Just before setting off for Argentina, my lovely nan, who just turned 90 a couple of days ago, was convinced I wouldn't come back from this trip. She has never said anything like that before. It put the fear of God into me, to be honest. And after getting stung by a scorpion last summer in Africa and held at gunpoint in Kyrgyzstan a couple of years earlier, you start to think that your card might be marked. I have, consequently, been fearing the worst.
Mishaps to date, comical and problem causing, include:
- missing my connecting flight to Argentina in Brasil on my way here,
- having a bus accident on the first day of Copa America with a tree branch smashing in through the window and almost decapitating my friend Nurnberg Charles, sat next to me, and spraying us with glass,
- having 150 euros stolen,
- missing a bus by ten minutes and it costing me another 100 euros,
- getting knocked to the street by a dog,
- accidentally taking 400 pounds instead of 40 pounds out of a cash machine and consequently not being able to buy flights online,
- having my bank account closed by my bank because they thought someone was using my card and getting stuck somewhere with no cash as a result,
- leaving my guide book and 20% of my clothes on a bus, never to see them again,
- giving a bloke a 100 Peso tip (20 euro) - instead of 10 (2 euro), because he reminded me of my grandad, and I felt too ashamed to ask for my cash back afterwards (and leaving me cashless),
- staying at the world's worst hostel, getting sick, and waking up in the middle of the night to find water pouring onto my bed through the roof,
- leaving my towel and all my cosmetics in a hostel, never to see them again,
- getting to a hostel and finding my reservation cancelled the night before the Copa final, with Buenos Aires full and nowhere to stay,
- getting dizzy and apparently fainting,
- experiencing a small earthquake in Chile that gave me the fear,
Then, the other night, I was in Chile, trying to deal with some awful personal news by downing a 1-litre carton of red wine, sat on a park bench, by the local fjord. A dog came along and tried to steal my food. I gave him a bit, but that just encouraged him. So, I got stuck with him. I am not good with dogs but we made our peace - sort off - and he had half of my cheese rolls and chocolate and I got to keep the wine. But when it was time for me to stroll back to my hostel, the fella started following me. I tried to get rid of him, but he wasn't having any of it. It happens all the time in Argentina and Chile; dogs just start following you, they will go 20 blocks and still be there snapping at your heals. "Look just **** off! I tell him. I don't mean it, but I find myself attached and worried about the lad and just want him to go home; he has a dog tag and is well taken care of.
And, suddenly, three dogs come piling out of a house we pass and chase him into a corner across the road. I watch as he gets bitten on the leg and limps away. I feel terrible, like I am responsible for having given him the bread and cheese, and him being here...and then, the most terrible thing happens: as he limps away across the road, he gets hit by a car. And I am so shocked and upset that I just run and run...
And I don't know why this is all happening to me but, what I do know is that, I had some of the worst news of my life 2 weeks ago, and I have gone to pieces ever since. I feel like a demon is chasing me.
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info
With no hotel booked in Santa Fe, I hang around the bus station and take a café con leche until it gets light. It is nearly 8am before it gets light in this part of the world and the thermometer starts to rise north from zero. Many of the budget hotels are close to the station and I get the feeling that arriving a day early has been a good move. Aside from those trying to cash in and charging three times the going rate, I do manage to grab the last single at Charlitos, an establishment run by the Argentine equivalent of Basil Faulty. In reception I get chatting to an Englishman, Daniel, who is in Argentina doing his PHD on the Argentine economic collapse of 2001/2 and how parallels can be drawn with what is happening to the middle class in Europe now, particularly in Spain. It is one of those conversations that could go on for hours, particularly the idea that the European middle class is about to get squeezed to the point at which many will fall into relative poverty. Daniel has an Argentine girlfriend and for her birthday is treating her to a hotel and ticket to Argentina v Columbia. As he goes off to meet her I briefly lie low, enjoying the relative luxury of having my first hotel room of the trip. The hope that my room might actually be warm was, though, asking for too much. The warmest I have been so far in Argentina was fifty feet below on the Buenos Aires metro.
At the press centre I run into Nurnberg Charles, who is also queuing up for his ticket for the Argentina v Columbia match. Tickets back of the netted, Charles and I explore the area around the Rio Santa Fe; the river flowing south from here all the way to Buenos Aires. Santa Fe also has an impressive array of colonial buildings and an intoxicating lived-in feel that gives the city a certain charm.
After a quick spot of sightseeing, it is time to get ourselves to the Santa Fe Union stadium to watch Columbia train ahead of tomorrow’s match with Argentina…
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.