After five weeks, we say goodbye to Argentina, a country of great richness and variety, and in many ways the closest we’ve come to somewhere that feels like home.
On our first night in Buenos Aires, we tried to ask at a restaurant in Spanish for a menu (menú), and instead got peanuts (maní)! We’ve come a long way since then, even if our hugely entertaining language lessons in BA taught us more about Argentinian gay culture than they did the language! We’ve also made some great friends, from Javier our lovestruck spanish teacher, to our Austrian travelling companion Karoline, and a great bunch of folks in Bariloche and Cordoba too.
Argentina’s a country with a distinctly modern feel to it; it really doesn’t seem like you’re in South America at all. In places, it comes across as brilliantly organised. Almost every big city has a grid system for its roads, with 100 street numbers allocated per block, so you can immediately tell how far you have to go to get to
number 2406. The counters at bus stations clearly display what destinations they serve, and sometimes even have printed timetables! And maybe it’s just that we’re getting used to travelling, but we’ve even been able to hop on and off the local buses without too much trouble!
From the awe of Iguazu, to party-central Buenos Aires, through to hiking amid the lakes of Bariloche and quaffing the wines of Mendoza, it’s been a civilised and cultural experience that wouldn’t look out of place in most European countries. Which is precisely why Bolivia where we are now is so very different!
As we crossed the border early this morning, it was like we’d gone back in time. Many of the local women wear traditional dress – long pleated skirts with layers of shawls, a brightly coloured blanket parcel on their back containing either a sleeping child or goods of some sort, and topped with a slightly-too-small black bowler hat. Although there are pavements, many roads are dirt and travelling is a pretty bumpy experience. And between the dust and mud-brick houses, you can really sense that this is a country where poverty is a huge issue. It feels like we’re back in the real South America I was expecting – certainly a bit more challenging to get around, but hopefully all the more rewarding for it too.