a bed that didn’t sink and crunch every time you moved, air conditioning, a chair (don’t laugh!) and best of a TV that we don’t even watch because it’s all in Spanish. Waahoooooooo!

Luxury at Hostel Alvear!
3 Days in Rosario

3 Days in Rosario

We left Buenos Aires at 6.30am on Wednesday, on the “Costera Criolla” bus which appears to run between Mar Del Plata and Santa Fe. For only 12 pesos more we were able to book the best seats on the bus, so we decided on the “Ejecutivo” seats instead of semi-cama, or cama. We think it was well worth the extra $1, as for that we got 2 very big, very comfortable, fully reclinable leather seats. More comfortable than any plane we’ve ever been on, and only $30 each for the 4.5 hour journey (yeah Argentina isn’t as cheap as we thought it might have been).

The journey was very smooth, along a smooth straight highway we even dozed off for a bit. Upon arriving in Rosario, we took a taxi from the bus station to our hostel across town. We soon realised that even though Rosario is still a big city, it’s nothing like Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires was busy 24/7 with too many cars, busses, people and dodgy little streets to look out for. Either we lucked out on location, or Rosario is just a nicer place (or these country bumpkins are getting better at city life) but we feel much safer walking the streets here. Our hostel – “Freedom Hostel” is only a few blocks from the Flag Monument, and a neat little street Darryl reckons feels like Cuba Street in Wellington called Cordoba. It’s a pedestrian only street (or at least as far as we walked was) lined with shops and cafes, and steet sellers laying out their socks and undies. We found a little cafe and ordered some empanadas and coffee – for the record empanadas are great, probably better than pies – no gravy, all meat!

After a quick stop at a supermarket for supplies, we headed back the the hostel for a game of chess and a few beers (NZ$2 will get you a litre of cheap local stuff from the supermarket), before making dinner in the best hostel kitchen so far, more beer, then bed.
The next day we were happy to find something other than dulce de leche and bread for breakfast – cereal! Honeypuffs even – which probably wouldn’t be our usual choice but needs must. Breakfast was followed by a nap (yeah we did just get up but ohwell!) before heading out for lunch and a walk.
We found a tourist office, and a very informative lady who spoke English (woot!) who gave us a map and explained a few things to do around town. We were looking for somewhere to buy bus tickets for Saturday, but apparently the only place you can do this is at the bus station. You can also buy tickets online, but you have to print them and thus far we haven’t seen any internet cafes/places to print tickets off. She said we should be fine to head to the bus station on the day and see what is going, as there are plenty of buses that travel this route each day.

We stopped for lunch at a pizza place, and ordered their special for the day “Hamburgesa Especial con patas fritas & un gaseosa” – burger, fries, and a fizzy drink, for 99 pesos. Most cafes here seem to have WIFI available to use, you just have to ask for the password (easier said than done). After lunch we walked a few blocks to the flag monument (pics below) and had a great view of the river and a huge boat coming up it. The tourist information office mentioned there were beaches at the river, but seeing as it was quite windy and probably around 16 degrees, we decided it probably wasn’t worth trying to find them.

At the National Flag Monument
Looking down to the river

The next day we decided it would be a great idea to walk the 24-ish blocks from our hostel to the bus terminal. It was raining… a lot. On the way we stopped at a Starbucks to use their free Wifi as the hostel’s was either broken or non existant for our entire stay… 🙁 A coffee each and a medialuna (sweet croissant things – the translation meaning “half moon” which I think is quite cute) cost us 60 pesos each. We hung around for an hour waiting for the rain to stop, it never really did so onwards we marched. Finally arriving at the bus terminal around 2 hours after setting off, we booked our tickets for the following day with “General Urquiza” from Rosario to Cordoba. The entire bus was semi-cama only and the 6-7 hour journey cost us 460 pesos each.

The reason we walked (apart from giving us something to do) was to try and save the 70-80 peso cost each way, but with the 120 pesos we spent on morning tea, and the 180 peso cheap chinease shite umbrella we got for the walk back (which saved us from torrential downpours) perhaps we should have just taken the taxi option haha.

One more quick venture out for a few dinner ingredients, and a 32 peso bottle of red wine, we spent the rest of the evening warming up and playing chess.

San Telmo to Recoleta

San Telmo to Recoleta

Not such a big move (like 3 or 4km across the city) but we wanted to be closer to the bus station, and walk around Recoleta and see a few things.

It is however still raining (yesterday it poured down and there was some pretty decent thunder) so we haven’t done so much. We’re planning on doing a free walking tour (not quite free as you pay them in tips) tomorrow if the weather is better. Then, on Wednesday we’re taking a bus early in the morning to Rosario, 4-5 hours away.

We did still manage to acomplish a couple of things today – successfully ordered sandwiches and coffee in a bakery, purchased a SIM card, and topped it up at a “Kiosco”. The self serve machine was a little confusing, but we managed to squeek out a “por favor, ayudarme?” at the shop assistant which I hope means “Please can you help me” rather than “Help its an emergency” haha…

Found a decent supermarket (called “Disco” – there was no disco though) and actually purchased some decent food and meat. Stuffed up a bit though – turns out you pesar (weigh) your own fruit and vege, then the check out person scans the barcode.

The following day was lovely and sunny, so we took advantage of a “Free Walking Tour” that started around 10 minutes walk from our hostel. Buenos Aires Free Walking tours operate both an English and a Spanish version of the tour, naturally we chose the English option with “Fernando”. A typical Argentinian (always carrying a flask and cup for his mate tea) he led us through the streets to various palaces, mansions, plazas, parks, churches and monuments. The tour ended at Recoleta Cemetary, which despite its supposed popularity, was quite empty of people.

A Night In Palermo With New Friends

A Night In Palermo With New Friends

(Pic is taken in the hostel kitchen as we forgot to take any last night – whoops!)

Prior to leaving for Argentina, we put a profile up on Couchsurfing (and even hosted a few people ourselves). You can add trips to say where you are going to be/when you are planning on being there, and request accommodation or even just to meet up with locals. We were lucky enough to meet Leila and her partner Matt who live here in Buenos Aires. Bonus point being that the speak fluent English!

We arranged to meet in Palermo, around half an hour from San Telmo where we are staying. Having never used Uber at home, we thought we’d give it a whirl here – not having to tell the taxi driver where we were going (as it’s requested through the app) we thought would avoid any confusion with directions. Apart from being a bit expensive (around 250 pesos or NZ$25) due to a “surge” it wasn’t a bad ride – though we do think that maybe we went along a bit of a scenic route.

Being Saturday night, there were plenty of people out and about. Waiting at the corner by the “TAZZ Bar” we were soon met by Leila and Matt, who led us away from the “bad beer” and through the streets to “Antares”, a craft beer bar/restaraunt (we’re off to a great start!). They ask the door-lady for a table, and while one wasn’t immediately available, we were able to sit at the bar for a drink to start. The names of the beers are in English (although don’t try order an “eye-pee-aye” or IPA – they call it “eeppa”). We’re told this is so they can charge more – seems about right as it was around NZ$9-$10 for una pinta.

We ordered tapas to share, and compared New Zealand to Argentina (as you do). Leila and Matt both work in tourism, and are studying towards a bachelor meaning they are super busy most days of the week – they were even going to get up at 6am on Sunday to study, as Matt also plays futbol (I forget for which team, but “Boca” are the enemy he tells us haha). We get some great tips for while we are here, mostly safety and cultural related. They we’re curious to know what we think about how they greet (a kiss on each cheek) and their general closeness/sharing culture (for example when drinking “mate” or the local tea, everyone shares the same cup & bombilla). They were also curious to know about life in New Zealand, as they think they’d like to live there one day – Argentina is a bit politically troubled and you have to be careful with your things, and it’s expensive to live.

A couple of drinks and a few tapas cost us 533 pesos (NZ$53) which is comparable to what we would have spent in New Zealand for similar food/drinks. After dinner we moved onto dessert at “Persicco” which is an icecream chain over here. A few tips with translations of the menu, Darryl gets a chance to use some Spanish and orders us two icecreams in a type of waffle cone-boat. Getting the toppings is a bit harder (we weren’t prepared with the words for walnut, almond or “mini white chocolate balls with a crunchy centre”) but pointing and assistance from our Argentine friends soon had us sorted.

We said goodbye to Leila and Matt – guys if you’re reading this, thank you for a great night and for all of your tips! When you come to New Zealand, make sure you get in touch 🙂 As we had no wifi, they hailed us a taxi and thats where the fun began. Apparently my Spanish is marginal enough to get us to the right place – “San Telmo, Peru mil cuarenta y tres”, and hold a small conversation about where we are from, and what kind of music we like/he likes. This taxi was a lot better than the Uber – we wen’t directly home along the main roads, and it only cost 175 pesos (NZ$17).

We’re going to attempt to get SIM cards from a “kiosco” today, and maybe brave a market. San Telmo doesn’t feel as safe as what Palermo did, even though it was dark and the middle of the night. We’ve got one more night at Hostel Soleil, then we’re moving to Recoleta which is close to the bus station. Next plan is to head to Rosario, around 4-5 hours by bus from Buenos Aires.

When The Party Almost Didn’t Start

When The Party Almost Didn’t Start

Our final few days in New Zealand were rather relaxed – just a few last minute things to purchase, pack and organize, with most of our time spent doing not much at all (or, if you’re Darryl, fixing your parent’s shed roof, having withdrawls from all the recent DIY on our own house)

Anyway, back to the title. Arriving nice and early to Nelson airport, we began the check in process using the self check in machines. We knew something wasn’t quite right when no boarding passes popped out, instead replaced by what I like to call “a naughty note” (we’ve had one before, for cutting it too close!) which read “Visa Check Required”. What… the… If you don’t already know, New Zealander is a lovely country that is on pretty good terms with most of the rest of the world. Argentina included, we simply rock up, flash that swanky black book and the lovely customs agent stamps you in for 90 days, no fees, no need to apply in advance for a visa.

Or at least that’s what we thought.

Turns out, Air New Zealand said that because our departure date from Argentina was after the above mentioned 90 days, we weren’t going anywhere. Fortunately, a quick call to Air New Zealand and the lovely call centre lady had found us the same fare to return home on the 31st July. We did still have to pay $220 to change (some sort of penalty fee, and then a change fee – all done in under 5 minutes). Back to the check in desk and finally we have boarding passes! (after an hour of sorting our shit out). The check in staff at Nelson said just to apply for the relevant visas once we arrive, then we could change our tickets back… and pay another $220 I’m sure.

I however, believe that they’ve led us astray. See if you exit Argentina, when you come back in, you get another 90 days. That’s why people take the 1 hour boat across the river to Uruguay for a day or two. We had proof of onward travel, bookings for Salar De Uyuni etc that show we weren’t planning on staying the whole 6 months in Argentina, but apparently this didn’t count towards much. So, I’ll be emailing to ask why exactly we had to change our tickets, and hopefully try to get out of paying another $220 (I’d love the original $220 back too on that note haha!).

The actual flight itself was fine – we spent 4 or so hours in the Koru lounge beforehand and ate/drank/showered away the last bit of luxury we might be having for some time. (p.s. the showers in the Koru lounge were AMAZING. Best water pressure ever). We flew on one of the new Dreamliners – and it’s true what they say about the air, it just feels clean and fresh the whole time, not like a normal long haul where you start to feel stuffy a few hours in). Clearing customs in Argentina was a breeze, seems its a luck of the draw whether you go through the x-ray machine or not, and we got the green light so went “libre” or free. 280 pesos each got us a bus ride with Tienda Leon into the city, where they then transfer you by car to your hostel/hotel – a really good service I just wish they explained what was happening! Thank you Spanish lady on the bus for looking after the two gringos 😀

We are staying at “Hostel Soleil” in San Telmo. NZ$85 got us 3 nights in a double room (with a cute balcony overlooking the Police Station – yay for safety), shared bathroom, and free breakfast each morning. There seems to be a mix of full time residents, and a couple of tourists – but it’s not crowded or busy, just a nice sized “homely” hostel. There’s a supermercardo 3 doors down, and hopefully some cafe’s and restaurants nearby. It was dark when we got in last night so we thought we’d wait for daylight to explore.

The Spanish is giving me brain fog – I wish I knew more! Darryl is learning by osmosis – and by asking me what everything means. For the most part we’ve been able to understand what they’re saying, or at least enough words to figure it out. A few blank stares from us, or “deep in thought” type looks has people either quickly switching to English, or speaking slowly and more clearly… both help!

 

On the Tienda Leon bus – we made it!