Got up early, as normal, saw the sunrise from the hostel, gorged on breakfast to avoid needing lunch and went out to explore the city – that’s where the mayhem began. It was crazy. There were cars everywhere, people, workers, students, street vendors, peddlers, pushers, dogs, cats, everything. The roads were so busy. You could smell the exhaust fumes. One of the first times I went to cross a street I almost got ran over, this dumb gringo completely out of his regular setting and used to the heavily regulated streets of Sydney where pedestrians always have the right of way, no matter what, (yes, on the road, over cars, its stupid I now, and so am I). Freaking. It was way too active and fast paced and crazy for me, I was not ready for or used to this. Almost got ran over again, as I eeked my way towards the throbbing main artery road, 9 de Julio, the widest road in the world (no shit, check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9_de_Julio_Avenue). That was it. I was stunned. This road has seven fucking lanes in each direction and its so wide you need to cross in sections. The road was littered with vehicles of all sorts, cars, buses, many motorcycles, bicyclists, trucks, everything. I’m there attempting to cross and feeling somewhat scared and yes, maybe the most intimidated I have ever felt in a city, and thinking this is crazy, and I’m going to be travelling on this continent for months, never in my life had I seen, or heard anything like this; the insane activity in this huge city, the noise, the beeping, the fumes, the 14 lanes, feeling like a tiny microbe lost in a gigantic universe. People everywhere, going to work, standing about, selling stuff on the street, dogs running around, food vendors, it was all happening. My intent was to walk around and get used to the city, it took hours before I had adopted the pace and sense of the locals by watching them and was able to properly walk and cross roads without any issue. The sun was out, but it was cold, mid winter, I’m in this huge foreign place and its smashed me in the face with its neurotic, fast paced and frenetic vibe on a Wednesday morning. I walked. I walked for hours, I walk a lot when I travel, I study architecture and its the best way to get to know a city and really gawk at buildings. I did this for hours. It was hours before I had settled, but still, I was not comfortable, not at all, and all I could think about was having months of this ahead of me… I had the fear.
It was so dense. Reminded me of Europe. Some beautiful structures, some ugly, faded, cracked and degraded by decades of wear. Overall the urban fabric had a worn sort of feel to it. Aged.There were cracks on the pavement, stacks of rubbish in some areas. I quickly learnt to watch my step, and the ground, this was not pristine Australia with all its laws and pathetic humans suing each other because they are too fucking stupid not to slip on water or trip on a raised tile. This was real. Look after yourself, no bullshit, you are responsible for you. I loved this. Its part of the reason why I left the clean and comfort of home. The city was cool, but still so crazy. There were lanes blocked in areas by piles of concrete and construction-trash that had just been left in a huge mountain on the corner of a block (I have an undeveloped shot on my film camera, I was too scared and unsettled to pull out my SLR at this point). What a scene. I had completely accepted I was elsewhere but I was not used to it yet. There was lots of cool street art. I walked more, still paranoid of some of the suspect characters around and generally freaked by how this city functioned, maybe I shouldn’t have hit 9 de Julio so soon? But hey, I didn’t know shit at this point.
Ordered a greasy as hell pizza from Ugi’s which was awesome, just tomato, masses of mozzarella and herbs. Couldn’t finish it. Felt like I had eaten McDonald’s (eat a half, not a full, if you visit) so gave the rest to a homeless guy. Took a few more photos. I had been walking around like a tourist oogling at the city, its architecture, people, crazies, the lot for hours. I was wrecked. Had seen a fair bit so went back to the hostel. There were a lot of Spanish speakers and Brasillians, I had already realised I was at a huge disadvantage not being able to speak Spanish. Two beautiful girls from Cordoba checked into the dorm, but I couldn’t really speak to them apart from name, where I was from, that my family was Italian, which is why my name is odd for an Australian (I do not look Italian at all), never the less, they were really nice. I was dead from the day outside so read for a while then fell asleep.
Woke at about 1AM and the common room was mayhem. A cyclone of Spanish and Portuguese and I’m there doing my own thing kicking myself for not learning anything yet, reading and writing in my journal about the shock that was Buenos Aires. I could still smell the mozzarella from that pizza on my fingers. I finished writing and went back to sleep. I’d beaten any jet lag and after tonight would be okay with the change of time zones.
It was a crazy day. Those cars burning past me in small streets when I totally thought it was okay to cross. The noise. The fumes. The horns going crazy. No Spanish. So much activity. Never seen anything like it. I felt so small. So far from home, but that was the point. This was wanted I needed and deep inside wanted. Though I was intimated, I was hugely fascinated too. It wasn’t so bad, and I actually had plans to go to specific places the following days rather than just wandering around as Argentina slapped me back into a reality I had not expected. At all. An intense first day, in this overwhelming, pulsating, crazy city.