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Archive for the ‘Buenos Aires’ Category

San Telmo

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America on August 17, 2010 at 3:14 am

Street markets are for people watching, grab a seat outside a bar/resto/cafe and watch the myriad people walk past, slowly, stopping and starting, leaning in to peruse more closely the wares on display, the goods to buy.

I’ve got no space to carry anything with me, so I was avoiding malls, shopping precincts/districts, markets. No desire to fill my bag with trinkets and nick nacks, mementoes of my travels, solid markers of the places I’ve been. If I do buy anything it has to be sent back, to be kept in storage until I return, less is more and I’d rather have fewer more intense keepsakes than any item that catches my magpie eye.

But holding myself back from the street fairs I am keeping myself from seeing the citizens of that space do what they always do, what everyone always does, buy tat for themselves and their loved ones. But I also miss the opportunity to see the locals, miss the chance to really look at them in the bright light of day, when the weekend is upon them and they leisurely go about their lives. Miss the stage set up and the free tango lessons, the San Telmo drum school dancing and drumming down the narrow avenue, the food vendors pulling their wares, their cries reverberating along the cobbles, kids being pulled to and fro, the slow walk of couples hand in hand, the stop and stare and quick discussion of the goods up for sale, each stall holding the goods of an artisanal, book marks, jewelry, slogan t-shirts, mate gourds, scarves, dresses, shoes, toys and games, sitting on the kerb, blanket spread out in front of them, sipping their own mate, chewing on a choripan, smoking yet another cigarette.

Stop and watch the final preparations as a stage is being set up, the lights angled down onto the impromptu dance floor, the crowd around the edges leaning forward in anticipation, amused chuckles as people are taught the basic steps of the tango, how to hold their partner, how to step, when to step, people playing at tango until…

The old couples lit by those bright lights, step out, gliding across the cardboard dance floor as the young crowd stands and watches and takes photographs. This isn’t for play or for show they are living this moment. The women’s foreheads pressed against their partners cheek, eye closed, bodies closer, swirling across the dance floor, first only a handful of couples then more and more, as the strings wail high, and the accordion pushes and pulls its mournful notes into the ether.

I see no one under thirty on the dance floor, the music that brought these couples together that bound them tight as youths, of no use to their children and grandchildren, a footnote in argentine history even as we tourists scrabble to find the authentic slice of this dancing tradition. But these dancers don’t care about that, all they care about is the music, and the movement of their bodies and the steps they learned so very long ago, loving the joy it brings and that flush of remembrance of youth and desire and the beginnings of love.

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Autumnal Saturdays

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:09 am

The sun shines down upon Buenos Aires and the Porteños are out in their droves in the main Parque. I sit on the 67 bus on my way to Palermo and headphones in enjoy the dappled play of the shadows that we cross over as the sun beats down. Traffic is bumper to bumper along this stretch of three lane highway and the driver is leaning on his horn long and irritably, wanting the traffic up ahead to move quicker.

I’m engrossed with the way the shadows fall from the trees that line the narrow roads we’ve just driven down, how they lengthen and stretch, the dark shapes cast by buildings and stationary cars and bushes, the fractal elements of it, the glare and shine of the sun that cuts through every so often. The warmness of sol’s glow, warming everything beneath its benevolent gaze. Love the way sun falls through the windows of the bus and how the darkness changes shape, sliding along in sweeps of radial movement.

Run don’t walk

In artworld, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Street art is big here in Buenos Aires, literally, pieces take up whole walls, sides of buildings, doorways. Intricate, distinctive pieces that show off each artists style, whether it be painstaking hand cut stencils or aerosols used as paintbrushes or hand painted luchadors, you can pretty much find whatever you want here and it’s amazing when I go on mundografitti’s street art tour to discover that this vibrant scene has only been going for the last decade or so.
Prompted by the political upheavals of 2001 Argentine artists and graphic designers took to the streets and put up ironic, heartfelt, comic and political pieces that reclaimed disused wall space as a canvas for their views on what was happening in Argentina as presidents were swapped like top trumps and porteños took to the streets to riot, protest, and express their dissatisfaction with the greedy, grubby politicians that claimed to hold the moral high ground.
Walking through Buenos Aires is like walking through Berlin, tags everywhere, words scrawled across walls, posters, daubed on statues and sculptures, an articulate howl of I am here! Hear me! But then beyond the words and the names, you begin to see more artistic works which draw you to them, camera held aloft to capture the illustrations and paintings before you.
There is an underlying tension between the street artists and the taggers and bombers, a back and forth over territory and respect in terms of where pieces are thrown up and whether it is right to cover them with your own styles. The intricate words and logos that are manifested in the grafitti style is in my eyes rendered obsolete and archaic by the vitality and creativity of this newer breed of artists, pointing out as they interact with the city and the world around them how much grafitti in the tagging sense has moved on so little.
But the street artists aren’t about beefs or territorial bragging rights they just want their work to be seen and seen it is by the twenty or so of us that follow our English guide Marina around Palermo as she points out different pieces by different artists on the walls of the barrio. A bearded man walks with her, holding one of those cardboard tubes you put prints/artworks in. It transpires that he is fede (sp) one of the artists whose work adorns the walls around us, working under the moniker Run Dont Walk and in the tube is his latest stencil, a collage of a face. I chat to him about Berlin, street art and other things before he steps away having spied a suitable expanse of brickwork.

He quickly sticks up a sheet of plastic which has uneven rectangular stripes cut out of it and sprays alternate lines of green and orange, to create a background, he then exhanges that sheet for another more ornately cut stencil, which he sprays over with black paint. Carefully he unpeels the stencil and reveals the final image, a face contorted in a scream, mouth gaping wide. He explains it’s better if you look at it from a distance.
In Buenos Aires you don’t have to be a quick ghost, appearing and disappearing after a work is quickly tossed up, the authorities have bigger fish to fry and don’t view the artworks as anything to get worked up over, and the artists themselves are respectful of peoples property, placing their work on derelict buildings, or if a wall is part of an occupied building asking permission from the occupants before painting whatever their imaginations can conceive.
And their imaginations are ever fertile, over the last decade artists have changed and grown their visual styles changing over time, the issues they want to confront growing larger or more personal. As they grow as artists so they outgrow the styles that once defined them, instinctively striving for something newer and more challenging resisting the urge to repeat themselves over and over.
We end up in Post bar aka hollywood in cambodia in Palermo, which is adorned inside and out with work from fede and others. It is a dazzling collage of styles and images. Through the back of the bar is a gallery space across two floors from which fede sells the work of himself and his contemporaries. We stand and look at the canvases and limited edition prints and wonder how much such work would cost, and I’m amazed when I flick through the work at how cheap it is. So obviously I buy some, two prints by fede, whose work intrigues me, having taken a photo of one of his pieces as I walked around Palermo previous to going on the tour and another by a brazilian artist, which i’m instantly attracted to.

And I look forward to hanging them on my walls, a graphic reminder of my time here in this most intriguing of cities.

Everybody loves the sunshine

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm

The Sun is out in buenos aires and I’m sitting with a beer on the lovely terrace of my hostel. Five more days before I head out via bus to Bariloche.
More impressions of this lovely grand city. Buying stuff here is weird you have to pay before you get it, go to a bar in a club you have to buy a ticket for what you want then give ticket to barman who then give you said item, same goes for helados (ice cream) don’t know why it’s just the way it is.
There’s copious amounts of public displays of affection, lots of couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on laps around the city, they also have love hotels here, they are called telos here, which is slang and means nothing apart from a description for a place to fuck your brains out with the partner of your choice, thats what happens when you have to live with your parents I suppose.
The meat here is gorgeous, sumptuous and heavy and cooked just right, and so many parrilla’s it’s hard to decide which one to eat in. Last night I had blood sausage, glands and some really mouthwatering steak. Heavy on the stomach but oh so good on the tongue. Most porteños don’t head out to ear until ten/eleven and clubs don’t fill up till three/four and rolling home at six or seven in the morning is de riguer. You can get used to it, but the next day is a complete waste and I find myself not feeling myself until the early evening when I’m preparing to go out again.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but everyday feels like Friday, a night to go out and party, and I’m losing track of what day is which it’s hard to keep track of them, to distinguish one day from the next, the only days which feel different are the days when you have to sort out your travel and accommodation for the next stop, then it feels like your back to work.
Trying not to feel guilty about not doing more or exploring more but if you get that out of the way early you can shed yourself of much angst, which is what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve hit three galleries, cemeteria recoleta, big parks, Palermo, the main sightseeing spots as well as a day trip to Uruguay and the well preserved town of colonia.
I haven’t found many bike shops though I’m sure there are plenty.
But one thing I’ve noticed is if you aren’t interested in shopping, shopping districts, shopping malls, you tend to end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Shopping has become the new timewaster, the thing to do when there’s nothing else to do and you feel like a travelling fraud slumped on the sofa in the hostel. But if you don’t want to buy anything, either because you have no money or no space to carry it with you, then tramping around shops and boutiques feels ultimately like a waste of time. Even if the people watching is good fun.

Everybody loves the sunshine

The Sun is out in buenos aires and I’m sitting with a beer on the lovely terrace of my hostel. Five more says before I head out via bus to bariloche.
More impressions of this lovely grand city. Buying stuff here is weird you have to pay before you get it, go to a bar in a club you have to buy a ticket for what you want then give ticket to barman who then give you said item, same goes for helados (ice cream) don’t know why it’s just the way it is.
There’s copious amounts of public displays of affection, lots of couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on laps around the city, they also have love hotels here, they are called telos here, which is slang and means nothing apart from a description for a place to fuck your brains out with the partner of your choice, thats what happens when you have to live with your parents I suppose.
The meat here is gorgeous, sumptuous and heavy and cooked just right, and so many parrilla’s it’s hard to decide which one to eat in. Last night I had bloo sausage, glands and some really mouthwatering steak. Heavy on the stomach but oh so good on the tongue. Most porteños don’t head out to ear until ten/eleven and clubs don’t fill up till three/four and rolling home at six or seven in the morning is de riguer. You can get used to it, but the next day is a complete waste and I find myself not feeling myself until the early evening when I’m preparing to go out again.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but everyday feels like Friday, a night to go out and party, and I’m losing track of what day is which it’s hard to keep track of them, to distinguish one day from the next, the only days which feel different are the days when you have to sort out your travel and accomodation for the next stop, then it feels like your back to work.
Trying not to feel guilty about not doing more or exploring more but if you get that out of the way early you can shed yourself of much angst, which is what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve hit three galleries, cemeteria recoleta, big parks, Palermo, the main sightseeing spots as well as a day trip to Uruguay and the well preserved town of colonia.
I haven’t found many bike shops though I’m sure there are plenty.
But one thing I’ve noticed is if you aren’t interested in shopping, shopping districts, shopping malls, you tend to end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Shopping has become the new timewaster, the thing to do when there’s nothing else to do and you feel like a travelling fraud slumped on the sofa in the hostel. But if you don’t want to buy anything, either because you have no money or no space to carry it with you, then tramping around shops and boutiques feels ultimately like a waste of time. Even if the people watching is good fun.

Nightclubbing

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on April 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Kika

Stood outside as we got there early, waiting for the place to open, for the locals to rouse themselves and come out. Nervous about my pigdin spanish, how to order rum and cokes at the bar? answer either ask for a ron y coca, or a cuba libre. Problem solved.

Even in buenos aires they do that bullshit of keeping you waiting outside, when there’s plenty of space inside. Got to give the impression that people are dying to get into this place.

Two rooms in here, don’t find the other room til later when more drunk members of the group than I drag us in there, because the music in room one’s gone a bit housey. Two bands perform before hand, the first very reminiscent of early Lenny Kravitz, their songs never get out of first gear, midtempo numbers with a slightly paunchy black haired singer whose voice isn’t strong enough, and lacks the stage presence to drag a sombulent crowd with him. There are some interesting melodies they create but the drop never comes, and I’m bored before they’ve even finished the intro’s to each of their songs.

2nd band is fronted by a guy from Coventry, but they start audaciously with a man playing bagpipes, as the rest of the band come out on stage. But thankfully he doesn’t stay out for the whole set. But they are definitely more RAWK! Lead singer’s got out of control blond curly hair, shirt over his tee, and lots of energy and he swaps between singing songs in spanish and english. The band a three piece pound their way through their songs, battering them to submission, dragging us with them, lively, and excitable, much more involved in giving the crowd a good show. They do a song at the end which sounds like a red hot chilli peppers cover, but I haven’t heard enough of their songs to know and the other rock bods beside me disagree so I let it go. But I’m sure I’m right.

Stacatto dance, hip, hand, leg, foot, head turned, frozen, fractured as the strobe blinks, ice White, cold blue, as the four to the floor builds, electronic yelps twist and blare, jump from one foot to the next, take over the space, bounce from one foot to the other. Electronica is big in buenos aires, consuming all others, driving the populace into delirium. And for the time I’m there I let it overtake me.

Club Araoz

They pull shapes, they stand on their hands, legs bent, bouncing on their palms, windmill into head spin, arms out, he music is irrelevant just as long as the beats are heavy and the tempo high. Jazz dancers without the steps, acrobatics valued over a connection to the music, one guy stocky and dark, poplocks and steps to a tune I like him, each step is in time he loves the song or at least can find the bassline in it.
This is club as spectator sport relegated to the circle round the edge, clapping hands, yelling support, providing a backdrop. Never liked that, why come to a club to watch others dance where’s the fun in that!
Then the switch up, an off kilter school yard choreographed routine, full of missteps, pauses and glances to check what’s next to a James brown medley, is ended with a rolling bassline and the circle is broken as the people bumrush the dancefloor and suddenly it’s wall to wall bodies, the hip hop culture club is a sweatbox as hips gyrate and everyone’s two stepping to this big down tempo hip hop which dominates the 21st century, metallic beats, snap out and throb over quantized basslines, that drag, flows that say nothing for sixteen bars, brag and boast, in slurred southern tones, the more things change the more they stay the same.
Hip hop reduced to a cypher, low riders on the video screens, baseball caps with flat peaks, baggy pants slung low, baseball tops, NYC emblazoned jackets, sneakers and gang signs waved high.
For a club that purports to be the home of hip hop culture in this city/country, the dj’s definition of hip hop is fairly narrow, I haven’t heard any of these songs and they are pretty much the same kind of big bang basslines, strange melodic lines and chanted choruses, punctuated every other song by Rhianna warbling over a bumping bassline. If you’d been parachuted into this space you wouldn’t have any sense of the rich tapestry and history of hip hop. I’m tapping my foot and nodding my head because you got to take what you can get, but I’m bored and I’m writing this instead of dancing so make of that what you will. But the young people seem to be feeling it, herking and jerking from side to side, hands held aloft, shocking out to the songs which will define their youths and be played loud at their weddings and their back to 2010 dances.
The dirty south, lil jon, ludacris, yung joc, akon, vocoders, and all the other mc’s and producers who I don’t know have alot to answer for. Hip hop at it’s most dynamic and engaging has a voice and a point of view and a diversity of sounds and ways of being and saying, listening to the mono beat culture purveyed here makes you want to believe in the hip hop is dead mythology that has been stated for the last decade by those who can’t bear the lack of diversity, and hark back to their “golden age” but it is there you just have to look harder for it.

And buenos aires doesn’t have enough black folk to create that space for hip hop diversity, so they follow the major musical trends from the states, and this is what goes platinum, this is what rocks the clubs, this is what they raise their hands to, and I wonder at three o’clock on a Friday morning if the Dj can or has anything else to play.
He runs the deck, verse chorus into next track and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be so unmoved by an hour and a half of hip hop, even when he plays a couple of songs I know, it doesn’t stir any desire to dance. But when he drops M.I.A’s paper aeroplanes it does bring smile to my face, but then it’s back to the monotony of another jay-z rant over uninspired beats.
As he slips back through the decades, from snoop to cypress hill via snow and sean paul, I can see that hip hop is a cypher through which your personality can be sieved and reconstituted in a more rebellious version on the other side.

selection of songs that Dj played that night. Let me know if you like any of them. I’m still not feeling them.

ps photo’s under youtube clips

and you can’t go to any club without hearing this song.

or this one.

la bomba de tiempo

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, out and about, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on April 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

How comes afrobeat isn’t more popular here, la bomba de tiempo are rocking the crowd! Maybe it’s the live performance aspect of it, but femi kuti should come and play here he would have a lot of fun
Listening to la bomba de tiempo both during the show and later at the after party when they play with an electric guitar, horn section, a drummer and a xylophone player, it’s amazing how tribal it becomes, a musical exorcism, polyrhythmic, and so fucking loud. The drums roll and roll and roll, and the horns trill, shrill, giving melodic counterpoint to the throbbing drums. It becomes all encompassing, it pushes everything else away and you are connected to the drums, as they switch between one stanza and the next, foot never stopping it’s tapping, as the group finds new ways to make you sweat. Each band leader making throwing signs in their own way, as into the music they are making, that is unfolding under their direction as we are at hearing it unfurl flaglike before us. Stomp and stamp, yell and scream and wait for the drop to come when the thunder rolls deep and full.
Hands pointed, fingers upraised, palms curled, signal shorthand, waiting poised, each member focused, awaiting instruction, a point, a cut, a wave, a circle, line drawn in the air, here it comes, teased with crescendoes that return to solos, waiting, anticipating, here comes the clapping, then the drop, 120bpm. Flooding the air, primal and beyond conscious comprehension, it takes the breath away, sucks it out of you as you dance. Sweat running in rivulets, soaking clothes, shirts, vests, blouses, tops, tees, bras. It defies the descriptions that I try to give it, it pulls you outside of yourself and into the memory that we all hold of fires burning deep into the night, callused hands pounding on animal skin pulled tight across bowed wood.
Man in black vest and baggy pants spinning dervish, unable to stop, girl Afro full and unkempt, hips swirling, feet a blur, crowd pogoing, hands aloft, throats roar, blood flooding their extremities. The ache of the feet, soreness in the hips, thighs, calves. Chest tight as you try to draw breath, and the drums roll on, roll on, tumble and never stumble, never falter. Mama Africa in us all!
The electrification of it halting it’s power not at all, bound to it now as we all are, adding a melodic content on top of the power of the drums. Hands blur as they beat out what their leader commands, bound together by his clenched fists, and his imperious commands, silent but so forceful. He drums and they follow, we follow, we will always follow.

It is in our blood, in  the people our ancestors used to be. Moved from one continent to another, the drums taken from us, hands born to pound the call, forced to do other work, but the drums call, they call and in the end, blood will out. So we shuffle and dance, arms flail, we swirl and the ashes from the fire we circle around pop and crackle and are uplifted to the heavens, and the stars above us are the same ones those who came before saw and danced underneath. Nothing changes except what we do to the place we call home. The drums never change, they still call us home….

Bussing Buenos Aires Stylee

In Argentina, bike, Buenos Aires, Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

So been in bs as for about a week and i’ve got a week more booked in, then off to Bariloche and Mendoza for a week each and then off to Iguazu.

Buenos Aires has a certain style and grace, reminds me of those photos you see of Havana, a bit worn at the edges, but still able to charm you. The meat here as expected is spectacular, the hostel I’m staying in had a BBQ, sausage, chicken and beef, with an egg potato salad and a green salad to cut the protein. All of them perfectly cooked and flavour filled, filling my belly with meaty goodness.

Right now its the middle of their Easter holidays they have Thursday and Friday off, and a lot of porteńos have fled the city for the weekend. Avenida de Mayo where I’m staying was a ghost town on the Friday when I actually managed to drag myself out of bed and take a walk down the street to get some cash out. For your information Argentina has a cash shortage, literally no more money is being produced, so making change is vital in this town as if you try to break a 100 pesos note at a kiosko or with a cab driver they will just shake their heads and get the stroppiest face on you’ve ever seen, supposedly cabbies will drive you round looking for change, and running up the meter if you try to use a big note.

They do love their dogs out here, and men on rollerblades and a handful of leads can be seen taking dogs for walks up and down the city. The rumbling growls of dogs confronting each other can be heard constantly. You can also see the dogshit laying like smelly, slippery landmines across the pavement. So many dogs, so much mess, so little clean up.

I’m trying to be on the bike as much as possible as I didn’t spend anytime on it in new Zealand apart from a brief jaunt out to ben’s place and around Wellington harbour. The bike of choice here is the beach cruiser, you know those curvy framed schwinn monstrosities, not sure if they have a geared rear hub, but they definitely have a coaster hub, as they all seem to ride them brakeless and freewheel. You see them all over, as well as low end mountainbikes, and cargo bikes.

Took a bus after a failed jaunt to a hip hop club on aràoz which had a London sized queue out front. The buses here are privately owned and run, bit are cheap and plentiful and of you can speak Spanish will get you round the city with pesos to spare, but they are fast and militant and their drivers are on the clock. None of that waiting for everyone whose been waiting to get on, if the driver wants to leave he pulls away and closes the door, even if your still waiting politely to step up and pay. They will pull into the kerb with no warning at the merest hint of an outstretched arm. Think of them as big bus versions of the black cab and you’ll be getting a rough idea of what it’s like to travel on one, a rollercoaster of a back and forth with a driver with hair trigger feet on both the break and the accelerator.

Bs As Night numero dos

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, eat drink man woman, Sud America on April 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I love meat! Have been just to bursting with chicken, sausage and steak at the hostel weekly BBQ. I’m liking this city and their take on eating more and more. Going to be having lunch with another London bod and doing cultural art gallery type things. But the meat on meat on meat plus salad both leafy and egg, make me happy, my belly is round I’ve just drunk a litre of beer and am now listening to an Argentinian singer, barbara barale, myspace.com/barbarabarale she plays guitar and the harmonica every so often and the English guy next to me is in love with her, she is his perfect woman, up on the roof of the hostel, the full moon overhead and the spires and domes that make up the skyline in this part of town lit up against the night sky. Making me think of north African cities and the call to prayer wandering out all over you.

Barbara’s okay her guitar playing is a bit shaky, and shes singing in castellano which i dont understand,  and has some strange echo/reverb on her voice which I’m not feeling, and as many of you know i find fey singer songwriters kinda hard to get my head round, but it just tops off a night of concentrated carnivorous action which has my stomach distended and a slothful identity bestowed upon me. I’m finding her songs palatable because the night has been good to and I can’t be churlish right now.

Wonder if I stayed for a couple of nights in the best hostel in London town whether I would have as good a time as I’m having here and the other hostels I’ve stayed in which have cared about their patrons.

Red lights wink on rooftops, pylons, aerials, towers, all around, clouds lit by the light source just out of sight behind that wall. The wind is soft and cool up here on the rock, ruffling hair and complementing the wistful barbara’s songs. There are swinging hammock chairs which I want to sit in and to rock myself off to a deep slumber. If I haven’t said this before I love being in hot countries, love the feeling of the cool night after a hot day, the chilling of your being as the sun sets. The lethargy and langour that comes from being hot, then warm, then cool. As kevin says i’d love it if I was living somewhere warm

Buenos Aires

In Argentina, bike, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Just arrived in Argentina, flight left Auckland at 5pm Monday afternoon and touched down in buenos aires at 4pm Monday afternoon, watched three films on board: the invention of lying – could have been better/funnier, ricky gervais isn’t romantic lead material; the blind side – based on a true story American football drama for which sandra bullock won her best actress award, only works  if you like american football really; and finally whip it drew barrymore’s nicely done, low key take on womans roller derby, like a less bloody female version of slapstick, the bearded zen/surfer Coach is a particularly nice performance. Also should be noted I started watching coraline, but had to grab some sleep about twenty mins in, from what I could see it was looking good, but it was not going to come close to the fantastic mr fox.

Suns come out as I sit on a bench by a skate park, listening to the grumble of skate wheels over concrete. I slept for eleven hours, as I tried to stay up as late as possible and get my body into south american time.
Built up the bike that evening, had a few problems, the rear brake lever screw cable adjuster has been bent somehow in transit, might have something to do with the bars coming away from where I’d cable tied them to the fork, And then this afternoon on my first ride, noticed some rubbing of the front wheel on the side of the fork and also one of the axle ends on the front hub had started to unscrew itself. Stopped adjusted wheel in fork, noticed axle end, took wheel out tightened both ends with my Multi tool Allen key, couldn’t tighten it down, went to loosen it only one would come free, the other stayed resolutely tight. Didn’t have another Allen key to work with! Front wheel in one hand, frame in other no way to put them together. Fucked!!!

I walk along looking for someplace that might have an Allen key. Pass a mechanics. Pop in I don’t speak Spanish they don’t speak English. I manage to borrow a ratchet with a 6mm Allen key attachment, I manage to tighthen the axle end down, and get one nut out, but then the other one holds fast. No amount of twisting or cursing will get it loose. I manage to communicate that I need a bigger pair of pliers than the needlenose ones that come on my Multi tool. I get handled some mull grips. I grasp the loosened then tigthened axle end in the mull grips and turn like buggery on the Allen key on the otherside. The axle end comes away in the mull grip the threads all curling away from the metal. I’ve fucked my phil hubs and will have to find a bikeshop to buy a front wheel. Fuck!!!
I sit back on my heels and curse my lack of mechanical ability and know how. The mechanics look at me as I hold up the now seperate axle end and hub and shake their heads as i explain in English what’s happened. I try and twist the axle end back on but no go.

One guy whose been sat watching from the beginning offers a hand. We screw the Allen key bolt back in and as we do this, it tightens up the axle end that had come away from the bolt. Semi result. Maybe I haven’t completely fucked my hubs. One of the reasons I bought the Phils is because they are bombproof, unless of course you’re a mechanical philistine like me. He takes the mull grips and attaches them to the axle end on the other side, gesturing for me to try with the Allen key,  nervously I do and I push, I push harder, and it turns.
Thanks Christ for that, as I wasn’t looking forward to the walk back to the hostel, as I quickly re attach the front wheel into the dropout and thank whoever bought me to this place, the guy bends down with the mull grips and holds the axle ends as I give it another quick twist to tighten it just that little bit more. I dont want it too tight as I’ll have to take it out at some point in time in the future to leave the country.
I thank them gracias, give then a thumbs up and head over to a park (parque de centenario) which looks impressive on the map but in person has the same dilapidated, down at heel feel about it that is my first overriding impression of buenos aires.
I’ve felt slightly apprehensive about riding around buenos aires and in between nodding off on the bus and taxi journey in, I was making sure to look out of the window and watch how the traffic moved, to see how difficult or not it would be to navigate by bike. On the first ride it’s not that bad at all, the grid system means you’ve got a lot of one way streets crisscrossing a main thoroughfare of like 2-4 lanes wide, and right now my main difficulty is getting across the lanes to turn either left or right, as I’m never quite sure whether the road coming up is going to be one way or not.
Traffic is heavy, but buenos aires should be a biking city, pretty flat, distance across doesn’t seem that bad (please note these are my first impressions I can change said impressions at anytime in the future when more information is gathered) and everyone rides scooters and motorbikes anyways what is stopping them. Traffic does tend tend to move a bit more without indicating over here, think it’s from their motorbike/scooter upbringings, drivers will see a gap and try and hit it, as long as your aware of this it’s pretty easy to see whose going where and why, plus I’m looking for that gap before them and where they are sometimes nervous about making the gap, I know I can and so just jump through it.
Kerbs here are high like a foot, maybe higher, just straight up from the once cobbled roads – looks like they’ve just tarmacked over a load of cobbled streets which aesthetically isn’t the nicest but having been jostled around on them for a while I can understand why it was done. But what’s also bad for cyclists is that they’ve just carved these drainage ditches along the edges of roads and then across roads as well, they are about 2-4 inches wide an a good 3-4 inches deep, think of them as tramlines without the trams. Pretty easy to avoid, but dangerous nevertheless.
Today started out grey, with patches of blue sky hinting of a good day sometime later. It is sometime later and the suns out and it’s hot here, mid to late 20s I’d say, traffic is out in force, long lines of it, which you can carve a line through or just roll along between stationary lanes, just chilling chilling.
The signage here like in Australia and japan and to a certain extent new Zealand isn’t the best in the world, not every road is sign posted, though those that are do have numbers letting you know whether you are going up or down numerically, which is good. But if there isn’t a road sign up I have no idea where I’m going and this first day has been spent mostly riding past my turning as there hasn’t been a sign saying which road is which. And with the grid system and up and down one way streets it makes it a bit haphazard in the trying to discover new things department as you either have to go round the block to come back and check out what it was you saw or, pull over right then and there.
I’m writing up a load of these thoughts on benches in the parque de febrero, by the lago de palermo, this place seems to be a refuge for lovers to hold and kiss each other on the many benches, rollerbladers doing laps of the exterior loop, with power walkers and joggers and the odd cyclist, doing a lap or two.
Bikes here from what I can tell fall into the transport catergory, solid mountain bikes, cruisers with coaster brakes, delivery bikes. Haven’t seen anything fancy or fixed just yet. And this town would be great to ride fixed, flat, wide roads, high kerbs to bump if your freestyle inclined. Nice cycling to be had as long as your comfortable in traffic…
Also last but not least, I’m not sure what it is about me and why I thought when I got out of japan that the looking/staring/perusing would stop, but is hasn’t. I’m still getting all sorts of looks from all sorts of people. And I’m still flummoxed by it, will just have to start putting it down to my magnificent personal aura of attractability…