Saturday, June 18, 2011

La Boca

While in Buenos Aires recently, I visited its most colorful, interesting and authentic neighborhood (barrio). La Boca literally means 'the mouth' in Spanish, as the barrio sits at the mouth of the river Riachuelo. In the mid-19th century, it was home to Italian immigrants who worked in meat-packing plants and warehouses. They used leftover paint to color the corrugated metal they used for building their houses. Today it is partly an artist colony and mostly a working-class barrio. The most famous street in La Boca is El Caminito and is the center of tourist activity with artists showing off their work and street tango performers. I particularly enjoyed taking a lot of pictures of the buildings and streets in this area.

colors of la boca
As a massive football fan, no visit to La Boca was complete for me without going to La Bombonera (the Chocolate Box) - home to Boca Juniors, one of the biggest football teams in Argentina. Just four blocks from El Caminito, it is worth checking the football type graffiti near and all around it. Because of my somewhat tight travel schedule, I was unable to catch a game in Buenos Aires so a stadium tour of La Bombonera was the next best thing. For a club of Boca Juniors' stature, I found the stadium rather small and the facilities modest but what it lack in size, it more than make up with its character and ambiance. It is uniquely shaped (D-shaped) with yellow-blue design which are the official colors of the home team.  I think first-time Buenos Aires visitors should definitely make an effort to come see La Boca. A word of caution though, visit only in the day and stick to El Caminito and the streets around it because the rest of the barrio is not considered safe.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Epic Bus Journey

You may be wondering why I have chosen to start off by writing about some bus rides on my recent trip to Argentina and Chile. After all, there are no shortage of surreal or awe-inspiring places to share with you. Although bus travel can be an excellent way of seeing new places, I generally do not look forward to it especially if it starts early in the morning and takes all day. But the return bus ride (about 10 hrs each way) between Salta, Argentina and San Pedro de Atacama, Chile was to put it mildly, one heck of a ride.

an oasis near the chilean border control

Due to the effects of fatigue and traveling in varying altitudes, I was not able to fully take in or appreciate the Salta-Atacama leg. But in the return, I was much better conditioned and managed to stay awake for the entire journey to witness some of the most breathtaking landscape that I have ever seen. Best of all was probably between the Chilean and Argentine border controls at the beginning of the ride. There were oases of lakes and greenery with birds and wildlife, salt pans and snow-capped mountains for background in this barren land. In Argentina, we passed long narrow valleys flanked by high mountain ranges and as it got lusher, it turned into miles of cactus valleys. But the one that got many passengers excited was the Salina Grande or salt flat in Jujuy.

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