Happy Easter everyone. Hope you all enjoy the time off work/chocolate.
Conveniently enough I´m currently in the centre of the South American
chocolate industry in the Lake district which straddles the Argentinian and
Its been a fairly different month from the previous couple as Ive been doing
mainly outdoor activities and drunk very little. Buenos Aires was not meant
to be like that but the hostel I was staying in was very quiet and so I only
went out clubbing 3 times in the 10 nites I was there which was a bit of a
disappointment. The main time Ive found it a problem traveling by myself is
when I want to go to clubs and you are kind of reliant on other people also
being up for the same thing. I still really liked BA though, it had a great
atmosphere and a lot of activities to do. Argentina is often called the most
European country in the world outside of Europe and in BA in particular you
really do feel as though you could be in Rome or Madrid. Not a difficult
place to kill time in.
Perhaps the most memorable thing I did in BA was to go to a couple of
football games in BA where I saw the two biggest clubs in the country Boca
Juniors and River Plate at home. Argentinian football is widely agreed to be
the most passionate in the world and it really is another level from Europe.
You arrive about 2 hours before kick off and start singing; you stop singing
an hour after the final whistle when the police finally let you out of the
stadium. To have 50,000 people singing for that long (without stopping)
really is incredible, this was particularly so as both sides lost quite
badly to much smaller clubs. Half the fans don´t even bother to watch the
game they just encourage quieter fans to sing and they don´t speak at all,
literally the only words that you hear are swear words. Crazy but awesome.
The football grounds are interestingly the only places where I´ve felt the
need to change my nationality (if anyone asks me) to Canadian as the crowds
are a bit rough. I´d heard before I went to Argentina that you have to be
careful who you say your English to (due to the war) but have experienced
virtually no problems with it. The one time I really got stick for it was
kind of surreal as I was visiting a sort of a equivalent of a country club
in a small town in the North with an Argie friend where I became a bit of a
mini celebrity amongst the kids as I was a foreigner. Once they found out I
was English however within 5 minutes I had a group of about 30 10-13 yr olds
chanting "Give us back the Malvinas" at me until my friend arrived and told
them to go away.
It has however shocked me just how big an issue it is in Argentina, any city
of any size and particularly in the South will have a huge monument of "Las
Malvinas por siempre Argentinas" ("The Falklands are Argentinas forever").
The islands have never been Argentinian territory and are not exactly prime
land with sheep farming being the only economic activity possible. One
theory is that in such a large country (roughly the size of India) and with
such diverse people and activities it is the one issue that has helped to
keep the country together through the political problems of the 80´s and the
ongoing economic problems since the 90´s. 2007 is the 25th anniversary of
the war and is constantly in the papers with lots of church services etc
going on over Easter so is an interesting time to be here. Still, it´s
something I don´t understand the national obsession with.
I was also in BA when Mr Bush arrived and Chavez also came on a rival tour.
It´s been very interesting traveling in South America in the last few
months to see just how unpopular the US and in particular Bush are. I was in
both Venezuela and Brazil during the election campaigns and the President is
truly demonized by the majority of both populations. This I thought was
understandable as both countries have large urban poor populations but it
has surprised me much more in the South in Argentina and Uruguay. Uruguay is
sometimes called the Switzerland of South America due to its relatively
stable economy and political situation but the seemingly genteel streets of
Montevideo were absolutely covered in graffiti with the messages normally
saying nothing more than death to Bush and various other abusive statements.
The people in Argentina are amongst the most political I´ve ever met with
pretty much everyone having a good knowledge of political theory as well as
opinions on just about everything. They tend to be very left wing with the
Communist party strong and Morales and Chavez currently the heroes of South
America. Bush really is hated and even in small towns there were protests
against his very unpopular visit to the region.
Mr Blair is also not too popular and I often get asked my opinion on him and
the war in Iraq pretty quickly by Argentinians at which point I change the
subject onto something less controversial.
From BA I took a 6 hr flight south to Ushuaia which brands itself as "the
southern most city in the world" (it isn´t) but with a mountainous
background and the Beagle Channel in front it was a really spectacular
setting. It´s in Tierra del Fuego which means Land of Fires but that really
did not feel like an appropriate name. After having spent a yr in late
Spring or Summer temperatures I suddenly found myself having to cope with
temperatures getting towards 0 in the evenings. I really really got a shock
but the area is truly beautiful with very few inhabitants and gorgeous snow
capped mountains and crystal lakes. I got to visit no less than 5 glaciers
over the next couple of weeks in both Argentina and across the border in
Chile as they are easily accessed and got to do some amazing hiking in the
Andes which is unsurprisingly not unattractive to look at. I did a week long
hike in a famous national park called Torres del Paine in Chile which whilst
quite hard work walking 25km a day (carrying all my equipment) was a great
However, the day after I´d finished it I found my achilles had swollen up to
about 6 inches in diameter and after trying to struggle with it was pretty
bluntly told by a couple of locals to get to a hospital. It was nothing
serious, just an infection but meant I had to stay in bed for about 6 days
which was obviously pretty boring although I did get to watch a few Steven
Segal films so could have been worse (for you Mr Johnson).
To make up for the time lost I took a big bus North and had my last view of
the Atlantic for a while in Welsh Patagonia. The whole of Patagonia reminds
me very much of Mongolia with the complete lack of people, unchanging
treeless scenery and endless views of nothing at all. Quite a special place
and in a place called Puerto Madryn I got to see lots of baby sea lions as
the birthing season was last month and also managed to see one of my
favorite animals the Southern Elephant seal in its natural setting which
was really cool.
I´m gonna be in the Lake district for a while b4 I head to wine country and
then go to Easter Island for a wk. Till next time and apologies for so much