The Buenos Aires to Santiago Transition
Learning to Speak
Week two in Buenos Aires is not the same as week one in Buenos Aires. For one thing there’s the change in hostel, which while not being a change in neighbourhood is nevertheless a change in pace, allowing the nights to regain their natural duration and for me to refocus on learning Espanol. Cue in Matias my spanish tutor, a guy who was as funny as he was insightful into language acquisition. I learned that there are tutors who love it and tutors who do it, which led me to walk out on one guy 2/3 the way through the lesson when I still couldn't figure out what-the-fuck he was saying to me in his thick region-specific del Plata accent.
Rainy days got spent researching motorbike-buying. It turned out after lengthy online thread-trawling that Santiago was the place to pick one up. Not for the price but for the paperwork, and as I was about to learn, having the right paperwork when crossing border after border can save you a whole load of heartache. Argentinean bikes at the time had a tendency to get bounced back at borders whereas Chilean registered bikes slipped through wherever you wanted to go in Latin America. So that is where the trail pointed me to next; to a 20 hour nightbus across the continent to Barrio Brasil in downtown-ish Santiago, and to La Casa Roja hostel complete with swimming pool, just perfect for those long Chilean afternoons.
Knowing When To Fold 'Em
My final few days in BA did not disappoint; I took more Spanish lessons with Matias, I solo-bike-explored the city, I went and experienced the biggest football rivalry the world has ever known at Boca Stadium where the home-side beat River 2:0 amongst heaving crowds of structural-integrity-threatening-fans all jumping and singing in unison. 35 odd thousand of them and hats off to Argentinean engineers. For those thinking "the world’s biggest football rivalry" reads a bit rich, I would refer you to one of the flotilla of outrageously-sized Boca banners in the stands waving “we shall never be friends”. Should there be any confusion.
I definitely dug-large on some parts of BA and my last few days biking got me back on good terms with two-wheels for sure. But part of me just didn’t share in the same amor professed for the city that many people feel and I kept looking over the horizon eager for and unquestionably distracted by Santiago-promises and motorbike-buying-whispers.
On my last night in town I got invited to argentinean-slow-barbeque (asado) on the rooftop terrace of a friend of a friend of a friend’s apartment. And it all peaked beautifully, right there up on that open-air-night-deck amongst smokey philosophical chats over prime cuts, long pours, and deep souls.
The bus ride from BA to Santiago is a 22 hour straight shot from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Andes. Bus seats lie completely flat, with in-flight food and movies and the occasional game of bingo hosted by the onboard attendant. I bagged the first border-crossing of the tour rather painlessly given the altitude up there in the Andes and the at-times notorious bureaucracy. While I'm collecting passport stamps an overlander zooms through the border in a cloud of dust on a Kawasaki 650, and I spit jealousy and excited, impatient anticipation.
Hostel choices assume disproportionate importance when you're looking for a home away from home on the far side of the world. La Casa Roja turned out to be a traveller's paradise, complete with cheap breakfast served by the local mum and amazing in-house dinner couple of times a week by a catering-start-up aussie-ex-pat. The pool out back by the thatch-roof bar was handy when its 32 chilean degrees outside. Not only that, but right before stepping out on day one of the search round local bike-shops I walked past a kiwi t-shirt belonging to Nadine, one of a two-up couple riding South America on a Honda 250. She introduces me to her partner Dave who's a motorcycle-mechanic-riding-guru from Nelson who’s done the whole continent by bike and is replete with words, wisdom, and ways to make the upcoming journey safer-better-easier. So yeah. On this occasion, my choice of hostel was probably the right one.