Girls, tiles & El Superclasico! (B Aires & Uruguay)
I mentioned in my previous post that I was just about to arrive in Buenos Aires (BsAs) and although more than a month has past this is where I sit writing this email. However, despite a (relative) lack of travelling about there is still plenty to update you with. It has in fact been great to settle for a while in just a few places rather than my South American travel method up to this point of alternating site-seeing days with mammoth bus journeys. So anyway, Buenos Aires…
One of the best cities i’ve been to so far!! The city is huge and has a very ‘old’ European feel to it. The people are fantastic, the women beautiful and the barrios (neighbourhoods) incredibly varied, from charismatic, yet incredibly poor La Boca (stomping ground of the mighty Boca Juniors – more about them later!) to the plusher suburbs of Palermo and Recoleta (home to a bizarre small-town-like cemetary of mausoleums including Evita’s).
On the first sunday of my stay in BsAs the aforementioned Boca Juniors were playing at home to a team called Nueva Chicago. I got myself a ticket and sat there totally absorbed through the match. It was great to finally watch some live football, but the real spectacle was the fans – the are completely mental. Take the most demented set of nutters from say the Kop of Liverpool, times it by a hundred and you’ve got the fans of Nueva Chicago… Times it by another hundred and you’ve got the Boca faithful! They literally do not stop singing the entire game. After each of the 2 goals they scored the fans in the front terrace charged forward at the 30 foot fence, scaled it and began shaking the hell out of it like they were trying to escape from Abu Ghraib jail.
It would turn out that the cocaine snorting, Big Mac scoffing, ‘hand of God’ legend Diego Maradona was also at the game. Later, what I at first assumed to be an earthquake turned out to be 27 stone Diego collapsing in a heap just a couple of hours after the game. Over the following days whilst he was in hospital the collective outpouring of grief from the Argentines was incredible. His image was plastered over every newspaper, magazine and TV. On the wednesday I visited the hospital where he was staying, the outside of which was covered in messages to him. There were a few references to England including photos of his infamous ‘hand of God’ goal. In a strange way i’ve come to quite admire the guy. Anyone who has been disgraced so many times, yet still manages to capture the hearts of his country must be something a bit special. Oh, and I am currently using Maradona’s own brand of deodorant… ¡Vive la pasion!
After about a week and a half in BsAs I hopped across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. I began in Colonia del Sacremento, a quaint little place with lots of Spanish and Portugese colonial history. There were lots of museums here detailing various parts of Colonia’s history and while some were quite interesting one was by far the most boring i’ve ever been to… The tile museum. It kinda stood out on the list of tourist attractions I had as being a bit odd, but hey, let’s give it a chance I thought. I mean it couldn’t be just a couple of rooms with nothing but tiles in could it?! Oh yes it could. 2 small rooms featuring displays of predominantly blue and white tiles with little or no explanation, even in Spanish. Now don’t get me wrong, i’m quite a fan of tiles and have been known to walk into kitchens and remark “Oooh, they’re nice tiles”, but on this occasion I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was doing spending a gorgeous sunny afternoon in a town with lots of beautiful girls, staring at a bunch of f*cking tiles! So I left.
The following day I arrived in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. I liked this place a lot. Lots of leafy plazas and historical monuments. Met a cool crowd here and had some decent nights out. A bunch of us travelled across to Punta del Este, pretty much a ghost town when we were there, but in the summer it is a mecca for rich Argentines with yachts to show off. After a good night out here I returned to Montevideo for a few days before moving back to Buenos Aires.
Apologies, but i’ll return to the topic of football! One of the main reasons for staying in BsAs so long was to try to catch a certain football match. The match i’m talking about is Boca Juniors vs River Plate at La Bombonera and is arguably the fiercest rivalry in club football in the world. Getting tickets was VERY difficult! In the end I found a company which offered tickets in the River end as part of a tour (at a fairly steep price). I snapped a ticket up straight away and I was going to the Superclasico match!!
It is very difficult to explain what it was like so i’ll keep it short. The tour was basically just a lift to and from the ground which suited me fine as there would be nothing worse than wondering along in a group of 100 gringos! So myself and a mate were bundled along through the numerous police checks – at one point the crowd surged and huge police batons were flung around in the air, one of which nearly clobbered me in the neck. I was just pleased they didn’t use the water cannon which was parked nearby! We found a spot on the terraces that looked like we might have a chance of surviving and watched one of the best games i’ve ever seen. La Bombonera is an absolute fortress! The fans are crammed in like you wouldn’t believe, flares go up etc and the atmosphere is electric! I could go on for ages but i’ll simply say that River won 1-0, beating Boca in the league at the Bombonera for the first time in 8 years! It was obvious what it meant to the fans. It was impossible not to get caught up in the emotion! The best sports event I have ever been to by a mile!
Well, i’ll leave it there for now. Should be leaving Buenos Aires for the Iguazu Falls by the Brazilian border on sunday. Will definitely be sad to say bye to this place. It’s friday night so i’ll be off out chasing some tail again tonight, after a tango lesson!