Right after I landed, I got a first promising glimpse on horses just aside the road. Soon after, I was overtaken by the rhythm of the capital and the process of adaption.
I had arrived in time for a public holiday for the porteños, and atypically for Buenos Aires, the centre was near to empty. Just right for the beginning of my journey, this gave me room to discover most of it on foot and by bike and so I also found the inspiring work of Señora Cabeza at a street market.
The following week began with a parade on the “Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural”, the former anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Especially for the indigenous people, this public holiday had long been a day of grief. When I learned that they, in contrast to thousands of immigrants from Europe, had only been incorporated into the constitution of Argentina in 1994, I got a hint about the hardship they had to, and still have to, overcome. Moreover, it was also one week before the president’s election.
Making my first steps in this – for me – new world, I learned about some heartwarming characteristics of the Argentines and this city. One thing was that Buenos Aires was no city for high heels. With the changing surface of its boardwalks, the places and streets with its old pavements, women who wanted to be high up favored platform shoes. As I was still in the pace of someone who had to move on, it also came to my mind that the quicker people talk, the slower they walk. But what really struck me, was that people here not only wore the heart on their sleeves, but compared to most people in Central Europe they wore it all inside out. It was common that people on the street would share their opinion on something going on – visible or just in their mind – right away, even with strangers. Open as they were, they appeared to be real mind readers, when it came to help out a tourist girl. Definitely, for me the charm of this city lay not only in its structure and green spaces, but especially in its people.
Welcoming as it was, a city was not the place I wanted to bond to and so I travelled on to the Rio Paraná. While cities narrow the view, now my eyes readjusted to the distance. A focus up and in front automatically changes ones attitude and so my spirit rised.
While I travelled on through the Pampas, the landscape was dominated by cattle, sheep, horses and rubbish. Besides this, what at home were just derelict patches, was here the whole dynamic of the surrounding ecosystem. As I have a bias to focus on human-animal-interactions and while I saw many animals roaming over vast plains, I couldn’t help to notice that another common practice was to tether them. It didn’t matter if it was a dog, a horse, or a pig… every now and then you would see one, apparently “parked” along the road.
My next stop was Rosario, which lies a good part inland at the banks of the second biggest river in South America, but has a harbor for seagoing vessels. For my part, I hoped here the river would help me wash of my townsfolk-remains, but instead it would give me my first lesson to stay mindful and aware of my bad sense of orientation on my trip through this foreign country.
I went down to the promenade to enjoy the once sunny weather and the Delta stretching out in front of me. At ease with myself, I walked on down the river for hours until I decided to have a drink at a small, inviting bar. Looking up the river, I saw some clouds building up and a nice refreshing wind calmed me down. The moment I realized that I had not thought of the different wind dynamics near big waters and plain lands, the wind had turned into a storm.
In a second the promenade was emptied from its visitors and the remaining staff, yelling “Apocalypso, Apocalypso”, was gathering last things and locking all down. It had just taken me a few minutes too long to come to my mind and there was no sense in testing my luck in this waterfall pouring from the sky. Without the need to hurry anymore, I watched the scenery savouring a glass of red wine, a tasty Malbec.
With the vanishing daylight, it was time to return to the apartment. As it was still raining I walked on through deserted parks and streets head down. After some kilometers, while the black river had been my only guideline, I noticed that I had lost my way. No good surprise as everything was closed and there was nobody out to ask.
I felt my spirit fade, when out of nothing one of the stray dogs, who mix themselves under the people during daylight, appeared at my side. For me, it was like my gone dog had sent a friend right over the rainbow. For a while we two strangers accompanied each other along the way, but when the neighborhood changed to desolated railways and scrapyards the dog grew tense and disappeared shortly after. Circling the spot I lost sight of him, I found myself right in front of the avenue I had looked for. Grinning all over the face I made my way back to the apartment.
Like I should have learned in time, but would forever up in the Andes, one should always take a look back at major way points.