Although lets ignore the fact Christmas was 3 weeks ago. Christmas isn´t the same when you´re away from home and it it is a bit of a non-day as everything is closed and there is nothing really to do - it was an orphan´s Christmas as someone in the hostel put it - but it turned out nice. Buenos Aires is a pretty mad city and its always seems to be busy, both traffic and people, but from lunchtime on Christmas Eve everything started to shut down, and it took on an almost surreal calm. There is what is basically a 20 lane road going through the middle of the city which is normally rammed with traffic and this was near deserted. Apart from the main shopping street, everything was quiet. It was quite good to be walking down a busy shopping street the day before Christmas and not be the one doing the last minute shopping!
Everyone at the hostel agreed that alcohol was the best way to get through Christmas, but if we were going to drink through until Christmas morning, pacing was necessary, at least for lightweights like myself. So after an early evening kip, started drinking at 9. Restaurants were closing too so bought some steak and cooked it myself but managed to over cook it. It was ok though. The hostel had a good roof terrace so we piled onto there with our beers, and at midnight, the hostel provided some champagne, so we had a Christmas toast.
At 3.15am the bus we´d paid for turned up to take us to Club 69 in Palermo. As expected it was a dump, but it passed a few hours and obviously sold booze. We rolled out at 7am, and not surprisingly at this time on Christmas Day, taxis were a bit sparse. So we got the doorman to point us in the right direction of town several kilometres away and started walking. Had we tried to go the whole way on foot we´d still have been walking now but fortunately we did manage to get a taxi after not too long....and got back just in time for breakfast!
Amazingly we did find a cafe open at that time and it served bacon and eggs which was a really good result for Christmas day - it was the first bacon I´d had since the Irish Hostel in La Paz! It was also the most expensive bacon and eggs in the world, costing over 8 quid, but worth every penny. So finally made it to bed at 8.30am and managed a full 3 hours sleep.
With an almost psychic accuracy, I correctly predicted the number of presents I´d have to open on Christmas Day - zero! But coincidentally this was also the exact same number I sent. The closest I got to presents was two books I´d bought the previous day. I´d been lugging some books around in the hope of finding a book exchange but to no avail, so I ended up trawling book shops in Buenos Aires on Chrismas eve for English books.
The rest of Christmas day was spent eating, sleeping and generally not doing very much, although did manage to have a game of Upwords with Kate and Nicola. They had brought a travel set along especially for Christmas Day! It was a good day, and was very hot too as was 30 something degrees. Unfortunately though I couldn´t have my traditional Christmas meal from when I was in Australia over Christmas a couple of years ago as Burger King was closed. I even hunted around for one that was open!
On boxing day had a last wander round and visited the Bank museum where you can see all the different bank notes from down the years from the seemingly regular economic strife that Argentina experienced. Then after lunch I got on another 20 something hour bus, this time to Bariloche in the Lake District. I was pretty indifferent to Buenos Aires to start with but it did grow on me, and Christmas there was fun.
The bus to Bariloche was a cama bus with nice big wide comfortable seats that recline a decent way...so comfortable that even I could sleep on them. But word of advice number one: when listening to your iPod on buses, just because you can´t hear yourself let one go, other people can. Oops. Word of advice number two: if this happens, act like it wasn´t you!
The last couple of hours of the drive into Bariloche was very pretty with lots of lakes and mountains. That afternoon I got the local bus out to Km 18 (luckily they have km markers so you know where you are) and hired a mountain bike to go round the Circuito Chico. After previous efforts hiring bikes on this trip I made sure I had fully functioning gears, brakes etc! It was quite a nice ride of about 25km or so where you get some good views of lakes etc, although it was quite hard work as it was pretty undulating. Also unfortunately got to watch some firemen cut someone out of a car as there was an accident on this road.
That night met some Irish people in the hostel and much against my better judgement as I had to be up in the morning to go kayaking, ended up drinking with them until gone 3am in, yes, an Irish pub (Wilkenny´s, number five of the holiday). Was a good night though.
Made it up in time for Kayaking the next morning though. It was on Lago Gutierrez, which luckily for me had water so clean you could drink it, and I was a bit dehydrated from the night before. Think I must have drank half of it! The guide who was also in the kayak was less than impressed when I almost tipped us over when I leaned over for a drink. I really needed a big straw! Enjoyed the kayaking though and there were some very nice views from on the lake.
Afternoon snooze when I got back, although didn´t drink that night as the Irish people had headed back to Buenos Aires. Almost won a bottle of wine in a Killer pool tournament though as I made it to the last two, but just missed out.
Sad news today though. My Euro 96 t-shirt which I´d had since 1996 and was still (just about) wearable went missing from my hostel. Agreed I should probably buy some new t-shirts but this was no way to end it!
The next day I was to meet up with my tour group as I´d booked on a two week tour from Bariloche to Ushuaia, which is the most southern city in the world. Was quite looking forward to being on a tour and not having to organise stuff myself. Costa Rica, Ecuador and Bolivia suited me well because it was off season so I didn´t book hardly anything up front, I just turned up everywhere and sorted accommodation etc when I arrived, but it was coming into high season in Argentina and everything seemed to require booking ahead, so it was nice not to have to be organised.