A very fortuitous dinner in Buenos Aires

So I am taking you back a bit to 21 March and my plane has just touched down in Buenos Aires (BA). I am in Argentina and I can hardly believe this trip has finally begun. It all kind of feels a little unreal to be honest. But the excitement soon gives way to the realization that I am now out of my comfortable English existence and have to navigate my way from the airport to the middle of the city and find the hostel I will be spending the night at – all in Spanish of course. First task, book a bus ticket in the arrivals hall and find the bus – check! The great thing was that when booking this particular bus service you gave them the actual address you wanted to get to and so I presumed they took you straight there. But in actual fact they took everyone to a central station and then smaller shuttle buses took us to the specific locations. I didn’t know this at first, so just sat in the terminal with the other passengers trying to figure out what was happening or which shuttle I was supposed to get on. I was taking it all on faith that I would eventually get to my hostel which thankfully I did – second task, check! By this stage I was exhausted and drained both mentally and physically so I called it a night and decided to start afresh the next day.

Buenos Aires is truly a beautiful city and thankfully the grey skies and drizzle that had welcomed me the night before had disappeared and the next day I was greeted by gorgeous sunshine and a crisp clean feel to the air and the city. Having been working in Joburg for the previous two years I had forgotten just how fantastic it is to be able to explore a city on foot as life at home consisted of driving everywhere, often in crazy traffic jams. But I think in that first day I probably walked about 10km or at least it felt close to that. I did think that I should buy a pedometer and see how far my feet take me on this entire trip. Armed with my map and an incredibly heavy Lonely Planet Guide to South America I took in the sights and sounds of the city including a walk around Recoleta Cemetery where Evita Peron is buried in her family crypt.

Dinner in Buenos Aires with Enrique

But the highlight of my first full day in South America was meeting up with Enrique, a friend I had met in Canada a few years before when we were both part of the International Youth Delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal. We had not had much contact since that December in 2005, but the wonderful world of facebook meant that I could get in touch and let him know I was in his fair country and that it would be great to meet up. We went for dinner in a small plaza close to my hostel where I tried a great local sandwich (yes, they eat sandwiches for dinner, but they are definitely a full meal) and sampled my first local Argentinian beer (I can’t remember the name now, but it was good). I also got to see some traditional tango dancing and since Enrique is not only an environmentalist, but also a professional tango dancer, he even did a dance with the professional lady – talk about your ultimate latin romantic!!! Besides watching him dance and having him promise to show me moves when I next came through BA, we reminisced about our time in Canada, compared career notes from the past few years and spoke about our various travels and especially why I was in South America and what my plans were. The short answer was that there was no plan and this is when he told me about a friend of his from Belgium who had recently arrived in South America and had pretty much the same travel idea as me. Only he had decided to do things a little differently and one day had the crazy idea to buy a car to travel around Argentina with. At this stage I knew nothing more about this guy than that Enrique had helped him buy an old car and that he had set out the previous week from La Plata (Enrique’s city about 60km from BA) heading south to Patagonia and most importantly that he was looking for travel companions along the way. My brain had already started to contemplate the crazy idea of meeting up with a complete stranger somewhere in deepest Patagonia to go on a road trip…was I crazy or was this the perfect start to my year? I had promised myself to be open to every opportunity that presented itself to me and less than 24 hours in, I had the first chance to put my promise to the test…

Now since I am writing this part of the blog in hindsight, I can give a bit more perspective than I could if I was writing this back in March. I won’t go into too many details of the trip yet, but I will talk about the doubts I had about whether this was a good idea or not. Enrique put Guy (in Belgium the name is pronounced Gee) and I in touch (again through trusty old facebook) and he told me that the car was a Citroen 3CV (which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time) and was really old. Thus traveling with him was not for the feint hearted as he never knew what each day would bring and couldn’t really plan very far in advance as she often had other plans on just how far they would get that day. A few days later he posted photos from the first leg of his trip on facebook and I saw pictures of the cutest little yellow car in some of the most spectacular landscapes imaginable – wide open desert, on the beach with the ocean in the background and some of Guy camping next to the car in the middle of nowhere. I fell in love with the car from these pictures, but still had my doubts about whether I was crazy to do the trip or not. I sent the photos to my parents, brother and best friend asking for their advice and also chatted with my friend in Santiago, Coni who I was already staying with as I only spent 2 days in Buenos Aires before heading to Chile. My mother had her doubts as all good mothers should and my brother wrote and said it was probably crazy, but that I should go for it. In the end I figured that Enrique would hopefully not have put me in touch with a crazy person and I decided to follow my gut which was saying that is I didn’t take this opportunity I was going to regret it.

The rest of this story about the actual road trip can be read in other posts, but I wanted to mention it here because the whole way it came about is truly one of the reasons why I love traveling. I met someone 5 years ago for 3 weeks and then when I ended up in his country had one brief encounter for a few hours and this opened up the most amazing opportunity for me…one I truly never in my wildest imagination would have expected for this year. This is the beauty of the blank book that is my life at the moment – there was absolutely nothing stopping me from doing this crazy adventure, nothing to hold me back. Such freedom is something many people never get to experience in their whole lives and so I know I am incredibly lucky right now!!! So for more stories from the actual road trip, look under the Argentina category…

A quick aside to Enrique if he ever reads this blog – un millones de gracias para nuestra especial cena eso noche en Marzo y para cambiando y que influyen en mis planes de viaje. Siempre estare muy agradecido de que me puso en contacto con Guy!

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