Phew, where do we start…what a upside down busy, fascinating few days it has been. Day zero started early on the morning of the 9th January. After being served tea and coffee at 4:30am (above and beyond the call) by our amazing hosts, Francois and Yolanda we caught the 6:15 red eye from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Thanks to them both for being such amazing friends and hosts both times we have been homeless leading up to the family adventure. Also for agreeing to look after our special place in Arniston for the year. Oh, and thanks for the quick goodbye – tears were brimming. Despite the excitement, leaving on our adventure was a little more difficult than we had thought…
On arrived at Oliver Tambo Airport (ORT) we were quickly reminded of the realities of long distance international travel. Disembarking we received notification via the Tripit app of a 4 ½ delay. When confirming this with the LANTAM staff, no one seemed surprised. In fact, it seems to be par for the course. Bungey family - lesson one in patience, spheres of influence vs control and flexibility. So we decided to Gautrain to Sandton City for few hours and make Jozi, impromptu stop number one of #BWT2018. Charlotte’s stated intention for her Instagram feed (@narwhalgirlCT) is #handstandingaroundtheworld, i.e. a handstand in front of all the major sites or monuments we visit. What better place to start than under the iconic Madiba statue in Mandela Square? After repairing the, all important, blood sugar with breakfast and coffee and a bit of wandering around, we were back to the airport.
The flight from ORT to San Paulo – well let’s leave the description of the service on LANTAM as ‘feed ‘em, sleep ‘em and wake ‘em’. They are unlikely to make a top ten list of airlines, anytime soon. Disembarking late in the evening, we were left feeling rather spacey after 10-hours of darkness as closed blinds were compulsory despite it being mostly a daylight flight! After catching a few hours’ sleep we headed back to the airport at 4:30 am to catch the next flight to Buenos Aires.
Not sure what we expected from Buenos Aires? The “Paris of South America” descriptions are visually accurate; imposing boulevards, Haussmann-esque architecture, gritty bohemian neighbourhoods and the ever present “pavement-landmines” from apartment housed dogs. However, all of this, at least in our heads, inferred a level of sophistication and ease of use, that, in reality, is not there. In short, like Jozi, it’s primarily a business city. It’s not really geared for tourists and, possibly like Paris, particularly not to those who don’t speak the vernacular (thank goodness for Google translate) Buenos Aires positives are incredibly beautiful curated green spaces; cheap taxis, even cheaper amazing meat, great wine at reasonable prices and beer that mostly comes in 1l bottles!
The city is trying to get more tourist friendly although not always succeeding. Things like opening hours advertised on websites are often not the same when you arrive or attractions are closed when advertised as open. Most public places and attractions have guides etc. in Spanish only. One cultural highlight is the MACBA (Modern and Contemporary Art Museum), the exhibition by Tomás Saraceno was a definite highlight. Read more about it here.
The net result was that the first few days were rather upside down for us. Not all sunshine and roses! It would be easy to blame jet-lag, temperatures above 30 deg C and humidity lurking about 70%. Whilst these exacerbated the stress and short tempers, in reality we were finding our travelling legs, in a city that is difficult to navigate, and getting used to the prospect of spending 24/7 together for the next 11 months. Almost a week later in a lovely little studio apartment in the slight edgy (dare I say hipster…) suburb of Palermo we’re settling into a rhythm and even learning a little Spanish. The taxi drivers don’t look so confused anymore so we must be getting some element of the pronunciation correct!
Do all these comments that mean you shouldn’t visit Buenos Aires? No quite the contrary, we’ve had fun few days doing some very touristy things like museums & ‘have to’ restaurants and visited recommended districts but have also headed off to a local waterpark for the afternoon to cool off. We keep reminding ourselves that we are on a year-long adventure. We don’t have to visit every tourist site in every country we plan to visit. We also need time to be as a family and focus on normal things like exercise and schooling.
As is likely to be the pattern of this year, just as we have got a bit comfortable, learnt to navigate things and developed a few local spots to hangout, it’s time to move on to somewhere new. Exciting, yes but also uncomfortable. We head off to the winelands of Mendoza tomorrow evening on the bus. It’s a 13 hour ride. Michelle managed online, to book 1st class (in theory lie flat seats) so here’s holding thumbs it’s better than LANTAM! We’ll let you know…