5 continents ago, in Buenos Aires.....

I cannot say that it was love at first sight as I drove into the city of Buenos Aires. My initial blurry-eyed glances of its dark streets were through the cab windows at 2am on the way from Ezeiza airport. I was however simultaneously surprised and relieved to see a granny or two meandering along the pavement with their packages. The warnings and frantic worries of our parents were obviously misplaced. This was not South Africa, but South America. As two, young girls away from home, we would be safe I thought. My dream of venturing over the Atlantic sea parent-less was now a reality which came in the form of my 21st birthday present. For years I had thought only about visiting this continent and finally after a lengthy layover at Sao Paulo’s unattractive airport and failed attempts at sleeping on Macdonald’s red, plastic seats we had arrived in the land of latinos, tango and espanol.

There is something about a backpackers that guarantees fun in a foreign place. Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re willingly giving up your private space all in the name of cheap accommodation and in favour of actually meeting people on your travels. Hotels can be the loneliest, most luxurious places on earth and hostels are often comfortable, but crowded. There are no plush sheets, free lotions or room service but the friendships made and general room chaos goes a long way to make the trip that much more interesting. Archie’s place was the cozy hostel where we would lay our heads to rest or at least attempt it. It very much resembled a home with its tiny balconies and large, white couches in the living room and warm kitchen. Daily Breakfast was a light affair of crackers with heavenly dolce de leche which was a spread of caramel, syrupy goodness. I immediately felt at home.

After passing ample dog-walkers and locals sunning themselves on lawns, our walk through Recoleta finally brought us to Cemetaria de la Recoleta. Home to Evita Peron’s grave as well as many other Argentine greats, we ambled along and snapped away through the stained-glass windowed tombs of the dead. At the city’s most important square, Plaza de Mayo, we walked along the same road where rioters had once demonstrated in front of the Pink Government Building (Casa Rosada). Young boys kicked a ball in the dust, couples rested on benches and we continued to the Cathedral Metropolitana with its vast array of paintings depicting Mary and a black Jesus statue.

It seemed that everyone was out shopping mid-afternoon along the bustling avenue Florida. Clothing, accessory stalls and suited men coloured this pedestrian-only street and I wondered if anyone actually worked. The elegance, style and sophistication of the Argentines indicated that the picture painted of Buenos Aires as the Paris of South America was true. Paris only lacked the passion which this city had in abundance. I’m not sure if it was the Spanish in our ears, the prominent look of the Argentine people, tango displays on the street corners or music in the air, but I felt I had reached my destination of happiness. Buenos Aires has a way about it that pulls you close, whispers in your yielding ear and persuades you to never leave. This was a city that didn’t have time to slumber. I was in love.