If Bryan misses out on any opportunity (especially if it’s something fun & unique), I will hear about it for the REST OF MY LIFE. So when we were unable to catch a Boca Juniors football (soccer) game in Buenos Aires last month, I knew we’d be back to the city in the next 10 years or so for a game. I just didn’t expect we’d be back in less than a month!
I love Bariloche! It’s at the northern point of Patagonia and in the lake-district. It’s just gorgeous! There are snow capped mountains and huge, clear lakes everywhere. To top it off, we were able to meet up with our Welsh friends Bobby and Lauren (the couple we traveled and scuba dived with in Colombia).
Bariloche seems like the Alps, especially because it has such a strong German and Swiss influence. The architecture is adorable – wood and stone chalet-style buildings everywhere. I also love all of the chocolate that the German and Swiss influence provide. There are chocolate shops all through the town. Turista is a real-life Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It’s the biggest sweet shop I’ve ever seen. I can’t recall ever having a better ice cream – the scoop of tiramisu ice cream had a whole piece of cake in it. There was even a real chocolatier with a funny hat hand-making the candies. Okay, I’m drooling now.
Don’t worry, there are also plenty of ways to burn off Bariloche’s goodies. The region offers countless opportunities for outdoor adventure – skiing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, sailing, canopy tours, the list goes on. Immediately after the 27-hour bus ride, we spent our first day in Bariloche kayaking and sharing the traditional mate drink on the lake shores with our group. The shallower water on the edges of the lakes are clear and shades of teals. The lakes are extremely deep in the center though. Even the small lake we kayaked on was 450 feet deep! One of the most popular things to do is to rent mountains bikes to do the Circuit Chico – a hilly 17 mile road that goes around the lakes with several scenic viewpoints. Our favorite spot was a panoramic viewpoint where there is a man with two Saint Bernards for tourists to take pictures with. Because of the Alpine influence, Bariloche’s city mascot is a Saint Bernard. Bobby, Lauren, Bryan and I couldn’t resist taking pictures with the adorable dog and puppy. “Che” (a Spanish term for “guy”) was the grown dog – he posed on command and even wore sunglasses. 🙂 We’re a little worried that if Rawley and Moses see this picture they are going to think we moved away and got new dogs (don’t show them, Kelly!).
Back to Buenos Aires!
Our original plan was to continue northwest and cross back into Chile. But when Bobby was pretty sure he had secured tickets to the Boca Juniors game on Sunday night, our plans quickly changed. We booked seats on Bobby and Lauren’s bus to Buenos Aires, crossing our fingers that we’d find tickets (especially after a pricey, 19-hour bus ride that was completely out of the way).
Bryan was worried that I might have a breakdown if we ended up near the bathroom again or had another negative experience on the bus. Ever since we’ve been traveling through South America, we kept hearing how luxurious the Argentine buses are. Clearly, we haven’t had this experience and we thought they were a myth. To prevent a potential Kristin breakdown, Bryan decided to splurge on the “full cama” seats – these include a seat that lies down completely, food, wine, champagne, and a pillow and blanket. They were super comfortable and felt like we were lying in bed for 19 hours. I was happy so I’m sure Bryan considered the extra cost money well-spent. 🙂
Thankfully, our 19 hours on the bus weren’t in vain and we were able to find Boca’s tickets. Of course, we paid the hostel gringo price – which was 10 times more than if you were a local and knew the system. We weren’t willing to risk missing out on the game so happily paid and were thrilled to just have tickets. Several school buses came to the various hostels and picked all the gringos up. They dropped us off in the dodgy Boca area at a dumpy backward area. The tall, wooden steps over us we were so dilapidated that we were all afraid to lean against them. They sold us beer and choripan (delicious sausage sandwich) as we “tailgated” before the big rival game. The guides signaled it was time to go and handed us each Boca Juniors Club Membership cards with photos of random locals that were members. I was “Mario,” Bryan was “Leandro,” and Bobby was “Diego.” Of course. When we went through the gates our cards didn’t work but they let us through anyways. They shoved Bryan and I through on the same turn-style. Everyone seemed to know the deal (however sketchy it may be). I’m sure everyone’s getting paid off along the way; I’ve heard it described as a sort of “Football Mafia.” I’ve never seen Riot Police before. There were rows of them lined up with helmets and big shields as we walked up the stadium stairs. This was definitely not the type of place to be sporting any signs of worth (jewelry, fancy cameras, etc).
I thought we’d fit in with our new Boca’s jersey and T-shirt. I soon realized that if we really wanted to fit in with the local fans, we should have stopped by the tattoo shop before the game. Nearly every guy around us had some sort of Boca’s tattoo. Now that’s a serious fan! Before the game, many of the fans climbed over the fence (with barbed wire) to hang their enormous banners. The stadium was transformed into blue and gold. When the Boca’s players ran out to start the game, it looked like the end of the Superbowl. There was tons of blue and gold confetti and even blue and gold sparklers and fireworks. The fans’ intensity was as entertaining as the actual game. They sang and chanted the entire time. It was difficult to understand what they were saying but we quickly learned some new curse words that even the young kids were yelling to the rival team players and fans. Whenever Boca’s scored, tons of male fans (even really young boys) would climb the fence, grab themselves, and motion to the rival teams’ fans. They sure pass on their football traditions at a young age! Boca’s was ranked first in the standings, and the local rival team that they were playing, Independiente, was one of the last teams in the rankings.
We figured Boca would wipe the floor with them. Shockingly, Independiente scored a goal within the first minute of the game! Boca passed Independiente and maintained the lead for most of the second half. However, Independiente tied the game and ended up scoring again in the last 30 seconds to win the game 5-4! We thought that the Boca fans would go crazy but they were all just pretty quiet and kept their chants going as if nothing had happened. We were a little disappointed Boca lost but thrilled we caught such an entertaining game. As much as I enjoy American football, I do love the fast pace and high-intensity of the other football.
On the Road Again
We ended out last night in Buenos Aires with our good buddy Manuel and his sister Clara. It was great to see him again and meet Clara. And now it’s time for another long bus ride – we are off to Santiago, Chile! We can officially leave Buenos Aires with no regrets or unfinished business.
Our last few months in South America are filling up fast! We recently booked flights to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) for mid-May (after our hike to Machu Pichu and before our trip to the Galapagos Islands). In April, we plan to spend a couple weeks volunteering with a wildlife refuge in Bolivia (http://www.intiwarayassi.org/). Inta Wara Yassi rescues and rehabilitates exotic animals who have been sold on the black market as pets, as well as animals from circuses and zoos.