Buenos Aires (BA), the capital of Argentina is known for steak, maté, tango and protests….an interesting mix. After dorms and long travels we opted to rent an apartment again in the city. We took the free walking tour which had a personable, very expressive Argentinean guide. Since BA is a port city people from here are referred to as “porteños” and are described as being friendly but not polite and very proud of anything Argentinean, which is spot on. We visited the Congress building, one of the widest avenues in the world with 16 lanes and many monuments signifying their struggles in recent years to make them the Democrat country they are today. The ‘Pink House’ where their female president works and Eva “Evita” Peron used to give her famous speeches from was also visited. Random streets throughout the city are constantly blocked off for the 5 to 10 protests that happen every single day. We saw 3 protests alone during our 2-hour city tour. There are also gates surrounding buildings, monuments and fountains to keep protesters away from tagging or transients away from bathing!
Argentina is known for their high quality beef and by referral we made our way to Desnivel Steakhouse. It was crowded with locals and had a feel of an Italian mafia restaurant out of a movie. A traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink called maté is a prominent cultural aspect in Argentina. It is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. Almost every other Argentinean you see walks around with their special maté cup and straw with a thermos of hot water sharing it with their friends, as it is a social drink.
To top off our BA experience we went to a “milongas” which is a tango club, to watch locals practice tango with a live band. We met a very talkative Uruguayan man who took our attention off of the dance but we enjoyed some great life talks with him. There are professional tango shows all over the city as well. Coffee is also taken pretty serious in this city, as you will find coffee shops on each corner to order simple café or café con leche. Another popular item is a “submarino, which is simply steamed milk with a bar of chocolate thrown in which we got at the famous Cafe Tortoni.
Argentina has been great to visit but has also caused us some stress with the currency issues it faces. Instead of simply pulling cash out of an ATM at the official exchange rate of 7:1, everyone exchanges US dollars on the blue market at 10:1 or 11:1. This is technically illegal but is common practice. Since we were stamped in and out of Argentina 4 different times this created an extra layer of work to constantly be trying to get our hands on US dollars and then seek out the best rate. For other travelers we suggest bringing as many crisp 100 US dollars with you to exchange at official looking Cambio (exchange) offices or in BA, exchange with people on Florida Street who just yell “cambio” as you walk by. It was a complicated, annoying process and we are happy to not deal with it any longer. BA became our central hub as we headed to Uruguay for a week, then back to BA for 2 hours to hop an 18-hour bus to Puerto Iguazú and then back to BA on another 18-hour bus ride for a day before flying out to Lima, Peru.
This lands us at our 8-month mark of traveling with 4 months remaining. These last 3 months in South America have surprised us as we have experienced so many amazing things. Traveling continues to be a rollercoaster ride as the last couple days plagued us with bed bug issues and a nasty head cold for Katie. This is when our resiliency skills are kicked into high gear. Our final 10 days in South America will be with our dear friends, Beth and Rob, in Cuzco, Peru to hike the Inca trail and see Manchu Picchu. We landed safely in Lima and fly to Cuzco in the morning.