Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Saturday, December 18, 1999 5:41 PM
Subject: Dec. 9-16, 1999: Mar de Plata, Argentina

Current Date/Location: Dec. 18, 1999 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Current Itinerary: Should be going to Punta Del Este, Uruguay
tomorrow...then Colonia and Salto, Uruguay. Then probably to Iguazu Falls
to meet a friend on the 27th of Dec....plans are changing daily.

JOURNAL:

Dec. 9, 1999 (Thursday):
Took bus Buenos Aires to Mar De Plata. I was met at bus station by my friend Florencia who gave me box of Havannas (Alfajores) as a welcome-present to the city. NOTE: Havannas are NOT Cuban cigars...they are wonderful chocolate covered wafer snacks that have Dulce de Leche (A Very Argentinian thing...like a thick liquid caramel...it is great!) in the middle...mmmmm. We went to Hotel Pergamino which doubles as an official HI Hostel...I checked in and was able to get into my backpack and give Florencia the Texas T-shirt that I had brought for her...gifts are important here in South America.

History for ya´ll...I met Florencia while I was in Prague in early October. We met for only one day, but she had given me her e-mail address and a warm invitation to visit Mar De Plata...so here I am!

Anyway, Florencia gave me a tour of the city...drove me around and showed me the various beaches and areas of the city. We stopped and had churros (basically the same as in Texas...but with Dulce de Leche in the center) (Explanation of a Churro for those heathens who have NOT visited Texas and tried a Churro: It is is like a tube of fried dough that is rolled in sugar...and here in Argentina they have either Chocolate or Dulce de Leche filling...kinda like a stretched out doughnut).

Anyway...Florencia dropped me off at the hostel so I could freshen-up...then I was picked up again later by Florencia and her friend Jorgelina to go out to dinner. We were joined by 4 more friends of Florencia´s and we ate Asado (Argentenian Beef...mmmmmm). We were seated about 12:30am and were done by about 2am...everything is late here in Argentina...

I got back to the Hostel around 2:30...met the night counter man, Eduardo, who is a wonderful Argentenian gentleman of probably 60 years. He wanted to know if I would stay another night...I said yes and paid him for the next night...this would be the first of many nights of paying $10 to Eduardo in
the early morning and saying that I would be here "Just one more night..."...famous last words...
 

Dec. 10, 1999 (Fri):
I Walked around city in the morning and went to the beach. Florencia met me and we went back to the central city beach to spend more time. While at the beach, some nearby kids heard me speaking English (and they could obviously see I was a foreigner)...well, anyway, they seemed enchanted (like I was
some sort of alien) and surrounded Florencia and I asking lots of questions.  They were very nice and I tried to answer questions about Texas, where I was going, etc...they were fascinated...I am not sure they had ever met a person from the United States before.

After the beach, Florencia and I walked down the pedestrian street (San Martin) and saw the city´s Cathedral. It was a nice cathedral...but I was more interested in the calendar in the plaza. The city had placed what looked like a daily calendar page on the ground...and it was updated daily to the correct day, month, year...it was cool.

Florencia had a special treat for me that evening...her parents were preparing a parrilla dinner. I arrived and met her parents, her wonderful dog Leo, and several other friends of hers. It was a great evening, with dinner starting around 11:30pm and ending sometime around 2am. Whether I wanted to or not, I seemed to end up doing lots of talking during dinner...about life in the USA, my travels, US politics, and the Malvinas/Falkland Islands (Note: The Argentinians will always call them the Islas Malvinas...because they do not recognize the British name Falkland. If you visit and want to stay on good terms, don´t call them the Falklands.). They seemed very interested (they were probably just humoring me)...I know I am very interested in the Argentinian culture and want to learn all that I can. I appreciated being invited into their home and to share the parrilla with them...it was a wonderful experience that is VERY
Argentinian.

Florencia and I then went dancing at Sobremonte Disco...it is a huge place that has several dance-floors, an amazing interior decor, and is very hip...got in at 5am...just as the sun was coming up...

Howdy Eduardo...here´s another $10...just one more night...

Dec. 11, 1999 (Sat):
I Woke at noon or beyond...Went with Florencia and about 6 other friends to beach South of the city...there was a surfing competition of some sort...on what seemed to me to be small waves. Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out at the beach, watching the surfing, and a couple of guys had brought kayaks. I
eventually got in one and enjoyed kayaking in the Ocean...it was quite different and I liked it alot. I also got my first taste of the Argentinian drink, mate (pronounced ma-tay).

Now, you must understand...if people drank mate in the USA like they drink it in Argentia...the police would go nuts!!! You have to understand that mate is served in a large aluminum or wooden cup. The cup is filled with coarsly-cut green mate leaves...and hot water is added. It is drunk through a metal/aluminum straw that has a filter at the end to keep the leaves out. Once a person drains the cup of liquid, the cup is refilled with more hot water and is passed to the next person. It is quite social and a wonderful way to pass time. Now, I must tell you that the first cup seems quite bitter...but like beer (I hear) you get accostumed to it and learn to like it. If you passed a mate cup around the beaches of the USA, the people
would think it looks similar to taking Bong-hits of marijuana...it looks just the same...without the smoke and drugs...

Florencia had to meet some other friends, so I went with out on the town with the only other travellers in the hostel...4 Irish guys (Anthony, Decklan, Colm, and John) who had spend a year or more in Australia, and were spending 2 weeks in Argentina before returning to their real lives in (REAL COLD!) Ireland. We went and had dinner at a local parrilla (whatelse??!!)...had wonderful lomo (steak) and then went to the AltaMira Pub.

We started talking to several Argentinian girls Maria Florencia, Patricia, Carolina, Cecillia,etc...only one of the guys could speak any Spanish (note...their English was pretty suspect as well...thick Irish accents made it difficult for me to understand the blokes!)...but it didn´t seem to matter much...we all chatted until we were basically kicked out of the pub at 7am.

I have now learned why they call them the fighting Irish...Colm and John fought and wrestled all the way back to the hostel...I think that both the alcohol and their Irish blood had lots to do with the scuffling that seemed in no way to be malicious...just two bulls fighting to keep in practice.

...again, Howdy Edurardo!...another $10..."just one more night"...CRASHED at 7:30am.

Dec. 12, 1999 (Sun):
Woke at 1pm feeling like I had gotten up at 4am in the USA...WAY TOO EARLY!!!...decided that this "good life is going to kill me...how do these darned Argentinians do it!!??? Always out late...arrrrghhhh...oh, well...I guess it is one of the problems with travelling (smile)!

The Irish guys and I went to a North Beach with Maria Florencia, Patricia, Carolina and others. Again, enjoyed the sun...they had about 10 of their friends arrive and join us. They passed around the mate cup (bong)...we hit the ball around like volleyball...and generally enjoyed the day.

I returned to Hostel and met Florencia and her cousin Ximena. They wanted to show me a different area of town. We went to Bosque de Something (private housing area)...Bosque means forrest and it was a lot of nice houses nestled in between lots of tall evergreen and pine trees...it was a nice place. We returned to the hostel. I met Dave/Australia who is travelling in South America for a year.

I was downstairs in the hostel talking with Florencia and Ximena when Eduardo started talking to us about gauchos and cowboys from Texas...ofcourse, he motions that cowboys have guns. I said that No,
cowboys these days don´t carry pistols with them normally. Next thing I know, he pulls out a .38 caliber revolver (unloads it) and hands it to me...and says that it is like a cowboy pistol. Arrrrrgggghhhh!!! Now, you should know, I HATE PISTOLS!!! They are good for nothing but killing people and most people who handle pistols aren´t qualified to shoot anything other than their own feet...but anyway, here I am holding this pistol...yes, well, Eduardo...ummmm...nice pistol...now, why don´t we put that away...OK...???
(Now, I say I hate pistols...but I own 3 rifles and a shotgun...which I use to hunt animals...so I am not a gun hater...just pistols.).

Anyway...we ALL (myself, Dave, the Irish guys, the girls we met at Altamira, Florencia, and Ximena) went to dinner at a Parrilla. Then went to a big bar/disco called Ramona´s bar...danced and stayed there until 5am...dancing and carrying-on...

Returned to Hostel...I gave Eduardo another $10 for "just one more
night"...and so were Colm and Anthony (it had become routine that we all paid every morning as we staggered in)...well, I had mentioned the pistol incident to them earlier...and now, they asked Eduardo to see it...Eduardo being a nice guy (who has poor gun safety skills...never give any gun to drunken people!!!) handed them the gun (unloaded, thankfully). They proceeded to wave it around, quick-draw, point the damn thing at everything and everyone in the room, and dry-snapped it several
times...AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!! I could not even bear to watch the proceedings...I went straight up to the room and hoped they would not shoot themselves, anyoneelse, or me through the floor.

I was wound up (too many hits of Coke and seeing too much gunplay) and ended up talking with Anthony and Colm when they came up to the room until 6am...they pointed out that they had not really handled a guns before...their good-natured quote was "We´re Irish...we don´t know anything about guns...just bombs. (smile/grimmace)...crashed.

Dec. 13, 1999 (Mon):
Woke at 9:30 am after only a few hours of sleep. Went with Dave to use internet. Met Florencia and Ximena at Hostel and went with them, the Irish guys, and Dave/Australia to exclusive beach South of town. Ximena´s family rents a "beach cabana" each summer...at a cost of $1300 for 3-months, it
amounts to these people REALLY liking the sun, sand and surf. The Irish guys, one Argentenian guy, and I ended up playing soccer against 6 Argentenian guys...and would believe it, we won by 12-9!!! I had played as both goalie and forward...it was a blast...but exhausting! Swam in the ocean (cold)...body surfing...had mate by their cabina...and took the bus
back to town.

Went to dinner with Patricia/Carolina, the Irish and Dave and had huge hamburgers. Now, I donít mean big hamburgers...I mean HUGE...the big sizes were enough to feed two hungry people...they were enormous. After stuffing ourselves, we went to another club and played pool until late. During the
time there, we met two guys who are Argentinian but have been living in Canada for the past 11 years. They are the only Argentenian-Canucks I have ever met...they were nice guys.

...got back to hotel at 4:30am...early night...paid another $10 to Eduardo for "just one more night" and crashed.
 

Dec. 14, 1999 (tue):
Woke at Noon...Dropped off laundry with Anthony, our clothes were getting pretty rank. Used internet while watching the grizzly aftermath of a bank robbery gone bad on TV (Argentinian programming shows all the gore of 2 bank robbers killed...blood and them being loaded into body bags...go figure). I walked around town some...returned to hostel and met Ximena and friend Agustina, both history students.

Dinner with just Anthony and John...we were served a lovely meal...however, we ended up eating nothing that we had ordered!!! We got different steaks and potatoes than we had ordered...but mmmmmm....they were good! Anyway, needless to say, we had ordered the cheapest steaks on the menu...they served us the most expensive (pepper steaks and a wonderful kind of Au Gratin potatoes)...we argued and they gave us the cheap prices!!! Again, we returned to Altamira Pub and were met by Ximena, Augustina, Florencia, the other girls, the 2 Canadian/Argentinian guys and their friends...it ended up being a huge group. I told everyone that I would be leaving tomorrow, so everyone said goodbye to me. We all had a great night dancing and I ended up talking with Agustina about Texas, history, and international relations
most of the night...

Got back to the hostel around 5am...paid Eduardo another $10 for another day in Mar De Plata...oh, what the hell!

Dec. 15, 1999 (Wed):
Well...so much for leaving...got up around 2pm as usual...went to the South Beach with the guys and met-up with Ximena and Florencia at their cabana...played a poor version of volleyball on the most abysmally (sp?) bad net and court I have ever played...literally stones the size of your fist were intermingled with sharp shells on one side of the court (our side). Needless to say, we had more of the sun and more mate before returning via bus to a place to get Churros. The Irish guys had not sampled this delicacy...they were impressed (Impressionate!!)...walked back to hostel.

Started to repeat things...Dinner at the HUGE hamburger place with Anthony and John...Alta Mira...met up with the Canadian guys...went to another bar...then to Ramona´s...back home at 5am...again paid $10...buenos noches
Eduardo...

Dec. 16, 1999 (Thur):
Got up at 11am (early day...)...internet...(note to self...somewhere today,   I reset the camera from the 17th to the 16th)...

Met Florencia, Ximena, and Agustina at the Playa Grande beach with Colum, Anthony, and John...more mate, ofcourse. Now, this time, I was thinking that the mate was affecting me more than usual...I could have sworn I looked up past the thong-clad girls on the beach, past the swimmers, beyond the surfers, and saw a submarine...??? YES...I can now say I have seen a real live submarine cruising along in with it´s top above water...I guess the darned thing was coming into the port. Don´t know if was US, Argentenian, Russian, or Albanian for that matter...but it was certainly a sight!!! I took a picture and I hope it turns out.

We spent quite a while hitting the ball around in a volleyball circle, swimming, and body-surfing. Saw a beautiful sunset...and walked back to hostel. I said goodbye to Ximena and Agustina, as they would not be able to go out with us that night...and I expected (I think) to leave tomorrow.

The guys rallied and went to La Princessa Hamburger joint...all ordered hamburgers...devoured them...then ordered another round of hamburgers and devoured them again...joined by Florencia, Karina, and Patricia...went to a club until 4:30...walked with John back to Hostel...I checked Bus schedules...

I went back to hostel and packed while the Fighting Irish (Colm and John) went at it tooth and nail...apparrently, Colm had woken John the night before...so John proceeded to climb up into the top bunk with a passed out Colm and started to bug the &%$"$!! out of him until they were wrestling
around the room. They were laughing as the basically beat the crap out of eachother...it isn´t easy to pack your bag while two guys are flailing around the entire room (sorry guys...I think in all the mayhem, I took one of your sets of Teva Sandals...because when I unloaded my pack today, I found a similar, but different pair from my own...hope you are enjoying mine). I caught a bus at 6am bound for Buenos Aires...zzzzzzzzzz.

Doug
Texas Nomad