Buenos Aires: Mafia Children

Better put anti-theft devices on this rare artisan beer. And charge £7 a bottle for it too!

Another day, another mini-heatwave. Yet again, another day walking around Buenos Aires was thwarted by this 38°C weather. Yes it’s not quite Kuwait and yes I know many of you in the Northern Hemisphere are probably headbutting your screens with jealousy, but it’s difficult. Travelling halfway round the world to attempt to explore a city that does its best to chew you up and spit you out is, in all honesty, disheartening. I never expect any city to bow down to my every whim, but Buenos Aires is a hostile customer. Before I go any further, I am not willing to sit here and list everything I don’t like about this city, but I will admit that Buenos Aires is not an easy ride.

I was on the Subte earlier (the Buenos Aires subway), falling asleep in my chair after a failed rendezvous with a friend, and a small kid got on. I’m not talking a kid in the colloquial, anyone-younger-than-me sense, no; I’m talking like… a 5-year old. Just… on the tube. On his own. Hopped up onto the seat next to all the commuters like a midget sitting at a bar, then proceeded to stand up, walk across the carriage, and take my subway ticket out of my hand. For the record; you don’t need a ticket to exit the system, only to get in, so I let him walk away with it, because what do I care? He stood at the doors waiting for the next stop, staring into the ticket’s soul with a smirk on his face like he couldn’t believe his luck. Like a man who’d struck gold in Alaska in the 19th Century. I don’t understand what he was going to do. Sell it? Use it? Give all his friends paper cuts?

Later that day, I had to return to the sweatbox depths of the Subte for another cross-town trip. I approached the ticket machine, put in my 5 pesos for a journey (which is literally about 20p), and the ticket that came out of the machine, somehow, had been ripped in half and sellotaped back together. A strange theme that runs across money, tickets and other paper-based pursuits in this country, the sellotape immediately peeled off (maybe the humidity/heat melted the adhesive?) and I found myself with two half-tickets for the price of one. The story goes nowhere from here as I simply got it replaced with a full ticket, but that Subte journey was plagued by doubts as to how that ticket ended up in the machine. Nobody wants a re-used ticket.

El Congreso de la Nación Argentina

My Subte of thought was then interrupted by another small child entering the train. I was at the end of the carriage and he entered by the door right next to me. He stopped in front of me and extended his hand. Not palm-up like he wanted money, just kind of… lingering like a half-assed Nazi salute. I said ‘no gracias’ mostly because I had absolutely no idea what was going on and the day the proletariat manhandles me is the day I sell my antique rifle collection. He moved onto the next person, who immediately went for the gangster, five-part handshake this kid had been expecting from me. The next person was the same. And the next, and the next, and the next. This kid went all the way down the carriage fist-bumping, hi-fiving and practically thumb-wrestling every commuter on the train, like he was some sort of infant mafia drug lord who’d make their bloodline disappear if they didn’t oblige. I thought up this scenario simply because everyone was doing this handshake with him, but when he got to the far end of the train, he took it up a notch.

He turned round and slowly headed back toward me, arms open like Jesus on the cross, head tilted slightly to the left, palms facing upwards, and every person on the train handed him money. This wasn’t just begging; this was cult-of-personality shit, like little Gaucho over here was a faith healer who’d just made a blind man pretend to see again. He got to me, stuffed the wads of 10 peso notes into his pockets, turned, opened his hand, this time for money rather than a handshake, and I repeated, ‘no gracias’. Sorry kid, even those sorts of heroics can’t save you from my frugality.

One of the original versions of Rodin’s The Thinker

Last night I got a pay packet from my work that had been sitting around in London for a month, so we went to a famous steak restaurant – La Brigada in Palermo – to get… well, steak. I mean, there’s not much more to say other than it was a damn good steak, and about the size of my head. Combine that with a £3 bottle of Malbec and you are laughing. Would totally recommend.

Also noteworthy was a free tour of the Argentine Congress building (Congreso de la Nación Argentina) which we were looking forward to until the tour started and we realised there would be no English spoken at all. They only did Spanish-language tours, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on or what I was looking at, but hey, who doesn’t love a free tour of a random building?


Buenos Aires: Mi Nombre Es OK

Eva Perón singing or Shakespeare eating a sausage roll?

Buenos Aires is not a normal city. Or at least it isn’t by any European standard of sanity. In the 72 hours I’ve been here, I’ve lost my luggage, seen a mass political protest, made a jailbreak from my hostel, almost been mugged, accidentally went to a waterpark, been elbowed in the face while moshing to improvised drumming, danced an Argentinian tango with a German stranger, attended a pingpong tournament, and of couse, gotten lost. More than once.

Where do I even start? I just got back from La Catedral, a tango club in the west of the city centre. Somehow – despite having barely ever even bobbed my head gently to a solid beat – I was persuaded to attend an Argentinian tango lesson with two people from my hostel. I was fairly convinced I would spend most of the time with my face on the floor, but instead it actually… went OK. I mean granted it was literally the simplest of simple routines, but trust me, when you’re paired up with a total stranger and you’re scared of crushing every metatarsal in their feet to dust with every faux-elegant lurch forward into dancefloor darkness, the famously gracious tango becomes more like trying to defuse a bomb with your hands tied behind your back. Also try climbing into your microwave and hitting the full baked potato reheat button and you’re still only about half as hot as it was in there.

Bomba del Tiempo

OK so I should probably jump back to the beginning now. God it feels like a long time ago now, but my luggage was lost by the utterly incompetent fools at LAN – comfortably the worst airline I have ever flown on. Judging by the fact that they took 3 hours complete the seemingly very simple task of successfully getting people onto a plane at Santiago, I just knew some bullshit was afoot. I knew something was going to happen to my luggage. Lo and behold, 4 hours later I found myself standing at the baggage carousel like an evangelist waits for the Second Coming, eyeing up the slack-jawed bellend in the LAN uniform across the room that I knew I’d have to speak to in about 30 seconds to ask whether they’d predictably left my luggage in Santiago. Oh what a surprise; they had done.

So what next? I was forced to go to the hostel wearing the same clothes I had been for the previous eternity, and I arrived to a few surprises. First off, I had turned up at this hostel to work. And so had every other person in the hostel. This may seem like an exaggeration but I literally don’t think there was a single guest there. It was difficult to tell. Either way, I won’t go into too much detail but after one night I had pretty much comprehensively decided that this hostel was not for me. The next day, my baggage miraculously showed up, so I gathered my things, pretended I was changing rooms, and I bolted, never to return.One night in a hilarious padded-cell-style, bedsheetless one-star hotel later and I found myself at BA Stop Hostel, which is nothing short of excellent. The staff, atmosphere, guests and general feel of the place is fantastic – despite a fellow traveler going to get me Mexican food and failing because the restaurant was closed. I mean what do these people take me for?

Not one of those bullshit cafés.

Getting around in Buenos Aires is an ordeal. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you will be diving in at the deep end. Take yesterday for example; with my gigantic suitcase I was stopped in the street by a man with an M&M inexplicably glued to the side of his face. He said something in Spanish, at which point I attempted to respond, but instead he got out a pair of socks. I assumed he was trying to sell them to me, but instead placed them next to my head and measured the difference. A few confused words were exchanged in our respective languages:


  • “What are you doing?”
  • “Nada. Where you from?”
  • “England.”
  • “AH your name is?”
  • “My name?”
  • “Si, in Spanish is ‘mi nombre es'”
  • “Ah, OK”
  • “Your name is OK?”
  • “No no my name is-“
  • “Nice to meet you OK.”

Shortly after this, Pedro (I asked his name after I gave up trying to convince him my name wasn’t a term of understanding) and another one of his little homeless friends tried to sell me some more socks, at which point I walked away, with Pedro’s little mate in close tow. And I’m talking literally less than an inch. He was brushing up against me as I walked up. Either he was looking for some action or he was attempting to get in my pockets. Or both. Luckily Pedro’s little mate was no match for my buttoned-up pockets. Pedro’s little mate goes home empty-handed this time.

This man span around on his head later on.

That night I went to Bomba del Tiempo, a strange improvised drumming concert that apparently happens every Monday, but seemingly the whole city came out for it. After a few beers, a few more Fernets (look that disgusting shit up) and a mosh pit, I ended up in an afterparty. The drumming ensemble reconvened in a room about the size of a small bathroom and continued to play. Loud is not the word. Then in the adjacent room, a ping pong tournament was taking place, and I’ll say no more other than Argentinians take 2am drunk drumming-afterparty ping pong tournaments very, very seriously.

Onwards and upwards. More to follow soon.


Santiago: Layover of Death

That’ll stop those fare-dodgers.

Stepping onto my 14-hour flight to Santiago from Madrid yesterday (God time is a total blur right now), I got hemmed into just about the smallest space available on a passenger plane; in the very middle, bookended by two rather large German men who both promptly fell asleep and slumped into my personal space a little more with each clinical, efficient snore. Bearing in mind, we hadn’t even taken off by this point.

Strangely, I have seen both sides of LAN (Chile’s national airline) today. Madrid-Santiago, while a little squashed and filled with crying babies, was highly acceptable. However, the Santiago-Buenos Aires flight (which I’m actually currently on), is not so hot.

Cruising to Santiago, I hit up the wine, the whiskey, the gnocchi, the beer, the coffee, and the films. On an un-travel-related note, I don’t know if any of you have seen The Martian but I’d never gotten round to it until the flight, and I really have to ask; what’s the big deal? Rave reviews and massive box office for a pretty run-of-the-mill sci-fi film that mostly consists of a bearded Matt Damon listening to disco music and eating potatoes while simultaneously managing to entertain himself with the sound of his own voice for over a year. Also, I’m one for buying into the concepts laid out, even in particularly farfetched films, but there are vast fragments of The Martian were obviously compiled with little foresight. Two big questions hit me more prominently than most though:

  1. Why was Chiwetel Ejiofor, of British-Nigerian origin, cast as a Hindu man with the surname ‘Kapoor’? I mean there might be some unspoken explanation but to me it was just distracting.
  2. Matt Damon gets left behind after a big old storm on Mars and everyone’s like ‘oh shit there’s a storm’ like it happens all the time. How was there a storm of that strength on Mars. Even the most powerful Mars dust storms are barely a breeze.

Yes I know what you’re thinking but blah blah blah suspension of disbeblah can only go so far. Rant over.

So flight two is underway. Who would’ve known LAN still uses planes from the 19th century on their services? I feel like a Montgolfier Brother clinging to the side of a pink balloon. Or like I’ve been put in a cucumber that somebody has thrown across the Andes. I don’t think I need to say more really. In the end I guess it’s just a flight. In all honesty I’m distracted from the drawbacks by the fact that there’s a totally blind man sat next to me, and he’s spent the whole flight staring out the window.

On to Buenos Aires.


Madrid: Queso y Nueces

The view that greets you as you step off the Madrid Metro at Sol.

Somewhere in the highly regal, imperially-clad capital city of Spain, there is inexplicably a Costa Coffee, and in that aesthtically clinical, oddly silent Costa Coffee, I sit. I had always assumed the more refined palates of our European brothers would cringe at the quality of coffee churned out by UK chains, but the fact that the only thing I can see out the front door is a Starbucks (and a chihuahua wearing a hat) would indicate that my assumptions were wrong. But then again, Madrid, in the mere four hours I’ve been here, has already surprised me at pretty much every turn, which is saying something considering I was here literally eight months ago.

I mean, do I start with the fact that stepping into Barajas Airport Terminal 4 is like arriving into the inside of a giant pastry? Maybe that a street performer dressed as Homer Simpson wearing a Real Madrid shirt is running around the Puerta del Sol shouting ‘Vamos Barça’? Or do I top the list with the fact that not only is there a literal doppelganger of Sofia Vergara sat next to me with a cappuccino, but her subsequent doppelganger is on the opposite side of the room drinking a chai latte?

Don’t forget to dance when you get off the metro you fool.

In fact, I’ll opt for neither of those, and go for the truly unique sandwich bar in the city centre I found myself in at about 4pm. With undefined ‘meat’ swinging from every inch of available wall space, I found a small counter with about 20 burly Spanish men, all of whom turned to look at me as I approached, all simultaneously revealing a glass of cava in their hand as they did so. The strangest part? None of them were there together. It was just a casual buncha guys, drinking sparkling wine in the afternoon, surrounded by meat.

I sat on a stool at the bar and ordered a glass of red wine, for which the bartender asked for €0.50(!!!), and noticed a glass cabinet to my right, filled with sandwiches. Once I sussed that sandwiches were only €0.60 each, I jumped to order four at once. Problem is, I understand that ‘queso’ in Spanish means cheese, but am not all that familiar with further culinary vocabulary. What I did notice, however, is that every single sandwich in the cabinet was a mixture of ‘queso’ and another ingredient. Completely at random, my furiously pointing index finger picked out cheese and salami (nice), cheese and tuna (hmm…), cheese and morcilla (yes, that is black pudding), and finally, ‘queso y nueces’. Any Spanish speakers here are already one step ahead of me I’m sure; I had lumbered myself with a cheese and nuts sandwich. Debauchery is not the word.

The first small part of the first leg of my journey is over, but this 12-hour layover is really starting to drag. In fact, despite it dragging to a near-painful degree, I can still sum it up in a way you would understand. I came to Madrid in May with my good friend James to go to the Estadio Vicente Calderón and watch Barcelona win the La Liga title against Atletico Madrid. At one point in the match, then-Barcelona player Pedro took the most spectacular first touch after a long ball from Jordi Alba. Despite it becoming one of my major character flaws, I have spent many a day and night thinking about that touch, yet never found a video of it. So what have I done today? That’s right, I just re-watched the entire match just to find it. I mean, it’s a good touch and all but…

An inadvertent summary of my day

Back to Madrid Airport for the next leg. See y’all later.


The Night Before

Hello, I’m Gabriel, and welcome to my new blog, Hidden Gabe. I could say that, for a moment, that title made perfect sense. I now feel just as confused as you are.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m 24 years old, I live in London and I just quit my job to take a rather big trip. However, most of you reading this I assume will know me, so to cut to the chase; here we go – tomorrow morning at 10:25am I will be boarding a flight to Madrid, then a second flight to Santiago, then a third to Buenos Aires. Might as well get this out of the way early; I have to travel for almost 40 hours to get to my first destination BUT it’s also the start of what I hope will be an epic journey, navigating the entire circumference of the globe and including around 15 countries over 7 months. If there was ever a time to start another one of my idiosyncratic, rambling blogs that focus more on menial bullshit than the larger, more interesting picture, now is that time.

2015 was a pretty terrible year. Not in any tragic or actually terrible way, but in a sense that not much good really happened. So, I decided I would make sure 2016 would be better, and I would start by fleeing to Argentina like Adolf Eichmann, then on to Chile, Easter Island (YES I know it’s part of Chile), French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, India, and then back to the UK. That should sort me right out. So in a way I’m ‘hiding’ from London, hence the title? I’m clutching at my own straws here, if you’ll pardon the unsettling nature of such a phrase.

My finest travel moment to date. I hope to surpass it this year. Iceland, April 2014.

What do I expect from this trip? I have no idea. I’ve travelled alone before, but not at any great length, and always to places I’ve wanted to go for a long time. While there are places on my list this time that I have been dying to go to for many years (I’m looking at you, Japan), I will admit that some are just victims of circumstance; stepping stones that got in my way. So I expect the unexpected in all honesty. My mind is a little all over the place at the moment as I sit here buried under my laptop and ten cables, sorting out all my music and various other electronic companions that will no doubt cause me endless grief on my journey, but hopefully the next seven months will be filled with a little more insight than this rambling introductory blog entry.

I’ve had more people than I can count say ‘good luck’ to me in the past few days, but I feel like I should be the one saying it to all of you who are about to spend your precious time reading these blog entries.

Godspeed, and see you tomorrow for the first leg. I’ll say it agin; here we go.