With press pass and match tickets in hand we jump on the Buenos Aires C-line metro and just have time to visit the Recoleta Cemetary before the press bus sets off for La Plata. The cemetary is one of Buenos Aires' most famous sights with many of the nation's most renowned and powerful individuals, including Evita Peron, burried here.
While many of the capital's central areas are every bit as affluent as any major European city, the Buenos Aires suburbs and adjacent slums are uncompromising and tell their own obvious tale of crime, poverty and hopelessness.
The police presence during the 50 kilometre journey is constant, with armed officers with shotguns posted every couple of kilometres en route, and even every 100 metres in some particularly shady looking places.
I share the journey down to La Plata with Karl Heinz from Nuremburg. Charles - as he prefers to be called - is at his second Copa America and is working freelance at his own expense for a German regional newspaper. Deep in conversation about what we might expect from the likes of Tevez and Messi, a tree branch hits our bus shortly before we reach La Plata stadium, smashing a hole in the window next to the two of us and spraying the area around us with glass. Instinctively, I dive for the floor and avoid getting hit.
As a result of this, the first thing we look for when we get to the stadium is not the press centre but instead a medical centre where Charles can get cleaned up and have the shards of broken glass removed from his hands.
After around 30 hours of planes, buses, cars and airport terminals finally, finally the welcoming sight of the River Plate and the skyline of Buenos Aires appear.
I feel absolutely cream crackered by the time I get through customs at Jorge Newbury International and decide to make life easier for myself by taking a 'transfer express' to my hostel. This is a glorified taxi service organised by the airport for tired and clueless individuals who don't feel in any fit state to take two or three different buses to their final destination.
My driver is smartly dressed in what appears to be his own version of a uniform and drives me past the Art Deco style Costanera Norte pier, explaining what he can about the sights we pass in English and Spanish.
The slums adjacent to the railway track look rough, tough and must be a terribly difficult place to live. The rest of the Buenos Aires I see from my window is far more welcoming. I like to make quick, initial comparisons of new places while the initial sights and sounds are fresh. To me, Buenos Aires has something of Valencia and Belgrade about it. You have probably never heard the Belgrade comparison before for the Argentine capital, but the mix of the garish brand new and the crumbling Old World, together with the smartly dressed and decidedly middle-class city folk going about their business on the streets of Recoleta and Retiro, are more than a little reminiscent of the Serbian capital...with a Spanish twist, of course.
Once in the hostel all I feel like doing is sleeping and chilling in the bar with a cafe con leche or two. The real Argentine adventure will begin tomorrow when I'm not wandering around like a zombie...
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.