Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Sao Paulo, Brazil-Buenos Aires, Argentina--Day 11

Today I flew from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires. This meant that I had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to catch my taxi down to the airport for 5:30, to make my plane for 7:45 am. I got up (setting two alarms but luckily my softer one woke me up first and I was able to turn of the loud one) and made it down to the lobby at 5:30 and my taxi driver was standing there waiting for me. It was the same driver that brought me from the airport and I was both surprised that he was there but relieved at how efficient the taxis have been so far. All of them have been eager to take me places and have offered to pick me up, which is good--at least I hope it won’t get me into any trouble! Anyways, I made it to the airport before the sun was up and checked in. At check in desk the man who was working there made me check my luggage, against my complaints. He said that anything over 6 kilos had to be checked…mine was 20! Whoops. So I had my laptop and camera with me, so off went my bag and of course I had this funny feeling…

Anyways, my load was drastically lightened which was actually something I could get used to and I made it to my gate and waited for my plane. There were lots of people walking around holding these plastic boarding passes for my flight, and I started to wonder if I needed one. Turns out they were for people who had been on the flight before which was a British Airways flight from London to Sao Paulo, and then on to Buenos Aires. So everyone was speaking English! Well, most of them anyways and it was funny hearing all of these British accents along with English and being in Brazil. I guess after 5 days of Portuguese it took me by surprise.

My plane flight from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires was really great. Honestly, everyone should take British Airways because not only do you get food on most flights, but you get lots of leg room and a movie! Even though my flight was only two hours, I still got to watch (most of) Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World--pretty good, but even better for me considering I thought I wouldn’t get to watch one!

When the plane landed the air stewardess came on the intercom and made a special announcement. She said for the following passengers to please contact the representative outside of the aircraft. She listed three names, something like Smith, Jones and Henderson and then got off of the intercom. I thought phew, at least my name didn’t get called. Then she came back on “oh, and passenger Galbraith.”

Great. I bet my luggage was lost into the luggage oblivion. I’m only going to be here three days!! This can’t be happening to me now!! I wasn’t even going to check my luggage!

Anyways, I was redirected several times to different people to ask about my luggage. Finally I made it through immigration and was able to find the British Airways “Lost Luggage” center. They were actually very helpful and said that my luggage was already on its way, and that it would be here in an hour and a half and delivered to my hotel. Ok so this wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. I filled out some paperwork and crossed my fingers that my luggage would arrive (soon!).

After this unpleasant distraction, I met my taxi for the hotel. We went outside and it was HOT. Really hot. Like over 100 degrees hot. I started to sweat immediately and couldn’t believe how hot it was. It was an immediate reminder of a Tucson summer day--those days when you just want to be inside because it is too hot outside! Anyways, the hotel was about an hour away so I was able to watch the view from the taxi and take things in.

We arrived at the hotel and I checked in, giving myself just enough time to get things sorted out in the room and then went downstairs and headed to the Temaiken Animal Park near Buenos Aires.

Abiding by the advice of my lovely friends Anna and Barb, I got the hotel concierge to hail me a taxi. I hadn’t realized it when I walked in the first time how extraordinarily good looking all of the men working at the concierge desk were. I found myself getting extremely flustered when asking for my taxi which of course made my Spanish incomprehensive (not to say that it wasn‘t already!). But they would just smile and speak back to me in perfect English.

My taxi driver was a nice man who hadn’t been out to the Animal Park before so we didn’t really get lost, just had to ask directions a couple of times at various toll booths that we came to. About 45 minutes later we made it and he promised to pick me up again so we arranged a time and I set off.

This animal park is a really nice area. Apparently it is brand new so everything is really up to date and just a nice place. But hot. I wasn’t able to change into my sandals or skirt that I’ve brought, so I went through the zoo with not only pants and heavy shoes on, but with no hat and no sunscreen. Ok, I will stop complaining about the heat now! That’s the last of it.

I found the hippos after some confusion (the signs for the Mesopotamia section looked a lot like a hippo!) and found the two (Bibi and Chiku are their names) sleeping in the water. They were so funny! It was the first time that I’ve seen hippos underwater. There was a really nice viewing area at the hippo enclosure so you could see the hippos both above and below the water. They would roll around a little and come up to breath and they just looked so funny sleeping underwater.

Luckily the enclosure was in the shade and had plenty of places to sit, so I “set up camp” and watched these two for the next five hours (besides an ice cream and souvenir shop run of course). They didn’t do all that much except sleep and occasionally swim around a little bit. They were also fed at one point which was nice since that meant that their heads were out of the water for a bit. They were really funny going around their pond underwater. They would swim really close to the glass and look at everyone looking at them. They scoped out everyone twice, but the rest of the time that I was watching them they were sleeping underwater. I also got a few looks because I was sitting there for so long. People would go and then come back to see the hippos again and I would still be sitting there in the same place. I pretended not to notice them talking about me, but I understand Spanish! J

It was eventually time for me to go and I headed out of the park and met my taxi driver. He took me back to the hotel and it was time for dinner. I decided to take the subway and after a few confusing bits made my way to Santa Fe Street which is a really big shopping street in Buenos Aires. I found myself in a mall and walked around for a bit (looking for sunglasses which I forgot!) and finally found some outside in a small shop. I had empanadas for dinner (thinking of you Barb!) at a really small side street type of place and then made my way back to my hotel via the subway again. I felt pretty good about finding my way around and am glad that Buenos Aires has a little bit more to do than Sao Paulo.

That brings me back to the hotel and I’ve decided that tomorrow I am going to head back to Temaiken again to see if Bibi and Chiku get out of the water sometime tomorrow!