Last time I finished by saying I expected the world I see is to change. Having moved on from Buenos Aires onto Rosario, Cordoba, Bariloche and now Mendoza, it probably would have been better to save this assumption.
My first stop post Buenos Aires was Rosario, Argentina’s third largest city. Though much smaller in comparison to the capital, there is a distinctly similar feel. Neighbourhoods tucked away among the narrow streets, those the scene of rather questionable driving, with stray dogs filling the pavements on the sides, all home to more quite mental football fans. If in Buenos Aires it was a struggle to get around the whole city in the relatively short time I was there, Rosario was quite the opposite. I saw much of what the place has to offer in a day. More green spaces, more football stadiums, and perhaps the focal point of the city in a giant monument. I didn’t see the house where Che Guevara was born, simply because I walked past it without noticing – it is literally a house. The city lies next to the Parana River, and on the second day the travellers at my hostel planned to go along there for a barbecue, and I would have seen the whole city in under two days, I’d say impressive for myself, but obviously I slept through the thing and missed all the fun.
If my luck was out in that regard, it certainly wasn’t the following day. By chance I was in Rosario when the city’s big football derby was taking place between Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys. My football experience in Buenos Aires was an uncompetitive party for River Plate, but this match was a heated rivalry, mood defining for all involved in the coming months. I went out with a few others from my hostel, and when a last minute decision to try and get into the Central ground failed, we settled on watching in a bar filled with Newell’s fans, so naturally we supported them. However Central ran out 2-0 winners.
For this city, and this derby, it’s a tradition for the fans of the winning team to gather down at the monument to celebrate. And like Sol Campbell and Charles Logan, Roose Bolton and Zayn Malik, some of the greatest traitors of our time, we left the Newell’s bar to celebrate with the Central fans. But that in itself is something I won’t ever forget. To me I’d just watched another football game, I’ve witnessed thousands of those in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such pure joy on the faces of the victors. They partied long into night. By comparison upon leaving the Newell’s bar I witnessed a grown man screaming into a television, while alongside him a woman cried into her drink.
It is well worth noting that one of my companions on this venture, Oliver, by chance, was from Sheffield. Of the people I’ve met along the way few have even been English, so what a treat to bump into someone from home. And how great to have a conversation about home again, rather than a place in England that’s near Manchester. We discussed Milburn, Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion push and Tramlines instead. And how good to discuss the people we actually care about in Britain, not having to talk about the Royal family and what they do. We spoke about Ricky Gervais, Jamie Vardy and Gail Platt. With each, hearing aggressive swearing in a Sheffield accent again was far more refreshing than any cerveza I’ve had in the last eight weeks.
But the next morning it was time to move on, I’m sure me and Oliver will reconvene conversations about Gail Platt’s lust for olives back in Sheffield, but for the time being I had much more of Argentina to see. I moved onto Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city, still tiny in comparison to Buenos Aires, but again very similar, and by this point I felt like my journey was repeating itself. It’s worth noting places in Argentina use the same names for streets, avenues and plazas, often after other places or famous people, and as I sat in yet another Plaza San Martin I couldn’t help but think this makes it difficult for any place in Argentina to create its own character.
Cordoba for this reason perhaps bore the brunt of my mood. I had far less fun company while I was here compared to my times in Buenos Aires and Rosario, and for this reason I have little to say about the place. It’s a nice enough city with some interesting culture, I couldn’t possibly compare it to my disaster in Paraguay, but I had far more time there than I needed. It was here that I made the bold decision to take a 23-hour bus south to Bariloche, and it was here that the world did change.