We fall head first into the spectacular city of Buenos Aires. Although we couldn’t avoid a place at the “nerd table,” we make some wonderful friends and have incredible experiences.
Buenos Aires was really good to me.
I really wasn’t planning on spending more than 4 or 5 days there, but I kind of fell into an impromptu vacation. I know what you’re thinking: “You can’t go on vacation, you’re on an adventure.” I guess you’ll have to excuse my lack of discipline. 🙂
Being that I this was sort of a vacation, I will depart from the day-by-day narrative and just give a more brief overview of my time there (this was June 8 to June 18). If I were to try to tell each story, we’d be here awhile.
This city is the capital and largest city in Argentina. It is a place rich with culture and history. Some people call it the “Paris of South America” and it definitely has a very European flavor. I hope y’all got your scuba gear, otherwise your going to drown in pictures.
(I’m not going to credit every picture that someone else took. Just know that if it is a good one, it’s probably not mine. Thanks a lot to those of you who shared!)
The city has done an incredible job revitalizing its old port area.
There is still tons of development taking place in this area. This old grain elevator is one of the last holdouts.
The city is a home for street art:
You can’t turn a corner without seeing another statue or building with incredible architecture.
Below is the “Bridge of Women.” The guard on duty must have been slacking, since I was allowed to pass without verifying my gender.
So the sights were great, the culture was fascinating and the city continuously vibrant.
But that will not be what I remember of Buenos Aires. What I will remember are the people that I met.
I began my time in a hostel called Puerto Limon Hostel in the San Telmo neighborhood. Initially they were hesitant about me bringing Annie inside. I began to walk away, saying that I was going to look somewhere else. Miraculously, a spot opened up! 🙂
I wasn’t the only rider with a bike there. I met a couple from Colombia who were touring on a 200cc Pulsar.
Sadly, I don’t meet too many South Americans on long distance motorcycle trips. This couple, Alex and Diana, were so enthusiastic. He couldn’t wait to show me pictures of his first time seeing snow up in the Andes. We are hoping that our paths cross again.
(the guy with the sandals was not on a motorcycle trip…more on him later)
There was also a 250cc Yamaha parked in the doorway, belonging to Aneesh (Ricky) from India. He bought the bike in Brazil and is beginning his loop around the continent.
He just started a blog LINK HERE, check him out!
Whichever way I turned, I just kept meeting wonderful, interesting people. However, at some point we noticed that a phenomenon had developed naturally. We looked around the table at four people representing four different continents. We also represented degrees in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Programming and Mechanical Engineering. I give you, The Nerd Table:
In this first iteration, before Aneesh left, we also had Brandon from South Africa and Leon from Sao Paolo, Brazil. My adventures with these people were like a budget version of The Big Bang Theory.
Brandon and I really hit it off. He left a cushy job in the programming world to travel and pursue his real passion, photography. I really admired his courage and initiative to do this. We share a love of music and were able to attend a couple of performances in a really interesting venue called Usina del Arte.
This is an old power plant that has been converted into a conference/concert venue. There are concerts, totally free, that take place here almost every day. Brandon and I really hit the lottery the night we went. First we took in a piano recital in a small, 360 degree theater.
We sat in a great place where we could see the movements of the hammers and the pianists fingers.
But just when I was feeling like I was in a cultured locale, some people started clapping after the second movement of an eight movement Jean-Philippe Rameau suite. Savages!
After that, we went to the main auditorium to see David Williams and the Power Jazz Quartet. It was an amazing show, with some of the best upright bass playing that I have ever witnessed.
The fourth member of this quartet was Leon from Sao Paolo. I think he may have boasted the greatest nerd credentials of all of us. There are no good Portuguese translations of the works of Leonard Euler, an absolute genius, Swiss mathematician from the 18th-century. He learned Latin so he could work on this. That’s a serious nerd. We were all jealous.
He also probably boasted the best story any of us had: The account of him showing up nine years late to register for Brazil’s mandatory military service.
One thing we learned was that you never know what to expect in this city. One night we were hanging out in one of the squares. We were treated to both a marching drum show and an impromptu tango session.
(don’t worry, it’s better without sound…)
After we lost Aneesh from our group, we added an architect from Germany named Alex. This made sure we still had four continents represented.
A trio of us made a long hike to the north to visit a couple of impressive sights. First was a bookstore called El Ateno Grand Splendid. The special thing about this place was that it was converted from an old theater.
Perhaps Barnes and Noble should design their stores similarly.
Next up was La Recoleta Cemetery. Many notable people are interred here and it is an absolutely stunning place.
Not all graves were overly ornate, though. Some were really simple. Others were breaking down.
After a bit of searching, we located the grave of Evita Peron.
As the days rolled, on I kept finding things to keep me in Buenos Aires for a few days more. One of the things I really wanted to do was watch Argentina’s first World Cup game with a big crowd on Saturday the 16th. I found plenty of things to keep me occupied until then.
You guys remember Mitch from Brooklyn, right?
Though I was a long ways from New York, he was still helping me out. He connected me with his friend, Pablo, who is a native of Buenos Aires. We first went out for coffee and he invited me to take a tour a few days later. He works with computers for the Supreme Court of Argentina. Tourists don’t usually get to see inside this building.
A lot of it is impressive and classical.
Other areas were simple and basic.
One of my favorite things was the old elevator that we used.
We felt very privileged to get to see this building.
We saw some other sights on the way back.
That night got pretty interesting. Regular readers of this quality publication will note that an experience, essential to any motorcycle adventure, has been missing: A trip to the ballet.
I’d been wanting to get into the legendary Teatro Colon to see a show. A group of us had actually tried the previous night, but I had read the schedule wrong. We were one month early. 🙂
At this point we had added Franziska, a Swedish/German biologist who had been doing field research in Argentina, to our eclectic group.
The theater was a spectacle and the acoustics were unbelievable.
We saw Coppelia, a classic ballet from 1870 about a guy who falls in love with a mechanical woman rather than a real one. Mischief ensues, his actual true love saves the day, the angry inventor gets a bad of money from the mayor and everybody dances for about twenty more minutes. Good stuff.
The evening was punctuated by us accidentally crashing a birthday party. The birthday girl asked us to stay though. 🙂
I had such a good time with this group. Many mornings I woke up with sore cheeks from laughing too much the previous night. It really felt like being on vacation with old friends.
Also pictured above is young Brazilian named Thiago. I’m hoping to meet up with him again when I get to Sao Paolo.
When the day came for the Argentina World Cup game, we walked down to Plaza San Martin where there was a big screen set up.
The guy pictured below actually made a hat with Messi’s likeness (nearly lifesize, I think) 😉
I gotta be honest, I was pretty disappointed with the crowd. There was very little singing, cheering or chanting. There weren’t even random girls trying to kiss me after Argentina scored their goal. Maybe that’s what happens when you’ve been good for too long. The game, against Iceland, ended in a lackluster 1-1 stalemate.
Sadly, it was time to bid my friends goodbye and hit the road.
I hope we get to reunite the “nerd table” some day in the future.
But my time in Buenos Aires was not quite finished. My new friend Pablo had invited me to stay at his place in a town called Pilar, which is about an hour (depending on traffic) outside of the center of Buenos Aires.
He is a rider too, and he met me on his “city bike” a 150cc Honda Titan.
We had a nice ride out to his place.
Once we got out to his place, he was excited to show me his “country bike,” a Honda Africa Twin. Perhaps this bike would have been the ideal tool for the job that I’m trying to complete, but I’ve been known to hammer in a few nails with a screwdriver. 🙂
These bikes are really rare in South America. Throughout pretty much the whole continent, there is a huge tax on large displacement motorcycles. The Africa Twin is worth about $35,000 down here.
It was getting dark, but we still went out for a ride.
Pablo has always loved American culture: The cars, the music; and fortunately for me, the language. He spoke wonderful English. I really loved his riding jacket which he let me wear for a photo.
He has some American cars too, including a couple of old AMC Concordes:
(Ford Expedition in the background…)
…and a wonderfully maintained 1995 Lincoln Towncar.
He took me to one of the most important local places: Siga la vaca. (literally “follow the cow.”)
This was an all you can eat buffet, focused on meat. The grill was a savory sight.
I probably ate more meat at that meal than I had the whole previous month. Even with the favorable exchange rate, my meal was still about $20. It was well worth it, especially since Pablo paid!
Pablo was busy the next day and I spent most of the day watching soccer at a gas station. Pretty much every station in Argentina has an espresso machine, free wifi, TV screens and lots of food options.
The owner of the station approached and I told him my story. He got me a free coffee and invited me to stay as long as I liked.
Pablo and I worked on some more projects, taking pictures and getting an American flag hung above the Lincoln.
Don’t look Annie!
He hadn’t named his Africa Twin yet, but I suggested “Liberian Girl” since he is a Michael Jackson fan. He asked me to sign one of his side cases, a rare honor for me:
I spent my final night in the Buenos Aires area, but I was still a little restless. One photo still eluded me. I wanted to get a shot of Annie and I in front of the big “BA” by the obelisk in the main avenue. I had scouted this location a couple times, but it was pretty much always packed with people. I knew sunrise would be my only option. Further complicating things was that there were lots of security personnel around. Thankfully, I had a representative from the Supreme Court on my side.
I was up at 5 am, packed my things and began a chilly ride back into the city. There was an accident chocking traffic and I split lanes a little more aggressively than usual.
Pablo had spent the previous night in the city since he had to report to work early. We met up near the sign and formed a plan of attack. Pablo is one of those guys who really knows how to talk and he informed me that he had already cleared our action with the nearest security guard. It’s good to have friends. 🙂 I retrieved Annie and began to push her into position.
Thanks for the help, Pablo!
….but I still wasn’t leaving town. Since the US did not make the World Cup, my rooting interest has to transfer to my ancestry. Sweden was playing this morning. We watched the game in the office of one of his co-workers, Ivan. Sweden beat Korea, 1-0. The goal:
Somehow, these guys also convinced me to stick around a little longer. Despite all that I’d seen, I hadn’t made it to the “La Boca” neighborhood. We hopped on a bus and headed South.
The local team, Boca Juniors, adopted their colors after deciding to use the colors of the next ship to sail into the port. That ship just happened to be Swedish.
I guess that’s good enough for a spot on Annie. 🙂
Some new friends:
The whole area was touristy, but really neat.
After returning, there was not much else to do except do some signings.
For all his help, I asked Pablo to accept the honor of striking Argentina off of my sign.
Finally, feeling that I had thoroughly experienced the city, I rolled out of Buenos Aires.
Annie is not the most sentimental type, but even she asked for a souvenir to commemorate our experience. I have to say, I’m flattered.
Well this was a strange update. Not much story telling, but tons of pictures: 86, a new record I think. Still there were hundreds more that didn’t make the cut. Likewise, there are dozens more stories still untold. I’ll leave it there for now. As always, thanks for reading!
Stay buenos, everybody
Realtime update: I’m finally at the turn around point of my trip: La Paloma, Uruguay. I have lots more to say, as you might expect. I’ll be here one more night, then head towards Eldorado, Argentina.