07.01.2008 - 20.03.2008 28 °C
After returning from Mar del Plata early January, my life began to settle like the contents of a packet of cornflakes in transit. In fact I was barely undergoing any transit whatsoever, save for the odd trip to the shops during the week. Mar del Plata had swallowed my remaining cash and the bank account was nigh-on empty; any extra-curricular activity for my two final months in BA would have to be more like a soft caress than a heavy pet on the hip pocket. I did have one unavoidable journey to make, across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay for a night in February to renew my tourist Visa. Colonia de Sacramento, just across the estuary is a really pleasant place to visit though, and I was happy to spend another couple of days wandering its cobblestoned streets.
Buenos Aires is what you might call a 'Wetropolis'. Whether it be sunny or overcast, the Capital Federal's very top-heavy concrete:tree ratio keeps summer's humidity high enough to brew sweat soup at any hour; while spring and summer storms bring near-relentless precipitation, leaving the calles (streets) like the canals of Venice and the underground Subte akin to the New York sewers. Like a drowning prospector, the city has struck ironic gold: 'Fair Winds' (Buenos Aires translated into English) is no longer by nature as it is by name. Where was that fresh breeze on a warm sunny day I had been missing? Where was that smell of springtime or the call of birds? Not in San Telmo. We had cartoneros at 10pm, garbage trucks after midnight and city buses bugling the sunrise.
Between blokes from the Lime House hostel, several porteños and the odd ring-in from the semi-despised Milhouse, the other ex-pats and I were able to scrounge enough players each Friday for five-a-side football. In Rio de Janeiro the football action is often found on the glamorous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema; in Buenos Aires, the fields are found underneath the elevated freeways. With my dribbling skills not proficient enough to earn me a starting spot in the Boca Juniors' midfield, I planted myself squarely within the goals and tried to block anything that came my way. I enjoyed my five-month stay in Buenos Aires. It's dynamic, cultured, proud, and there is always one reason or another to celebrate. This giant city of thirteen million inhabitants is one place I will miss more than most. My last morning - a Tuesday – was a little surreal; I packed my things and farewelled Anahí after four delightful months together. I boarded the bus for the airport and by evening was flying north toward Peru's capital, Lima.
Due to the lateness of my arrival, I caught an official taxi from the airport toward a rich coastal barrio of Lima named Miraflores. While taking the coastal road for part of the way, a great white glowing cross on a distant hill gave me my first conformation that religion was far from forgotten in this part of the world. In fact, I was in Peru for that very reason – to take part in and document Semana Santa, the celebration of Easter. There couldn't be a more appropriate Latin American counterpart to Buenos Aires than Lima. Even in wealthy Miraflores the buildings are constructed in such a different way to those of the 'Paris of South America'. For a big city, Lima is just so....Latin American. In search of photos the following day, I descended the cliffs toward the Pacific where a busy highway separates the beach from the city's rocky plateau. The term 'beach' is one that could only be applied rather loosely, since its composition is that of rocks, mostly fist-sized or bigger. Nevertheless, and in disregard of the water-borne contaminants, this place is popular with the surfing population of Peru and elsewhere because of its easy to reach medium-sized waves. I wasn't convinced.
In the afternoon of Easter Thursday, I booked a pew in the Business Class coach to Ayacucho about ten hours away in the mountains. Thanks to Argentina's first rate bus lines, I had expectations of a heavenly ascendance to the town, but those above bestowed unto me instead a hole(y) cushion. Two seat changes later, I at last achieved a fair amount of comfort; though twice in the night I awoke to find my legs up over the backrest and arms out at weird angles. The work of poltergeists, the devil or just R.E.M sleep? Be your own judge, but leave me out of it.