24 & 25 March Kms travelled – 0
Saturday and now recovered from the flight over, with the sun shining and a new city beckons, so time to stretch those legs and follow the tourist trail. The train from Dakar Motos into the city took around 20 minutes, and at a cost of A$1.80 return was pretty cheap too. Arriving at BA´s main Retiro station, without the use of map or guide, I strode out in what seemed the direction of the centre determined to pick up what I could from my own observations and wandering – reading the travel guide would come later.
In no time at all the streets started to sound with the beat of live music as I arrived in a (semi) pedestrian area, with a number of groups of young people on various street corners banging out mixes of reggae, salsa and, of course, tango. Onwards into the heart of this rhythm and I had arrived at the Plaza de Mayo.
Turning left I headed straight for the site of the first church in Buenos Aries, on which the Cathedral now stands. Dating from 1753 it struggles a bit to impress from the outside, but what wonders await once you enter the threshold! I had a curious moment while sitting and admiring the painting and adornment surrounding the walls, while lost in my own thoughts. Outside in the square they were in the process of setting up for a live concert in memorial to those sadly lost, when the sound check kicked in.
Given the perfect 22 degrees, the Cathedral’s main doors were all open, and the booming sounds of this impressive collection of musicians (I never did get the name) vibrated around the inside of this holy place. How can I describe it? The music was much like a hybrid of the Manic Street Preachers and Ultravox. The resulting effect was not only powerful but haunting as I found my hairs bristle – and I couldn´t help thinking that sat inside the Cathedral would be the ideal place to take in the full show, but it was time to move on.
Outside in the square the Argentinean flag few high in the light breeze above the statue of General Belgrano. While below veterans from the 1982 conflict and others, maintained their demonstrations against the injustices of the past.
The imposing Casa de Gobierno (or pink palace) fills the one end of the square, and provides the seat of the country´s President. Eva Peron once stood in those balconies, but I couldn´t shift the image of Madonna from the film Evita. I am a victim of Holywood!
Up onto the Avenida 9 de Julio saw further demonstrations as the youth of the country voiced their disquiet, in what I saw to be very orderly and good humored march.
Wandering around without a plan, I started to notice the people more. I was greeted by a number with polite ´good mornings´ as I passed – which I must confess came as a bit of a shock at first. Despite the obvious architectural similarities, there seemed to be much less of the impersonal heads down rush that most European capitals suffer. Also, after spending so much time in Barcelona, I was also surprised to notice that no one was walking around with their daily ´barra´ of bread – something that you quickly become accustomed to seeing in Spain.
I´ve no idea how far I walked, but my legs were starting to complain, so time to head back. On the train back to my nearby Florida station, I encountered a number of vendors of all sorts of products from hot dogs to DVDs, who flowed into my caboose one after the other with the timing of a military operation. After about the fifth salesman I found myself trying to anticipate what would be the next sale I was offered – I lost – children’s coloring books never even entered my mind!
Sunday, chilling in the garden scribbling these few words, kicking back and chatting to my hostel amigos. I´ll be back in the city to see more tomorrow, and get my act together in readiness for Idris´ arrival. The tourism will be short lived as the motorbike travelling is soon to begin!
Thought for the day
A tricky one today, but in the interests of recording on these pages my thoughts, hopes and fears, I´ll press on. I was most notably struck by the 1982 veterans demonstration in the city centre, and spent some time reading about how violent conflict impacted on this side of the Altantic. If the music wasn´t so loud I would have engaged in conversation, but as neither side was able to converse effectively, I left it to a simple nod of recognition with those present. A sobering moment. Young people are so often called on to serve their country, and they do so with a reliance on those who should be older and wiser to guide them - indeed, direct them - placing their lives very much in their hands. I am in two minds here. Those who give their lives in the service of thier country should be respected, and that sacrifice honoured and remembered. However, I was left with a feeling of sadness and futility about what took place 30 years ago - it didn´t feel just from either side. Clearly in an imperfect world there are times when you have to make a stand and say enough, but that must always be the last resort. There is more that binds us as a common people, than that which separates us. More effort to build understanding and friendship reduces the fear of the unknown. I am here to learn. These are my thoughts.