Salta to Cordóba to Buenos Aires
Our busy December is ending with a relaxing couple of weeks in Buenos Aires with some special guests! We arrived in Buenos Aires on December 22 after spending two lovely nights in Cordóba, a city we are hoping to visit again later in our trip when we make our way from Chile back to Buenos Aires. Because we are staying in Buenos Aires for about two weeks, we decided to rent a small studio apartment through Homeaway.com. The timing could not have been better, as we have been somewhat burned out after ripping through Bolivia in 12 days and northern Argentina in 4. So far, the apartment has been exactly what we have needed.
RTW Flyers feat. more Baniaks!
Not only has the apartment been a welcomed opportunity to unpack and slow down our travels, but just two days after we moved in, we got our first visitors: my (Mike) parents! Seeing them has been truly wonderful and we are tremendously grateful that they came all this way to see us (with the fringe benefit of visiting a new continent). Having new people to talk to has been refreshing for both of us and so far we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in hot Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires City Tour
For now, we will skip over Christmas because that will be the subject of its own post, but Christmas Eve and Day were family visiting/catching up time liberally sprinkled with some tasty Argentinian wines and card games. On December 26 we headed out for a tour of Buenos Aires that my parents arranged, which introduced us to much of the city. For starters, the city is enormous. The day after we arrived, Anna and I went for a 5-hour exploratory walk in basically one direction and still didn’t even get close to the city limits. Thankfully given the city’s size and the 98 degree temperature, our tour was mostly from an air-conditioned car.
We got to stop in several different neighborhoods: La Boca, the old port neighborhood with its vibrant colors and tango-costumed touts; San Telmo, with its plazas and markets and old revolutionary tavern; Centro and the Plaza de Mayo, which were rife with cultural history both past and present; and several others.
That Looks Like Horse Hockey
The next day we left Buenos Aires for a day trip to an Estancia (ranch) in the countryside. As part of the deal, we were treated to a barbecue lunch (the kidney meat was surprisingly good), lounging in/around a pool, and for Anna and my dad, polo. Since my one experience on a horse turned out to be pretty spectacularly bad, I decided to act as official polo photographer rather than get on a horse again, which I think worked out well for everyone – especially the horse I spared.
I have to admit: it looked pretty fun. Even when Anna’s stubborn horse refused to budge, she still looked like she was having a tremendous time. In fact, it would probably be best if she added her thoughts about polo:
I think I may have found my new favorite sport! Polo is incredibly challenging; players are riding on a massive horses (actually, mine was a midget-like horse because of my midget-like height), trying to swing a long mallet in a straight, smooth fashion (our teacher compared it to a golf swing), all while attempting to make contact with a little ball rolling on the grass. After about 10 minutes on the ground practicing swings, our small group of five which included our instructor, Guston, a couple from Atlanta, myself and Mike’s dad (who is my partner in crime for anything athletic/slightly risky during our family vacations), mounted our horses. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too nervous about riding a horse, even though Mike reminded me repeatedly of all the polo/horse-related head and neck injuries before I went off for my lesson. My non-concerns were confirmed as I quickly realized that my assigned horse had no interest in going fast, or really moving at all. I tried politely coercing my horse to move towards the polo ball, first in English, then in Spanish, but it wasn’t until Guston prodded my horse from the side that we really started moving. Even then, we weren’t breaking any records. Regardless, this molasses pace allowed me to work on my swing. I am quite proud of myself – I made contact a majority of the time and hit the ball almost straight and didn’t give my horse a concussion with my follow through. Even when I whiffed completely, I was able to work on my backhand swing. I really had a blast!
After about an hour of riding we were herded off the pitch and learned a little more about game of polo is played. It’s a huge sport in Argentina, and it holds true to the stereotype that it’s mostly a rich man’s game. Many young boys start playing at the age of six, mainly because their fathers also play. It’s a four on four game that lasts 6 periods that run 7 minutes each. One goal equals one point and whichever team has the most points at the end wins. Simple enough. The reason the game can be so expensive is players ride a different horse each period. Have one on the bench for good measure and that means a typical polo player owns AT LEAST 7 horses and brings them to every game. There are various offensive and defensive strategies that I won’t bore you with, but I will bore you with more pictures of me ecstatic in official polo equipment riding a horse!
Next Stop: Uruguay
Most of this post is being written on the ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. When you are that close to another country – especially one that doesn’t charge extortionist visa fees (looking at you Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia) – you really just have to go. So we are! We’ll be weekending in Montevideo and returning to Buenos Aires on Monday, December 30, just in time to prep for our New Year’s Eve celebrations.