Flight schedules meant my first stop on the trip was Buenos Aires where I had to spent a couple of nights. Not a big problem as I had been there before and thought it would be a good idea to stretch out my travel feet somewhere familiar.
The first challenge of course was getting my head around the fact that I am backpacking again and not on the short trips I have done in recent times when taxis and nice hotels are the norm.
So, after some research I decided to take the Tiendo Leon bus, which for less than half the price of a taxi, would take me in a bus from the airport to their downtown terminal and then in a smaller vehicle (which could fit down all the narrow streets) to my hostel.
It became apparent (from my few tax/bus trips in BA) that drivers in BA like old school ‘English’ music here and the song playing when I got on the bus was ‘Freeway of Love’ by Aretha Franklin – I was not sure the freeway we were on was one of love but if it worked for him then it was ok by me 😂 and the bus to the city did not take too long. Unfortunately, the transfer from the bus depot to the hostel took much longer as the driver weaved the small vehicle through the narrow city streets and crazy rush hour traffic to the hostel!
Staying in hostels again is definitely going to take more getting use to than not taking taxis 😬 – the hostel was ok but the dorm room was cramped with very little space to open your bag and a shower room that was impossible to shower without getting your towel and clothes wet. I always have to remind myself that it is just somewhere to sleep (and shower) and I am sure the money I am saving at the beginning of the trip will come in handy later on – who knows, perhaps when I am back in BA in at the end of my trip, I might be in a position to splash out on something better (here’s hoping)!
I had decided to spend the morning taking the ‘Free Walking Tour’ of La Boca. The Free Walking tour movement is a great concept available now in many cities around the world. They are based on a tip system and you pay what you think the tour is worth at the end. The ones I have done before have always been great and the guides are always enthusiastic locals who love sharing their cities.
That said, for one reason or another, they actually charge for the La Boca tour not really aptly named as this tour was not free but the AR$200 (NZ$12.50) was worth it.
La Boca (named after the mouth (la boca in Spanish) of the river on which it is situated), is a vivid working class area settled mainly by immigrants on what was the main port for the city. It is also home to La Boca Junior – one of the premier (I am sure some would say the premier) soccer teams of the country.
It is now a vibrant area by day, but tourists are still warned to steer clear at night as it is still very much a poor working class area. It has Benito Quinquela Martin (the gentleman in the photo above) to thank for its bright and colourful facades and streets. Martin was an immigrant orphan who became a renown artist. Once he made his money he decided to brighten up his beloved home area which was not much more than an immigrant slum. Today it is often the image people conjuncture up when they think of Buenos Aires.
After walking around the area, we finished up at the cathedral of La Boca – the stadium of La Boca Juniors, by which point the rain, that had started about 30 minutes into the tour was coming down hard 😬☔️.
Having spent my bus money on the entrance to the Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca Benito Quinwuela Martin (an exhibition of his paintings and those of his contemporaries set up in his old apartment on the water front), I had to walk 35 minutes back to the hostel in the rain – ah the life of a backpacker 😂.
The rain was a perfect excuse to spend the rest of the afternoon inside and have an early night so I coud get some sleep before my 2.30am wake up call for my taxi to the airport.