San Telmo District, Buenos Aires.


Argentina & Chile,

7th March - 28th March 2010

[2 - Buenos Aires]


Wax figures at Cafe Tortoni.

Plazo de Mayo in Buenos Aires is steeped in political history.

Monday 8th March
Our move to the corner room upstairs to split the genders, proved too much for some. The shutters had been kept open all night in an attempt to counter the heat and humidity and it transpired that the avenue below known as Peru was also a main thoroughfare and bus route trough San Telmo. Some got little sleep that night as a result. Yet it was claimed the next morning that the traffic noise from below was in serious competition with that of a rumbling (virtual) Australian road truck travelling in the opposite direction, which seized the initiative during any break in the real traffic. I don't have the slightest clue as to what they were talking about! I was oblivious of any such event taking place and slept soundly. In the words of the immortal Manuel of Faulty Towers fame: "I know nothing".

After we all enjoyed our first breakfast together, we left the hostel at 09h00 on an organised walk of the city, our first stop being the illusive focal point I mentioned earlier. The Plazo de Mayo is the main square in downtown BsAs. The plaza has, since being the scene of the 25 May 1810 revolution that led to independence, been a focal point of political life in Buenos Aires and, arguably, Argentina. The plaza, in an attempt to overthrow President Juan Domingo Perón, was bombed during one of the populist leader's many rallies there on 16 June 1955, killing 364. Years later, in 1974, Perón (his second wife was Evita Peron), then president for the third time, was expelled from the Plaza members of the Montoneros, an armed organisation on the far left that had contributed to the aging leader's return from exile the previous year and had since demanded influence within the national government. Perón's final appearance at the plaza, on 12 June, was marked by an acrimonious break with the far left, leading to two years of violence and repression and, ultimately, a coup d'état.



Visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral.




Wandering through Buenos Aires CBD, we eventually crossed Avenida 9 de Julio, which seems to dissect the city.


Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling. 

City life - chicas calientes, coffee, the tango & Havanna chocolate biscuits......shoe-shine.



Our Treksa tour guides, Kelson and Elena.



Crowds gathered once again on April 2, 1982 and several occasions thereafter to hail de facto President Leopoldo Galtieri for Argentina's invasion of the Falklands Islands, which launched the Falklands War. The plaza, since 1977, is where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who were subject to forced disappearance by the Argentine military in the Dirty War, a state-sponsored violence in Argentina against several thousand left-wing militants between 1976 and 1983.

At Plazo de Mayo we met Sue, our hostess from the night before, who then guided us up to Plaza de los Dos Congresos, where I had survived my mugging attempt the previous day. I told Elena who then translated for Sue, who was horrified as to the manner in which I was carrying my camera around. En route we stopped at Café Tortoni for coffee. Located on Avenida de Mayo 825 and founded in 1858, Café Tortoni is the oldest coffee shop in the whole country. With a very rich history, it is visited at all times by intellectuals, politicians and artists. Some in our group then booked for one of the regular evening tango performances for that evening. Instead of using public transport, the group agreed to continue on foot and before reaching La Recoleta, we stopped at Milanese restaurant (one block from where I had had my pizza the night before) for an Argentine-style tapas lunch. Yet another visit to La Recoleta revealed a story I had missed before, courtesy of our hot potato Recoleta lady.  Rufina Cambaceres, a young woman who was buried alive in the early 1900s, had perhaps suffered a coma, and a few days after her interment, workers heard screams from the tomb. Once opened, there were scratches on her face and on the coffin in her attempting to escape.


Plaza de los Dos Congresos.



Ralph & Kelson. A Kelson Recoleta spoof.

And so I found myself back at Recoleta with the group...





After we had presented Sue with a box of Havanna Argentine chocolate biscuits to thank her for her hospitality, which drew an emotional reaction from her and seemed to touch her, we took a bus back to Ayres Porteños, chilling out after showering. The couples in our group wandered off for their dinner and tango evening, whilst Kelson, Ralph and I chose a restaurant close to the hostel and then discovered that San Telmo, the oldest quarter of BsAs, had much to offer in terms of nightlife, particularly its numerous bars, one of which, on a large square in the district, saw a really nifty jazz-rock trio knocking out cover versions of Weather Report tunes from the album Birdland.


Breakfast at Ayres Porteños Hostel.



Off to the markets of San Telmo.


Tuesday 9th March
I awoke to find Ralph bolt upright in his bed fiddling with his iPhone. After some packing, we left at 10h00 for a short walk to San Telmo markets to shop for provisions for the bus trip to Patagonia. The time afforded us a much-needed coffee break on the way back, where they also sold Havanna biscuits. Taking another quick shower before the taxi collected us at 13h15, we checked out of Ayres Porteños. Though we had enjoyed our stay there, some were not unhappy to see the back of it and began wishing for an environment far from the madding crowd. Kelson, Ralph and I found ourselves conversing with the taxi driver, who spoke very good English. He enquired as to whether all in our group were individuals or whether some were couples. Kelson ventured to suggest that, although there were indeed couples in our group, Ralph and I were, in fact, an entity too. His “gay” joke caught the bemused taxi driver totally off-guard, drawing a somewhat defensive reaction from him in attempting to convey that he wasn’t bothered. Kelson chuckled victoriously. We boarded the overnight bus for Bariloche at 14h30 and braced ourselves for the long journey. After some considerable time, we left behind us the row upon row of BsAs suburban apartment blocks that lined the highway and edged towards dusk, some rainfall and the green Argentine pampas and its characteristic fertile lowlands.





The markets of San Telmo quarter, old, rough yet enchanting.



Everyone is packing whilst Ralph and Kelson......are on their WiFi.


View from above looking down on Peru Street from the Ayres Porteños Hostel balcony.


Patagonia, Argentina & Chile

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Other Tour Group photos (Picasa):  [1 - Kelson & Elena]  [2 - Ralph]  [3 - Harald]

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