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Days 7 & 8: Bus ride to Bariloche

January 18th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

Monday, January 24

We checked out of our Hostel and took the subway to the bus station. It’s near the train station, and it is pretty big, with over 60 spots for buses to park, and dozens of companies operating their. We were a able to get tickets to Bariloche, but the bus wasn’t leaving until 5 PM. So we checked our bags in at the bus companies cargo counter, and set off to find some lunch and do some more exploring. 

We went looking for a museum that was supposed to be right across the street, but all we found was a daycare center. Let me tell you that a 2′ kiddie pool never looked so inviting. Its hot and muggy in BA in the summer. There was another museum close by, so we walked there. It was a train and machinery museum. Not very fancy or impressive as museums go, but was still interesting. I especially liked the photos of the old city and railroad station. This was a nice place back in the day. It’s sad to see it so run down and dirty now.

We also came across a park that was a memorial for a terrorist bombing that happened in 1992. A suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the Isreali Embassy, killing 29 and wounding 242. More info on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_embassy_attack_in_Buenos_Aires

We had lunch, walked around some more, kicked it in the park for while. I broke off to find some WiFi. I know our bus ride was going to be long, and I wanted to update some things. I met up with the others ate the bus station with about 20 minutes to spare, had a beer, then boarded the bus.

Bus to Bariloche

The bus is a double decker, and the ‘cama’ seats we purchased were wide and comfy, and reclined pretty far. Much better than any economy airplane seat I have ever sat in. We were looking forward to the hot meal and vino that was supposed to be served. And after about and hour or so, the attendant walked through handing everyone plastic lap trays. Tense passed out the food. It was on a little styrofoam plate, with dividers, and had utensils, condiments, some bread, and dessert. But not much of a meal. I was feeling disappointed until he came by a second time and handed out some tinfoil covered bowl. Inside was some really good chicken and macaroni. Now my impression has improved quite a bit. That is until he comes back around handing out styrofoam cups and pouring a small portion of Coke for each passenger. Really? Not even a choice? My impression sank even further when he was back around again I what seemed like five minutes to pickup all the trays and cups. I wasn’t finished, and still had my dessert to eat.

The ride was 20 hours, and there were two more meals, which we decent, and several movies, including Forrest Gump. I took advantage of the time to do some reading and to catch up on writing about our trip.

There was one pretty amusing incident: we stopped at a bus station and were told we were going to be there 10 minutes. It was a pretty big station and many people we getting off. I wanted to use the restroom, because I heard bad stories about the the bus lavatory, and was trying hard to avoid using it. So I got off the bus, as did the rest of my family. 

Followed them inside and toward the restroom. Without getting into detail, I hadn’t been feeling well the last couple days. So I was concerned a out taking to long, and really tried to hurry. Still, I thought I had plenty of time. When I walked back outside, there were two buses, neither of which was mine, which was a Via Bariloche.  I looked around frantically and did not see it or any of my family. A moment later, a a VB bus came around the building,a dan I thought to myself “oh great, I missed the bus and it took off without me, and my family had to beg the drive to go back and get me. I m NEVER going to live this down”. The. I saw my dad and Khristian walking across the parking lot. It turns out they all thought the bus left without them as well. My dad even ran out into the street to chase it down, or at least what he thought was it. Turns out there were several similar busses there, and they typically drop off passengers, then drive around the back to pickup cargo, refuel, empty trash, etc.  Then they drive back to the front to pickup the passengers again. And sure enough, a few minutes later, here was our bus pulling. We hall discussed the various feelings of panic we felt, laughed at our reactions, and learned to never get off the bus without your passport, money and camera. 

The scenery on the way to Bariloche was reminiscent of highway 395 through the high desert. Except the sky seemed to be a richer blue. I think perhaps the air is a lot cleaner? You can see forever, and the clouds were amazing. There were several large lakes that looked very inviting as well.

Once in Bariloche, we took a cab into centro, tried to use the internet to look up a hostel, found most of them booked, and realized we needed to start planning a few days ahead of time. We ended u just walking into a place off the street, got a room, unloaded, showered, and headed out to explore the town. 

This is a really cool town, right on the edge of a huge lake, Nahuel Huapi. It’s s resort town, with one of Argentina’s best ski resorts,http://www.welcomeargentina.com/catedral/index_i.html  Cerro Catedral. Too bad it’s not winter! The couple main streets in town are packed with tourist type stores and shops. Lots of chocolate, outdoor gear, and restaurants. And it’s quite busy. Some of the cars here are classic. Really old, but still running strong, some not so strong. Pedestrians, as in BA, cross streets at their own risk it seems. There are many uncontrolled intersections, and people just go when the feel like it is safe.

We had dinner in an Irish pub. I had a meat pot pie that was really good.
Pot Pie

Many more pictures in my GALLERY

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Days 5 & 6: The Recoleta and Tren de la Costa

January 16th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

Saturday January 15

On Saturday we walked about 12 blocks to the famous Recoleta cemetery, where many famous people are buried. The neighborhood around it is much nicer and more upscale than any we visited so far. The streets are clean and in good repair, and there are lots of high end shopping. Fur coats, jewelry, that type of thing.

The Recoleta was built in 1822. It’s quite ridiculous. The size of some of the tombs is quite large. Many are obviously very old, with some in dire need of maintenance. Broken glass, weeds growing inside. Some were very modern looking, some very creepy. Altogether, pretty amazing, and yet I could not help but feel sorry for the people who put so much time and effort into them, thinking some how it made any kind of difference to their dead loved ones.

Outside the Recoleta was a small arts and crafts market. People selling all sorts if jewelry, leather goods, etc. Also there is a very large tree. Probably the most impressive tree I have ever seen. You could probably sit several hundred people in it’s shade.

Sunday we took the Tren de la Costa to Tigre. First you catch a train at the Retiro train station, which is quite old and very cool, to Mitre. Then hop on the Tren de la Costa to Tigre. Altogether about a 45 minute ride?

The is a small amusement park there, with some roller coasters and ferris wheel, etc., lots of resaurants, and a lot of boat tours. We were actually okanning to take a boat tour around the Delta, which is supposed to be very interesting, but it started raining about 15 minutes after we arrived. It was really crazy, because there we’re many people out and about, all dressed for the summer whether, and within minutes the wi d was howling and the rain was pouring, and the lightning and thunder were striking. Fortunately we ducked into a restaurant just in time to get a seat, because it became standing room only real quick. It was pretty entertaining watching all the people scrambling around outside, most of them completely drenched, trying to get to their cars, the bus, or just anywhe out of the rain. I think many of them were on the boats when it started raining, most of which were open air types. Had we been an hour earlier, the same thing would have happened to us.

After lunch we hurried back to the train station. My mom had plastic shopping bags on her feet to keep her shoshone dry. My dad was carrying an old cardboard box over his head. I got wet, but my clothes dried quickly. And after another hour and two train rides back to Buenos Aires, our trip to Tigre was a over.

There were actually some really cool neighborhoods we passed through on the train. Some very big houses, mansions, not quite on the beach. Tree was also a really bad slum area just as you are leaving the train station. Looks similar to the areas you see in the hills in Mexico just over the border from San Diego.

GALLERY

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Day 4: Visiting the Branch

January 14th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

Friday January 14

After breakfast, Khristian and I hopped on the ‘subte’ and headed to the branch. I never visited a branch before so I didn’t know what to expect. We arrived there about 1PM, but the first afternoon tour wasn’t until 2. So we waited out in the front porch and got some sleep. 

We ended up taking 3 tours. The first was of the kingdom hall and the living quarters. There were 6 or 7 buildings in all. The main used to be a doctors office, the rest were built by the brothers. There was a 300? seat Kingdom Hall that was use by the Bethelites for the ‘family worship’ study if the Watchtower. It was also used by other congregations in the area, though I forget how many. 

It was a slow day, and there weren’t many people around. I think there are about 260 brothers and sisters living there? They are bursting at the seems and in need of expansion. 

Next we went to the office, just two blocks away. We got a tour from Marcus, whom we met at the English meeting the night before. This was his first tour in English so we were helping him out. We went through the legal offices, the several film studios, the translation department. They are doing sign language translation, and also two native languages of northern Argentina. 

When we got to the computer department, and I saw a cabinet full of old computer parts, I told Marcus I was a computer engineer, and so he jokingly asked me to take over the tour for him. Then he asked if I wanted to see the computer room. It’s not on the normal tour, but he was going to pull some strings. Sweet!

He found Steve, one of the IT guys, who misunderstood and thought we were brothers from IT in New York. He breathed a sigh of relief, and then happily showed us the server room and answered all my questions about their environment. They were in the process if migrating all their old servers to virtual servers. Impressive. I could work here…. Except for the hideously slow Internet speeds 🙁

Thanks Marcus and Steve!

Next was the printery where we were guided so graciously by Gustavo. They have an old Harris printer they inherited from Brooklyn. They print 1,500,000 magazines a month.  They ship magazines all over northern Argentina with two trucks. Soon they will be shipping to Santiago, Chile as well, providing for all of Chile, who currently get their literature from Columbia. Apparently there are problems with that. The trucks will have to climb up over the Andes, through a very high pass that is often closed for days and weeks due to snow. Magazines for the southern half if the country are shipped using a commercial company. It’s cheaper that way.

There was a pretty impressive machine shop, where they do repairs or create parts for the various machines, and also manufacture fluorescent light fixtures, door jams, and even mixing board chassis for the kingdom halls. There is also a very large paint booth. I think it was originally used for painting buses.

We didn’t get to see any of the machines in action, because it was late. Actually, they stayed late for us because we took so long at the office tour.

Thank you Gustavo for waiting and for the excellent tour.

My camera battery was dead, so I did not get any photos. Khristian did, but I’ll have to wait until we get home to post them. 

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Hostelsuites Obeliscos

January 13th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

image

Haven’t had time to make any in depth updates, but
we are staying at the Hostel Obelisk in downtown Buenos
Aires.

My location: Suipacha 401-499 Buenos
Aires Capital Federal Argentina 34°36.150′ S, 58°22.774′ W http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-34.60250,-58.37956

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Day 1 & 2: The Plane Ride, BA, and KH.

January 12th, 2011 by *MoonDogg*

We left LAX the afternoon of January 11th, flying LAN Airlines. I think this is the biggest plane I have ever been in. 7 seats across. Video screens in every seat. Ended up having two meals, watching two movies, and takin a long couple naps on the fourteen hour flight (including a a90 minute stopover in Lima, Peru. We landed in Buenos Aires around 8 AM local time, which is 3 am back home. Had a bit of jet lag all day)

LAX

We took a two hour bus ride into the city which in itself was an adventure. There are clearly no limits on passenger occupancy. Met some guys from Holland who were going to be traveling all over South America for up to a year. They had ridiculously large and heavy bags, weighing a claimed
50-60 pounds. And one of them was just a duffle. No matter how many times I showed them on my GPS they were going the right way, they kept wanting to get off the bus because they thought they were missing their street. I finally stopped trying to convince them, and they exited miles away from their destination.

We met my parents at their hotel south of downtown. Even though it cost more than I wanted to spend, they were already booked for another night, so it was just more convenient to stay there as well.

We got settled in then took a walk to an Italian restaurant that was recommended to me for some pizza and wine. It was an old restaurant, as most of them are, with a lot of history. There were thousands of photos of what I assumed were Argentine movie stars, directors, singers, and other celebrities. Buenos Aires had it’s own version of Hollywood back in the day, and it was pretty glamorous.

After eating it was back to the hotel to shower and change for the meeting. But first we stopped to ask the guy manning the corn err magazine rack if hey could dict us to a barber. He asked if we wanted a good one, or an OK one. We opted for whichever was closer, and point to the building firefly behind us, which had a barber. (this would be just one of many occasions where we would ask for directions to some place that was right in front if us). Khristian got a cut, I got a buzz from an old school barber with a while shelf full of old school equipment. I thought for sure he would be awesome. And he was. His style anyway. His skills, not so much.(I end up using my multiple-tool the next day to trim the places he missed) I did appreciate the after-shave doused into a large ball of cotton that he used to wipe down my neck, forehead and face. It was a nice touch.

After a quick shower, we had a short taxi ride to the Kingdom Hall. It was the nicest Kingdom Hall I have ever seen. 3 stories, with multiple halls (3 or 4?), modern interior, glass doors with brushed metal trim and security gates. Really nice.

Buenos Aires Kingdom Hall

There is only one English group int the whole country. We attended the Book Study and Ministry School in English, but the Service Meeting n Spanish.

After, we met a lot of the brothers and sisters, and ended up going out to eat dinner with them. Dinner is usually really late, with crowds not showing up until after 11PM. One brother mentioned he never gets home after the meeting before midnight. We had our first of many steak and fries. The steak was OK, and I was told it was usually much better, but the fries were amazing.

We finally said goodbye to the friends and walked back to the hotel for some sleep. (I was so tired, I barely made it through the meetings)

More to come. Pictures too when I get a chance.

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