I moved 5 times in the week I stayed in Buenos Aires, and didn’t enjoy a lot of my time there. It was hot, it was more expensive than I expected, I didn’t initially plan on staying the whole week, and it all started off downhill with the sight of my first bedbug. I had booked a private room in a hostel (using an expensive Internet connection from the ship in the Antarctic) – it was cell-like, narrow and dirty, and a big transition from life on board. But I decided to tough it out like a real budget traveller, and I laid down for an hour in the afternoon on the spongy little bed, which was jammed in the corner of the room, up against a rusty old radiator tucked in a little alcove in the wall. After I got up I looked over and saw a brown little bug scuttling across the pillow.
Move 1-2 In two hours
When I showed the dead bedbug to the guy at the front desk, he shrugged and said “It’s a hostel.” And that’s when I realised I had hit my limit on my very first day of budget travel. It took me two hours to find a decent affordable hotel online, and it was getting dark by the time I made my way there, after forgetting the address and name of the hotel along the way. Walking down the street and I saw a sign for a nice looking hotel and wished to myself that I was staying there. I took a second look at the name and realised I was! I was hoping against hope as I got into the room – it was beautiful, with a flat screen tv on the wall, my own little bathroom, and I felt overwhelming relief. It felt like it had been months since I’d been anywhere nice and comfortable, rather than a few hours. At that point I had to wonder, am I still a budget traveller at heart…?
Move 3 – A day and half later
My hotel room wasn’t available the rest of the week, and I realised it was too expensive and far to go anywhere outside of BA before I was scheduled to fly to Santiago Chile. I spent ages trying to find an apartment on airbnb, and after repeated emails and a lower price offered by Nathali, I met her brother to go to the apartment. Manuel didn’t speak English, and it turned out neither did his sister Nathali. I found out I’d been communicating with their mother, Elida, who lived an hour outside of town. The false advertising was off-putting, the building kind of dodgy, I was feeling less safe in the city by this point and very unsure about the apartment. Elida was reassuring on the phone and over email, we talked repeatedly in the afternoon and that evening. Elida told me I had a beautiful voice, and later, she said she loved me. Around 12:30am I was still up doing email when I received a message telling me that a lovely retired couple would be coming to the apartment the next morning and I would have to leave. Through all of our communications it seemed odd this hadn’t come up, and I felt that she hadn’t been entirely honest – how could she kick me out if I was so loveable?
Move 4 -5 One day later, then 3 days on
Elida offered me another son’s apartment to rent, but I booked a hotel instead, in the San Telmo area. It was nice, comfortable and clean. My final move from there wasn’t out of desperation but due to a coincidental meeting with my neighbour Austin from about 8 houses away in Ottawa. We met up at the dock in Colonia, Uruguay (a day trip from Buenos Aires) and he turned out to be staying in a palatial rented apartment not far from my hotel. I moved in with him for my last night in the city, where we ate pizza and compared our difficult experiences of BA.
The Rest of Buenos Aires
I had a hard time with Buenos Aires because it seemed grey, with a sense of desperation and unhappiness. With 25% inflation a year, people are increasingly poor and crime is on the rise. Austin was robbed and lost his camera, I had a strange man following me down the street late at night, it all left me feeling on edge.
There were some good things though – the graffiti mundo street art tour was really cool and interesting, the long hot walk Austin and I took in the Tigre Delta, on which we shared a litre of Heineken (the largest bottle of beer I’ve ever seen, even bigger than Nigerian beers) at the Monkey Restaurant, the highlight find of the day. The Jacaranda trees with their purple blooms, reminding me of South Africa (imported from S America, they line Pretoria’s streets and coat them with purple petals in the spring time). The zoo, the oldest in South America, was an interesting historical sight, although the behaviours of the captive animals and the humans were desperate and unfortunate.
Buenos Aires seemed to be a lot different than what I experienced during my last visit in 2008. I’m wondering if they’ll be crashing again or on the upswing five years on.