August 30, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Buenos Aires photos.

Shopping and eating sums up our experience of Buenos Aires so far. We hated the place for our first couple of days here - it's a big, rowdy, confusing city and we felt totally lost in it. But a city tour and many taxis later and now we feel at home.

Our first hotel was nasty, but overlooked Plaza Mayo where the big, pink, camp Argentine houses of parliament sit. We got a kick out of watching local political TV reports on the news, then rushing onto our balcony to see if we could spot the same number bus we saw on the telly as it drove past our room. And then we plugged the heater in and it started a fire, so we decided to move.

We're now in the nice, posh district of Recoleta, where there are plenty of restaurants and shops. We decided to give up on hotels and hostals and rent a studio flat for our remaining 10 days before we fly back to London on September 2. We meet a lot less tourists this way, but we've made plenty of Argentine friends who are keeping us busy (thanks for all the meat, Veronika and Leo!).

We're going to find it really hard to adjust back to English food. We're so used to being fed until we can't move that I doubt my usual salad for lunch back home will cut it. We went for sushi the other night - it left us satisfied but not I've-just-eaten-a-kilo-of-meat satisfied. By midnight we had to go out and get a takeaway. So yes, we're both coming home fat. The home luxury I've been longing for most is a glass of milk - South America hasn't advanced beyond UHT and it's driving me nuts.

We went to a football match last week: Argentina's Boca Juniors versus Colombia's Once Caldas. It was a lot of noisy fun, with cheerleaders, fireworks and a forest's worth of paper streamers. Only about 20 Colombian fans travelled here for the match and were surrounded by at least 30 cops to keep them separate from the Argentine fans. Boca won 3-1.

Including today, we only have three full days here before we fly home to London on Friday, so we're finally packing in some sight-seeing this afternoon and tango classes this evening. That is, so long as we can be bothered after a big, meaty lunch.

August 27, 2005
Amy writes:

El Anglo meat factory - close up of Victorian generator
See our Uruguay photos.

We've seen some of the greatest landmarks in the world - Ankor Wat, Ayers Rock, Machu Picchu and now, El Anglo meat factory in Fray Bentos.

The factory churned out horrible tinned meat for over 100 years before it closed in 1979. It's now a haunting, decaying complex of buildings in which victorian machinery lies where it was abandoned, under decades of grime. It's hard to believe that at it's peak the factory made this town the richest in South America, slaughtering over 12,000 animals every day.

A huge warehouse of meat hooks lay rusting through one window, ancient machinery covered in dust in another. Cracks in the walls, lots of broken windows, birds nesting in the old packing rooms. A brick chimney towered above us as our guide pointed out the big glass windows of the slaughter house. For somewhere that once employed 5000 people, this was now the loneliest place I'd ever been. In a 'shivers down my spine' way.

The highlights of the on-site museum were the two-headed calf pickled in a jar since 1938 and the exhibit showing the many faces of tinned meat through the ages including the delicous-sounding 'Breakfast Tongues'.

It was enough to put Jody off meat for half a day, which was a good thing too as none of the restaurants in the tiny hamlet of Fray Bentos claimed to have any. While everyone else we met was lovely and friendly, most restaurant owners stared as if we were aliens, tried to avoid serving us, then would say they didn't have any food left while other punters, locals I'm sure, tucked into juicy steaks.

Wanting to escape the weirdness, we holed up in our hotel room (strangely the best we've had in South America) drinking chocolate milk. Like Argentina, the lunch options in Uruguay are limited to hotdogs, burgers and greasy breaded chicken - so chocolate milk actually seemed healthy.

The food in the country's capital, Montevideo, was more than we could have hoped for. In fact, we both agree it's probably the best meat we've ever eaten!

The Mercado del Puerto (translated as 'market by the port') looks like a British train station, was once a meat market and now houses the many restaurants that punters flock to for lunch. We've never seen happier faces! There's the tradional asado favourites (beef, sausages, pork) along with some delicacies you'd never get elsewhere, like Morcilla Dulce (sweet black pudding). I never thought I'd say it, but blood congealed with orange peel is delicious! This meal restored my faith in food. Montevideo was pretty tranquil for a capital city but that was the reason we liked it. A good place to stroll and relax. The calm before the storm.

Where are we? In the storm that is Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital. A sprawling hectic city. And what are we doing? Buying lots of shoes.

August 14, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Esteros del Ibera photos.
See our Iguazu falls photos.

The bus was crap - a small, tin crate on threadbare tires, but at the least when we started our journey to Esteros del Ibera we were driving on tarmac roads. Five minutes later (and for the following three hours), the road turned to dirt and was so bumpy that we were afraid of opening our mouths in case our teeth shook out.

Esteros del Ibera is a nature reserve in north-east Argentina. Not many people go there, which means the animals are extremely friendly, at the cost of crap transport and boulder-filled roads.

We were heading there because Amy was set on seeing a Capybara. It's the world's biggest rodent - imagine a guinea pig the size of a pig-pig and you're there. (More information about the creatures from 'The Happy Capy' website). We didn't need to drive too deep into the park to spot one - a whole family of the giant beasts blocked the road on the way in.

The village we stayed in was so laid back that most of the locals wore slippers 24/7. On our first day, we took a boat out on a lake and spotted loads more Capybaras wading in the mud. The boat got so close to one that we could have stroked it, but the Capybara marked his disapproval by blowing a load of noisy bubbles in the mud with his arse. Perhaps he was unhappy that we ate one of his relatives in Peru.

Aligator, extreme close up
A bloody great aligator

We also got within feet of aligators, an anaconda, birds and deer - few of which gave a damn about our presence. Later in the day we went horse riding and following what happened in the Bolivian pampas, this time I got the crazy horse. The bugger bucked and flinched whenever I tried to steer him and he had it in for another horse in our group, riden by one of two English guys we'd befriended. Not happy with just biting and nudging the other horse, my equestrian nightmare got within striking distance and THUNK; cracked the other horse on the jaw with a headbutt. I spent three hours on horseback, braced to be chucked off in a way that hopefully wouldn't break my back. Eventually, I made it back to the village in one piece.

The previous week we went to Iguazu falls - a mammoth set of falls that we walked around and got soaked from. Before that we spent a few days in Villa General Belgrano - a bizarre German-theme town set up by disgraced German soldiers who were interned in the country during World War Two. I found it a strange place because it celebrates it's heritage by selling souvenirs emblazoned with the name of the warship that took the soldiers to Argentina (the 'Graf Spree' - more info).

An Argentine friend we made pointed to the name on a T-shirt and asked what it meant. "It was a Nazi ship!" I offered, helpfully. The lady in the shop had other ideas. "It wasn't a Nazi ship," she said. "It was mistaken for a Nazi ship." Why is there a statue of a German soldier in the park then, I wondered? Anyway, nice beer there.

Where are we? In Gualeguaychu, which our guidebook describes as "sleepy," but I'd put it closer to "comatose." We're only here to catch a bus into Uruguay later today.

Web cafes are so poor in Argentina that they should all be taken outside and shot. We'll try and blog more before we get home, and hopefully get some photos up. You'll all be hearing our stories for months when we get back to London, so you should all bloody well be pleased by the break.

For older entries, see the archives at the top right-hand side of this page.
Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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