By the grace of the travel bum gods, we actually found a CouchSurfing host that was interested in hosting all four of us. We met 50 year old Mario across town in the early afternoon outside his house. He led us down a narrow alley towards his cozy house, passing through his grilling patio, through a side door into a dining room. He gave us a small tour in basic English showing us the common areas, dark kitchen, dark bathroom, stairwell upstairs to the second level where our guest room with 3 twin beds was. It turns out he was having electrical problems, so there wasn’t much lighting which made it ominous and like a fun haunted house. But it was charming in a way, he had some of his own amazing paintings on every wall, a nice rooftop patio, candle lit bathroom, and he was a great host. We later met his son Federico, who was going to university and living there as well. After we got settled in, Mario was kind enough to draw us a map of some of the landmarks, and a lunch spot he recommended, and we spent the afternoon wandering around hopping all over the metro.
Strangely, the ticket booths at the metro was only occassionally manned, so every other day we surfed the metro for free 🙂
That night we experienced something awe-inspiring… we heard of a really interesting percussion show going down, from the Garden House Hostel. At a venue called Ciudad Cultural Konex, on Sarmiento 3131, a group called Bomba del Tiempo literally blows your mind with amazing, dynamic beats that make your body move in unexpected ways! I think it started about 7pm pm and it was honestly a deal for just 70 pesos. We hopped downtown on the metro and bought 70 peso tickets for what turned out to be an unforgettable experience. The doors lead to an open area which you cross to a warehouse of sorts. What awaited us was a 20-person percussion band, including conductor, decked out in all white, swaying to the sound of their own music building and collapsing intense beats over and over; kind of like samba with a helluva baseline. We all passed around 1-liter cups of cheap beer, and let ourselves sink into the music. I think Tom probably got the most out of it (being a drummer himself) but it was cool being part of a crowd that was all getting down without any vocals to distract. We also met the Aussies from Mendoza there! Quite a surprise seeing them, and we all caught up and started making plans for the rest of the night.
After having our socks rocked off by samba style percussion, we headed a few blocks down the road to a live samba bar that was just getting packed and had a really good vibe. Unfortunately there was a foosball table in the back, and despite Ryan and I just trying to have a little fun, we invariably started a foosball world cup. It was awesome: pizza, beer, people screaming obscenities and manly challenges; I think we narrowly beat 4 teams before a crazy match that was our downfall, but for those 15 minutes we were gods. It was a lot of fun but leaving the table also gave me a chance to people-watch, catch some music, and enjoy a scene which wasn’t 30 grown men hovering around a foosball table. By that time it was crushingly busy (but nobody seemed to notice or care:), and perhaps due to the World Cup in the neighboring country, there were many different accents in evidence. At some point it was impossible to reach the bar and it was time to move on.
We hustled over to the 9 de Julio looking for the Aussie’s party hostel which was supposed to be near the famous obelisk. The area around there is great during the day, but at night it seemed a bit deserted and grungy… The four of us were definitely given strange looks from around corners and alleyways and I think I started ‘browning out’ (term coined by Always Sunny, meaning, not totally blacking out, but nearly) around that time. We actually did find the hostel after wandering for 30 minutes, and were surprised to walk in to find what looked like a huge frat party, complete with wife-beater vests, really (really) short skirts and mohawks held up by gel and beer-spatter. Nevertheless we hung out for a bit before jumping into a taxi to retreat to Mario’s.
Feeling adventurous the next day and not the worse for wear, we checked out the Obelisk in the daylight, passed by a few monuments, and then headed to the famous Puente de la Mujer bridge which was gorgeous. I don’t exactly see the relation to women in the monument itself, but that does not make the sight any less wonderful. Mario recommended a permanent food truck strip on the other side of the river towards Parques Mujeres Argentinas; we grabbed some decent asado sandwiches near the marshlands, and had a relaxing afternoon watching the sun set with flocks of birds flurrying around, and a chill breeze coming off the marshy water. The next day we were going to split up – Tom & Ryan heading out to Uruguay for a couple of days – so we took it easy that night, chilling, smelling the meat roasting 5 feet away… and anticipating more carnivorous feasting to come. We were well-warned for Mario’s asado but definitely did not expect the level of awesomeness reached by our gracious host.
It was a 4-hour process where Mario and his son prepared blood sausages, fillets, and a dozen different cuts of steak and just wayyy too much food and wine. We thought we were helpful by preparing a salad and some grilled veggies but it was definitely overkill. Mario’s CouchSurfing friend Florence (from Ireland, but working in Buenos Aires) also came over and was a great part of the conversations that night. We relaxed over several hours sharing stories, and working our way through several bottles of wine, and unfortunately some fernet. 😉
As all good things must come to an end, we left the next day all the more relaxed for having met such a great host. Marelise and I were still saving for Brazil, and unfortunately couldn’t head to Uruguay for the weekend with Ryan and Tom. So we went with them to get ferry tickets and gave them some hugs to keep them warm. We had another Couch Surfing host, called Sasha who actually turned out to be from Virginia, USA. She had a sweet apartment in a nice part of downtown where we crashed for a couple nights and kept low in Buenos Aires. There were world cup matches to watch, we went to the botanical garden, and my favorite part was exploring the museum of fine arts, or “bellas artes”. They had some great paintings and even a jovial cartoon exhibition on the top floor. Unfortunately Sasha was pretty busy and we didn’t have time to hang out, and other than the schizophrenic cat peeing on my stuff, it was a good time.
Our last couples of nights in Buenos Aires were spent at Hostel Arrabal which was a decent joint. For some reason they messed up our booking, but at least we reserved 2 bunks for Tom and Ryan who arrived the next day. They had great stories to report of Colonia and Uruguay, stray dogs they had befriended and some videos they took. With a final goodbye the next day we packed up our shit, and headed to the main terminal, onto Iguazu Falls! Supposedly one of the best treasures of South America.