Argentina 2009

Rex tries to block this trip too, and loses again. I went to Argentina because I tracked down a long lost friend from grad school, Gautam Dutt. Gautam owns an unrented apartment (bought for peanuts in the last financial meltdown) and put me up.
Soybeans and sprawl north of Buenos Aires (BA). BA proper is a mass of buildings as big as metro Los Angeles and Orange County. Since Argentina is huge on public works, there's a dense network of subways and light rail that makes it work.


BA has the world's most skillful pickpockets, they say. A favorite scam is to pitch fake bird droppings (made from mustard) while you're walking under a tree, then help you brush yourself off. This airport poster seems to encourage an American-style solution the problem.

I'd save the bullet for the air conditioner repairman who chiseled the safe from the wall of a five-star hotel and made off with a friend-of-a-friend's passport. Or the guy who later cold cocked them with a pipe on the street.

For the record, I had no problems.

Until after I left. I sent Gautam a thank-you care package of Indian groceries--$40 worth of content and $60 worth of shipping..that disappeared into the Argentian post office ether. (Maybe there's a black market is asafoetida.)

Thanks to a sleepshade, Ambien and a $300 worth of extra legroom, I arrived in better shape than Gautam, who normally gets up about the time I eat lunch.

Gautam works for a company that does greenhouse-gas-reduction projects, many of them in developing countries under the Kyoto protocol. He also organized an efficient public space lighting competition in Argentina.

I once mentioned that the Mayan calendar has the world ending in 2012. Gautam said that his world ends too because that's when Kyoto expires.

His wife Pelusa is a mathematician at the University of Buenos Aires working on fractals. She decided I was OK when I knew what the Weierstrauss function is (everywhere continuous, nowhere differentiable).

Having pissed off another friend with a previous travel page, I decided to ask Gautam to review this. He corrected my spelling (of English), saved me from some risible errors, improved the content considerably, and contributed some observations of his own.



Gautam dropped me off at the apartment in Villa Crespo, a funky downscale hood with cheap chic clothes stores and rock clubs. At first I thought everyone in BA looked like an indie rocker or Italian soccer star...then realized it was just my neighborhood.

The apartment is on the top floor. Then he drove back to his own hood, San Martin, a gritty industrial area and went back to bed. When he was driveby-robbed in the 70s, he couldn't get the cops to take the incident seriously. More recently, when he called them to disperse a begger who had showed him a gun but not pointed it, and collected two pesos, five overlapping jurisdictions showed up.

One of the coolest things on the trip was the streetlife in San Martin at night, guys hanging out, getting drunk, grilling meat on huge sidewalk grills, but I was advised it was not the time or place for a picture.



The real danger, according the State Department web site, is traffic. It doesn't look as crazy as Kolkata, but there's no traffic control at most intersections--Gautam explained that you nose out until you become so hazardous that someone lets you through. Red lights mean yield My taxi proved that cars can lane split. Another favorite is pulling into the right lane at a light, if its the shortest, then cutting across three lanes to make a left turn.

BA has a point system--but since it's actually a maze of towns that don't enforce each other's tickets--it's really pretty meaningless.

  Two common Buenos Aires ways to wear helmets--on the forehead(front) and on the arm (back).



Most Argentine keys are medieval style, but the key to the street door was 3D, asymmetrical, computer-cut. Apartment living room. The apartment had a sweet smell from wholesale quantities of incense from an Indian import business that Gautam started, but never really took off.


I arrived at Ezeiza--BA's Dulles, a big international airport West of the city. The next day we went to BA's National--Jorge Newbery Aeroparque--small, domestic and on the river--and caught a flight to the Austral plane. Luciano dropped us off. Gautam designed and financed two proof-of-concept energy efficient houses. Luciano built them to spec and lives in one.

The guy at the aiport cafe tried to card me for banana milk (liquado de banana). Pelusa explained that the entertainment bought a tip--tipping is the exception in Argentina.

Last time Gautam flew out of this airport, he was shipping a bunch of Bulgarian-made rocket parts. ("The Aeronautical Police were very suspicious.") These were part of a hailstorm-busting project in Jujuy. He went into a hair dresser shop--in the back Russians were operating radars. The rockets were launched from a farmer's coop into supercells to bust them.

Salta Salta   Patagonia El Calafate
  Cathedrals     El Chalten
  Pan American Highway      
      Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Northern Desert Purmamarca      
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