More than three years ago, I arrived in Buenos Aires after a 16-hour bus journey from Puerto Iguazu. This time on my second visit, I'm flying from El Calafate which takes takes 3 hours and 25 minutes nonstop. It's still a long trip but then Argentina is geographically-endowed in size. As I'm wont to do, I packed and locked my Philippine-made backpack inside a duffel to ensure it flies safely with me - in other words, no itchy hands ever get something from it or worse, put something into it (like drogas, you know).
|My backpack inside a duffel|
|Common area @ the hostel|
I took the free breakfast at Che Lagarto Hostel - a bowl of cereals, bread (with yummy Dulce de Leche - or caramelized milk), OJ and coffee. Pretty basic but something which actually filled me up. Chatted with Luisa, the front desk clerk who confirmed the shared van ride I will be taking to the airport. Having noticed the graffiti written by previous hostel guests, I asked if I could do the same - sure enough, I was handed Pentel pens. So if anyone who reads this finds my little scribble, let it be known that it's officially the first time I wrote on someone's property.
|A hostel that encourages graffiti. Can anyone see what I wrote?|
My ride to the airport came on time. Luisa came over to give me a farewell hug. It feels sad leaving one of the best hostels I've ever stayed at but I got to go. After picking up a couple in another hostel, we went our way to the airport, some 14 miles away from the center of town. El Calafate's Aeropuerto Lago Argentino is strikingly modern. However, construction is ongoing inside to improve parts of the terminal. A sound investment I must say since El Calafate's tourist arrivals are ever increasing.
|Awaiting for my LAN flight with Lago Argentino in the background|
My LAN flight on an Airbus A320 departed on time. Having chosen the window seat, I had a grand view of the glaciers and the expansive Andes mountain range topped by Cerro Fitz Roy. While looking down at it, I imagined my new German friends Ralf and his wife Susan trekking in the area and I got terribly envious - one good reason why I have to come back to Patagonia in the future! (anyway, just a couple of weeks later, I would be meeting Ralf & Susan again in New York).
|LAN's sweet delights|
If there's one thing I look forward to in a LAN flight, it's got to be the alfajores, served as part of their inflight meal service. Made by a company called Havanna, this Argentine version is basically two layers of round, soft chocolate biscuits with Dulce de Leche in it. Very, very sinfully indulgent!
|The gentrified Puerto Madero as seen from the plane|
|Plaza San Martin (center) and Retiro train station (right). I rode the bus from the airport which dropped me off at their terminal (left), crossed the Plaza and into the train station where I took the subway|
|A street-level view of the British Clock Tower at Plaza San Martin|
After 3 hours, we began our descent into Buenos Aires. The city is served by two airports, the distant Ezeiza for international flights and the centrally-located Jorge Newbery for domestic flights where we landed. As soon as I got reunited with my duffel at the luggage carousel, I went to Manuel Tienda Leon counter to buy a ticket for the bus ride into the city. It's far cheaper than taking the taxi. The only downside is that the bus terminates in Retiro, still far from my hostel in the MicroCentro area. Thankfully, Retiro is convenient to the subte (or subway).
|Taking the subway in Retiro|
|Getting off the subway at Avenida de Mayo|
|Avenida de Mayo more than 3 years ago. . .|
|. . . Avenida de Mayo now|
Retiro is in fact where I first took the subway more than 3 years ago so no wonder things were still familiar to me. I hopped on the C train bound for Constitucion and got off at the Avenida de Mayo station, adjacent to Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the world's widest avenues. This again was the same stop I made during my first visit except that I'm not staying in the same hotel anymore. From there, it was an easy walk to Sudamerika Hostel where I had planned to stay. It's in an old building in a gritty part of MicroCentro. At the equivalent rate of about $24, I got myself a single room with bath and a little TV. Breakfast was also included.
|My hostel room|
Speaking of food, I sorely missed eating rice since embarking on this trip that I wanted to find a Chinese restaurant right away. Armed with a map, I walked for about 15 minutes and ended up in Galerias Pacifico, a mall with opulent frescoes on its dome. I ate here before so I was confident I'll find a Chinese restaurant in its food court. Among the ubiquitous beef-steak-and-potatoes combo, I got excited finding what I wanted. The meal however was a disappointment but at least, I finally got to eat rice!
|Chinese meal. Oh boy, did I miss rice!|
|The Obelisk stands in the center of Avenida 9 de Julio|
On my way back to the hostel, I stopped by a Havanna coffee shop and ordered submarino, a local beverage consisting of a tall glass of hot milk into which I dumped a lump of dark chocolate. Feeling rejuvenated by this great-tasting milk chocolate, I walked along Avenida 9 de Julio and saw the Obelisk in the fading light of day. I stayed there, in the middle of this super-wide avenue looking at people hastily crossing the street while cars awaited their turn. In our journeys, we may tread on narrow footpaths or wide avenues but they all lead us to the same, to some place that has sparked our wander lust. Ahhh...Buenos Aires, estoy feliz de estar de vuelta!