Everyone I know who has been to Buenos Aires loves it. I loved it. My 2006 love affair with BSAS was fleeting, but deep. It was a place of seductive South American sophistication, of deliciously complex red wines and deep and entrancing conversations with world travellers looking for a little more of the developed world sensitivity in the developing world.
But the love affair is now, devastatingly, over. Argentina, don’t cry for me and I won’t cry for you – in fact, I no longer want to know you. Nothing, Nada. Vamos!
It is a sad state of affairs that this relationship is over but I am so burned that I no longer think of scorched parilla and chimichurri in a positive light. It is now thrown amongst the ashes with my dreams of an affordable, gentile experience with affable and gentle people.
We arrived in Argentina full of anticipation. I had sold the potential of this country to Indu since we started planning our trip. It was THE BEST! Great food, great wine, great scenery, great people – it was a must do! We launched ourselves head first into Argentina from Colombia’s maternal grips that had nourished our hearts and desire to deeply connect. Whilst Colombia had gently guided us through the unfair rumours and drugged out reputation and proved everyone wrong, Argentina welcomed us with a brute force and coldness that was like a slap in the face and is hard to forget.
I have travelled extensively through the developing world and I have, naively, never factored in the economic situation of a country into my travel plans. This was my first mistake with Argentina. The country has been through more than its fair share of economic turbulence and its people have refutably built a deep mistrust for its government, whichever party is in place. What I hadn’t counted on was the economic uncertainty we would encounter with the recent election and reported 60% inflation over the previous six months. That meant that the BBQ chicken from the corner shop was now 60% more expensive that 6 months ago, so was your rent, your public transport expenses, your parilla and your chimmichurri! However your salary was much the same, if you were fortunate to have one! People were pissed and understandably so. This deep resentment of their economic situation spilled out in to their hospitality and compassion to other people. As tourists you were targets, you were cannon fodder in the competition to secure a few US dollars and a little future security.
As a tourist you were paying more for everything – flights, buses and museums and not a little bit more, a lot more. So much so that we are better off in Italy than we were in Argentina. The cost to benefit ratio was low in Argentina, the ‘F+$% You’ tourist tax running at inexplicable highs. Accompanied by people who would rather spit on you than shake your hand, quite quickly the beautiful memories of Malbec and meat in a little corner restaurant in BSAS were forgotten.
It’s sad to admit but it’s true. Argentina delivered the most amazing scenery and some of our ultimate traveller highs but it was also the place of our lowest lows and is a place that I would only recommend people to visit fleetingly. Get in and out and don’t hang about. It is devastating to write it, but it is true. No one summed it up better than a guy I met on a boat in Patagonia. In awe of the icebergs ahead, I turned to him and said ‘What a beautiful country you have’. He laughed and looked deep into my eyes and said ‘pity Argentina is full of Argentinians’. In that small sentence he summed it up. I too would be an arsehole if I was facing the economic devastation and uncertainty that they, as a people, have tolerated and survived for over a decade. But what I hate is that the tourist opportunity is there for the taking and they are pissing it up the wall, like you do after a night on deep red Malbec and intoxicating conversation.
It has taken me weeks to put this on paper as I felt like I was betraying an old lover, telling deep secrets that only we should share, from our tussle between the sheets. But honesty is the best policy and is the only way, I believe, one becomes a better lover, the ultimate seductress, the one who everyone wants to have known, to have been with, to have loved,
I want to love you again Argentina. Until then, I await the rumours that you have returned to form and are again, a sort after experience!