From the vineyards of Mendoza, we started the long drive back east, destination Buenos Aires.
Along the way, we took a few days to explore Rosario, a port city on the río Paraná. Rosario is where Kitefest friends, Tortuga (Lisandro) and Topo (Federico) live, work and play. Rosario's main fame is as the birthplace to the Argentinian flag and there is a large memorial commemorating this. It was also a port town suffering from closures, but the city is regenerating and walking the waterfront was a great way to get a feel for the place, lots of parks and public spaces. It may only be a small city, but I have to agree with the guide book - it's a place you'd happily live.
We found a reasonably quiet car park for our first night (no campsites in town so a bit of wild camping!) - that was until 11pm when it became the parking lot for the local nightclub.
On our second day we headed off on our bikes. The local roads were closed until midday for everyone to enjoy, either walking, cycling, skating... We then caught up with Lisandro, meeting his lovely three children. A few hours later, we headed out of the city to go wake boarding (whose great idea?). Us in the novices section and Tortuga doing tricks in the other area - he was fully clothed, wearing trainers and riding a small piece of wood.
We had a great time, until Rachel dropped a very heavy board on her foot, sharp edge down. A bit of hopping, plenty of blood and a very neat slice into her big toe. The owner and staff ran around and a First Aid box was produced. One look at the box and I was sent off to retrieve ours from the van. It was a "No Thanks" to the offer of an ambulance and a chance to play with the butterfly stitches, followed by a medicinal beer or three.
Later that evening we had dinner with Federico, Sofia and Lisandro at a lovely fish restaurant overlooking the river. Argentinians know how to entertain. That evening, with a little local knowledge, we managed to find a quieter car park.
The next day we had planned to continue east, but Lisandro insisted he take us out on the river for a tour and a visit to his kite-surfing spot. A couple of hours on the river and still time to head off - simple....no.
We set off in the motorboat and were given a tour along the city's waterfront, then to the outlying islands on the río Paraná. We first stopped at a random house on one of the islands and borrowed a corkscrew. Then in a quiet channel, out comes red wine, cheese and chorizo.
Already a few hours and a fair way from home, we set off generally back to the city. We turned into a fairly narrow shallow channel which crosses an island. As we entered, a boat-load of locals tell us it's too shallow and there is no way through for us. They obviously have never met Lisandro. Just inside the channel, it turned into a scene from Miami Vice (on a budget scale) - we raced through the channel, which is about 3 metres wide and shallow. After about 5 minutes we came to a dead-end, thick with weed - Lisandro (Mr Positive) still tried to get through. Then whilst briefly stuck in said weed, with the propeller working hard, an unlucky fish was launched skyward and landed in the boat. It was rescued and, following a photo, placed back in the water.
We started heading back and found another narrow channel to investigate. Narrow is the understatement of the century - between 0.5m and 1m maximum. It is still mind boggling because I cannot fathom out how we actually managed to get through to the other side, but we did, and at the other end, were met by an egret perched on a branch, completely unperturbed by us. That was the adventure of the arroyo de la Vaca Muerta (Stream of the Dead Cow) - I shit you not.
We landed at Lisandro's amazing island kite-surf spot, gathered wood and set a fire, with Lisandro producing more food and wine, we settled down to watch the sun set with Rosario in the foreground.
After a totally brilliant five or six hours on the water, we were finally back to dry land and the van. We cannot thank Lisandro enough for the hospitality.
Next.... Buenos Aires.
We left the van in secure parking on the edge of the city and headed in to stay in a decent hotel. I've been in Buenos Aires before, but this was Rachel's first visit. The next few days would involve a lot of walking and a little public transport.
We ticked off a fair few of the tourist sites including the sprawling Recoleta Cemetery, Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), Museum of Latin America Art, La Boca district and the Boca Juniors stadium, plus plenty more. It was great to visit the colourful La Boca area and wander around. When I was there in 2003 there were police, literally armed to the teeth, everywhere. Now, in 2019, all we saw were two relaxed looking officers, not even walking together.
Amongst it all, impressive and sad to see, the weekly gathering of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, the mothers of those who disappeared in the 1970-1980s military dictatorship.
While in BA, we finally got to meet Carlos and Marcela, friends of Ozzie and Ruth (our friends in Washington). Carlos has been advising us on places to visit, via email and text, throughout our trip through Argentina, usually involving the best ice-cream parlour in each town we were passing through. We had a great evening out, finishing (true to form) with a late night visit to an ice-cream parlour. Muchisimo Gracias Carlos y Marcela.
After many months, it's time to leave Argentina (for now). We collected the van and took a ferry across the río Plata - Uruguay, here we come.