20.07.2012 - 22.07.2012 12 °C
When we arrived into Tucuman at 9pm on a Friday evening, for a split second I thought we had been transported through space and time to a different place. There were gangs of lads wearing tracksuits, congregated in a menacing formation and gesticulating aggressively at the bus. I thought for a moment we had somehow pulled into Tower Hill, Kirkby.
It didn't get much better after we got off the bus either. The hostel we had planned on staying at was only 10 minutes walk from the bus station so it seemed pointless taking a taxi, and after asking directions from the utterly useless tourist information office in the bus station, we set off. We got to the main road that we had to cross and on the other side were scores and scores of people hanging around the street engaging in heavy alcohol consumption. The only thing to do when walking around at night with a backpack on is to at least try and look as cocky and confident as everybody else, so while we were waiting in the central reservation I was busy practicing my best aggressive face. As I was busy practicing my best scowl, I saw a motorbike approaching quite closely out of the corner of my eye and just about managed to avoid a punch that was thrown at me from the passenger, said punch skimming my shoulder rather than hitting me in the face as it appears it was intended. As the bike roared off the passenger was looking back and laughing, and I thought "what a lovely chap".
We crossed the road and made our way through the drunken masses without any further problems, I imagine due to my impressive scowl, although the atmosphere was definitely more than a bit intimidating with just about everybody who we went past staring at us. When you've got a backpack on your back there is no hiding the fact that you've got all of your possessions with you. You know it, and they know it, and if there is a time when you're most vulnerable to petty theft, then when you're in transit between places is it.
We got to the hotel only to find out there was a dancing competition in town that weekend, and so he was completely full. We hadn't stayed in a hostel or hotel that had been full for a long time, so it was quite unfortunate that this one was. The receptionist kindly rang through to another hostel who did have space and duly gave us directions. The only problem was that the other hostel was 11 blocks away and in a bit of a dodgy area. We did the walk in less than 10 minutes along the badly lit streets passing people lurking in doorways, gangs of youths and more tramps than call Euston station 'home', and were so happy to reach the hostel unscathed that we immediately went across the road for a beer, and decided to leave as soon as possible.
When we got up the next day we headed down to the bus station, a much less intimidating experience in the daylight, and bought a ticket to go to Cordoba the next morning at 8am. That gave us one day to have a look around which was more than enough. There was a small market to browse and a plaza to do a lap of, but very few shops in the centre were open and you got the impression that if the city had ever had its heyday then it was long gone. The one highlight of the day was stumbling upon a 50 piece orchestra who played for an hour or so to promote some shows they were doing in town. Mid-afternoon we gave up on sight-seeing and went in search of a supermarket to get some steak to cook for tea, and quilmes to wash it down. We also made some butties to take on the the bus the next day and stuck them in the fridge until the morning.
As we were up early on the Sunday morning to catch our bus, we had a relatively early night. When we got up, we went to the fridge to collect our lunch and discovered that one of the 4 sandwiches that we had made for lunch had gone missing, presumably taken by one of the drunkern Frenchmen we could hear were still partying in the dorm opposite our room. I saw the funny side, and was thankful that he had left us 3 (although did wonder that if a drunkern Frenchman didn't want to eat it, how bad was it?) but Lou was outraged. It is one of the negative aspects of staying in hostels, and I was equally outraged when half of our cheese went missing in the hostel we stayed at in Salta, but its just one of those things unfortunately. Unless you catch somebody in the act, what can you do? It happens so frequently that it isn't just one or two people who do it, but a sizeable minority. If you can't afford some cheese to put on your pasta and sauce then perhaps its time to go home, grow some dreadlocks and live in a squat.