Monday, 6 January 2014

All Blacks and Argo's

Flying over the Andes is surreal.. I can't help but think of the guys from the famous book/movie Alive.. the rugby team that resorted to cannibalism to survive for months in these harsh mountains after their plane crashed.. heavy! Fortunately, our plane makes it to Argentina and I don't have to eat anyone. 

A tip for anyone flying into Buenos Aires - there are two airports - EZE (Ezeiza International Airport) and AEP (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery). Always fly to Aeroparque if you're staying in BA city as EZE is way out on the outskirts and will cost you around $100USD to get to a central area of BA (like Palermo).

Once I settle in I catch up with a mate from high school, Hosea, who is playing for the All Blacks in La Plata stadium, just south of Buenos Aires. Their hotel is on lockdown - guards armed with badarse assault rifles keep the fans from becoming too much of a nuisance at the entrance. Hosea hooks me up with some sweet tickets with seats right near the halfway line. It's a bummer they've chosen to rest him for this game as it would've been cool to watch him play. Still, I'm stoked for the tickets. Top man!

Upon arriving at the stadium I'm cornered by some Argentinian TV crew who proceed to drill me with questions about the All Blacks and the haka. I rattle off the legendary story  about Te Rauparaha busting out the haka when he was on the run which they all seem quite impressed with. The stadium itself is awesome - it's circular with a semi-enclosed roof and loaded with a capacity crowd and a perpetual Mexican wave flows around the stadium.The noise is deafening. They love the haka and they go even more ballistic when Los Pumas score the first try. They quieten down when the AB's answer back immediately with another try. Then another. And another. 

As the AB's dominate, the crowd goes completely into their shells.. So much for the Latino passion I was expecting!! By the end of the game I'm feeling a bit sorry for the Pumas.. they're attacking our line and giving it a solid go but the crowd is so quiet you could almost hear a pin drop. Not the intense match everyone was expecting but still a solid victory to the AB's and a cool experience for me.

 Crazy Horses!!

I'm staying at Palermo House, a small run-down hostel in a nice suburb of BA called Palermo. Two of the most important things you should do when walking through BA is 1) conceal your valuables (robberies are commonplace) 2) Watch where you step. The reason? Dog shit. It's fricken everywhere!! For some reason BA streets are littered with these canine landmines..

I touch base with Adrian - an Argentinian dude I surfed with at the start of my travels in Costa Rica, who happens to be part owner in a bar (the Mona Club) and a wakeboarding cable park called Bairex. He says to meet up at his bar around 12 or 12.30 as they'll be heading out afterwards. Twelve as in lunchtime? Nup. Around midnight is when these crazy Argo's start a night out! The whole of BA seems to work on this time.. early evening the restaurants are deserted, but come 9 or 10pm they're chockers! 

It turns out Adrian is a handy guy to know in BA - we jump the queues to the clubs and get a steady stream of free drinks, including the standard-issue champagne and Speed (an energy drink similar to Red Bull but with way more enamel stripping ability). The highlight was hitting up the Pacha Club; it's the biggest nightclub in South America with a capacity of 10,000 people. Cedric Gervais (a French DJ) is playing and the place is absolutely pumping!

The Bairex park is where I hang out for the next few days - there's a wakeboarding cable park, a half pipe,a standing wave and a few other extreme things to keep you amused. If you like wakeboarding and you're ever in BA, especially in summer, go and check it out. The few days I had there were awesome - after a few runs on the cable park I got a bit of confidence on the jumps and boxes, but the guys who hit it often were just mental!

One arvo I go on a street art tour run by a mob named Graffitimundo; apparently BA is famous around the world for it's street art. Some of it looks as though a spastic five year old has been given half a bottle of tequila and a can of spray paint, but some of it is really clever and brightens up otherwise dull areas of the city. Many of the business owners will pay the  artists to install pieces on and inside their buildings. I really enjoyed the tour - if you head there check it out at

Decision time - I have the choice to catch the ferry from BA over to Uruguay to catch up with Seba, a mate I surfed with in Peru, or head to Iguazu Falls.. With the Uruguay surf report looking pretty grim I choose Iguazu.
The bus trip there is a bit cheaper than flying but it's 17 hours or something stupid. I don't really want to waste my time so opt with the flying option. Internet research tells me that you really only need two days here - one day to check out the falls on the Brazilian side of the border, and one for the Argentine side. 

Day one at Iguazu is an epic fail. I'm told by a lady in my hostel (Hostel Inn) that it's easy to get to the Brazilian side of the falls on the bus. I'm confused as hell as there are heaps of buses going in both directions and so I try my best to ask a local for advice. My Spanish vocabulary doesn't extend as far as 'waterfall' so I resort to the trusty ol' sign language. I'm pretty sure that holding both arms above my head while twinkling my fingers and repeating "Iguazu, Iguazu" is the universally understood action for Iguazu Falls. The old lady nods in recognition and kindly points me in the direction of a particular bus. With a sigh of relief I'm on my way. An hour passes and I'm still on the bus. I'm getting that sinking feeling in my stomach as the bus starts emptying out. There are no tourists left and no waterfalls in sight. I realise my horrible mistake too late, another hour passes before I can catch the return bus. By the time I get back to my starting point all the buses which I could have taken have left for the day!!!

Still determined, I arrange a taxi to get me to the damned falls. Going over the Argentine/Brazil border is a bit strange as my passport is stamped on the way out of Argentina but I'm not stamped into Brazil. The taxi driver drops me off and says he'll be waiting at the same spot in three hours. He seems trustworthy, but as a bit of extra insurance I tell him I'll pay him after the second leg of the journey. I hope like hell he comes back as I have no idea what happens if you're busted in Brazil as an illegal immigrant!!

Once you actually get there, navigating your way around the falls is very straightforward -  free maps, signs and clearly marked paths make it virtually impossible to get lost, yet there are hordes of tourists paying for guides to show them around. Unless you were dropped on your head as an infant a guide isn't really necessary. The Brazilian side of the falls are supposedly inferior to the Argentinian side but I'm really impressed nonetheless. 

Next day is the Argo side of the falls - I team up with a couple of people from the hostel and we head off early to the popular 'Devil's Throat' to beat the hordes of tour groups. The falls are in flood and the sheer volume of water moving is amazing. The day is cloudy and I'm lucky to get the token waterfall rainbow shot when the sun pops out for a few moments.

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