To speed things up a bit and cover more distance, I decided to join a bike tour. There were at least two companies operating in Buenos Aires offering such activity. After checking their websites through my hostel's free Internet-connected PCs, I decided on the simply-named Bike Tours. For $30, I would have my own bike, a helmet, a bottle of water, a guide and the opportunity to revisit again (for at least 4 hours) some of the areas I've seen during my first visit to Buenos Aires more than 3 years ago.
I walked to our meeting place at Plaza San Martin just before the scheduled 9:30am start of the tour. There were other travelers, some couples from Europe, a girl from Poland and another girl from Australia. After getting our bikes and helmets from their garage nearby and getting introduced to our guide Fabio, we were on our way. Our goal? Bike through Puerto Madero, La Reserva Ecologica, La Boca, Caminito, San Telmo and wind up in Plaza de Mayo.
It's a very pleasant morning as we pedaled our bikes passing through the now gentrified and über-expensive area of Puerto Madero. This rose as an important port area in 1880 but was replaced by a more modern Puerto Nuevo up north, getting abandoned and forgotten for many years until its resurrection into a real estate goldmine in the 1990's. These days, rich Argentineans either live here in expensive high-rise condominiums or eat/dance/party in elegant restaurants and exclusive clubs in what were previously brick warehouses.
A landmark in Puerto Madero, the pedestrian-only Puente de la Mujer (Bridge of the Woman) was designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Since we exceeded the number of persons allowed in a group to enter the Reserva Ecologica, we merely skimmed its surface, so to speak. Our guide wouldn't want to risk it with authorities - after all, he brings guests here almost every day.
Entering Barrio La Boca, we pedaled past what I believe was part of an apartment complex.
Further on, we saw these men firing up the parilla - slabs of meat and sausages were being grilled which only made me hungry.
Ahhh . . . Caminito! It felt like 2007 all over again as I came back to this numero uno tourist spot in all of Buenos Aires. It may be a huge tourist trap now but I guess, one can never visit this city without even peeking at this extremely colorful neighborhood. Just beware, this is not a safe neighborhood once all the tourist buses have left.
Caminito's riotous colors can be traced back to the old times when poor residents of this neighborhood began painting their corrugated metal houses with paint that was leftover from a shipyard in the nearby harbor.
There's plenty of tourist stuff to buy in Caminito, oftentimes overpriced, but my fellow traveler from Poland felt the need to try mate, a popular hot beverage that's drank using a calabash gourd.
If there's anything Argentina is crazy about, it has to be fútbol (soccer). At La Bombonera in La Boca, home to the soccer club Boca Juniors (think Diego Maradona!), the game is played with such ardor between rival teams while revelry among fans always lead to instantaneous street parties. Too bad, it wasn't game day at the time of our visit.
Besides the obvious love for soccer, Argentineans have a soft spot for Fido and his ilk. They love to walk their dogs. Or, in the case of the fabulously rich who hardly have the time, they pay others to walk their dogs for them.
After La Boca, we pedaled into Barrio San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. At Parque Lezama, we stopped briefly in front of the monument of Don Pedro de Mendoza who founded Buenos Aires in 1536.
Our biking trip finally brought us to the city's Plaza de Mayo in the city's MicroCentro area. Here, the presidential office Casa Rosada looks less regal what with all the protest banners in front of it. For a long time now, a group of Argentinean women calling themselves Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) has been protesting - and crying for justice on the disappearance of their children during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.
Having burned enough calories, I rewarded myself with yet another meat that just came off from a parilla - this one bought cheaply from the food court in Galerias Pacifico. I was just too hungry I devoured everything. But then, in Argentina, when one eats great food, one doesn't leave the plate empty. Oh well, I could use another bike.