Eric and I landed in Buenos Aires at 9am and then had to wait until 4:30pm for a bus to Mar Del Plata – only because we screwed up the date that we requested to have our reservation, initially.. We requested a bus on 8/9/2008, which (except for the US) means September 8, 2008.. A couple days later, we had our date figured out with the bus company, but no longer had any seats on an earlier bus.. oh, well..
So after a rather boring 4 hour tour of the 3 cafes in the Ezeiza Airport, we were on our way to Mar Del Plata. I had sort of planned to sleep a bit, but really couldn’t do it, and the scenery in and south of Buenos Aires was extremely interesting. Right out of the airport, (it’s Saturday afternoon) every big tree in the little highway-side park grassy areas had a car or two pulled up and families having picnics – no real parks per se, but just pulled off in the grass wherever looks like a good spot for the lawn chairs.
In the city, the multitude of architectural influences was vast – from Roman looking cathedrals, neo-modernist add-ons to crumbling old industrial buildings (gorgeous sunset over flat ranch land, as I write..), vast numbers of housing project style apartment buildings, miles of urban brownstone-ish lower shop, upper apartment kinds of buildings, and surprisingly large numbers of both new construction, as well as never-finished skeletal remains of many different types of buildings that look as if someone had a good idea but never had the money to complete the building, so just left the frame. Interspersed with many older buildings are some very new and highly maintained government and coporate buildings with very tight looking security – bars, high fences, guards, etc. Quite the mix of old, new, never completed, being built, wildly different styles, and busy streets.
South of Buenos Aires the scenery changes to a drastically different picture of poverty. Anything and everything that might provide some kind of shelter for a few square feet is cobbled together in vast areas of shanty-looking extremely dense housing of utter peso-lessness. At first I thought, “This must be the poor part of town,” but this scene kept rolling on for miles and miles – seemingly more than the urban area we had already passed through.
The packed in shanty towns had many people out working on their homes, talking across fences – many were painted as best they could, orderly, some were not – in some places the only breaks in shack after shack were interspersed drainage ditches filled with refuse, maybe a grass area with pick up games of soccer, and in a few places I saw out of place flashes of small flocks of green-blue parrots picking at a spot on the side of the road. This depressed looking, seemingly endless visual of complete poverty was a really odd juxtaposition – the homes are what they are, and there are a huge number of them, but this was simply all these (huge number) of people have – nothing but what they can scrape up as best they can.
After a long while, the ranch land started to dominate the drive – and still does after hours on the bus. This is not Texas scrub ranch land, but a familiar Mid-West Ohio kind of cattle, sheep, and horse farm scene – huge acreages of completely flat treeless grassland, bordered by straight lines of large deciduous trees, and a little farm house somewhere out there.. Occasionally along the road are a few little clusters of modest houses, a business or two, or a big agribusiness storage or processing area of some sort – grain silos and such.
A quick 20 minute break at a gas station after about 3 hours of driving for a double shot of espresso, and we have about 2.5 more hours to go.. It’s dark now and not a single light in sight other than the other cars. Buenos noches.