The Oracle of Ballard

(John VerWey) Wandering around Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile

Some fun street art in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood.

Argentina and "The Blue Dollar"

The “blue dollar” is a colloquial term that refers to the unofficial exchange rate in Argentina. If you go to a bank or an ATM in Buenos Aires and pull cash you will get between 8 and 8.5 Argentine pesos to the dollar. However, if you are walking the streets and hear someone shouting “cambio!” you can walk up to them and, provided you have USD in hard cash and are willing to roll the dice a bit, can get 11.5 - 13 pesos per dollar. This means that on the blue market you can get roughly $150 in purchasing power for every $100 cash exchanged. Cheers to free money!
And, with Argentina expected to default again on Thursday (see link), it’s a good time to have some extra dollars on hand.

Montevideo’s former train station is a perfect example of this wasted potential. Built in 1897, abandoned in 2003, it retains a lot of its charm in spite of the current condition. Like much of the city, if there was even minimal investment in restoration, it would transform the space and surrounding neighborhood into a place that reflects the history while opening the door to future development.

Underneath that polished exterior, Montevideo is a city that’s former wealth has resulted in some serious urban decay. Above are buildings in some of the nicest neighborhoods that have yet to be restored.

Montevideo is a city of contrasts. In the pictures above you can see a bit of the image they want to project: a beautiful coastline (“the rambla,” above left), trendy bars (my table at bar fenix, above right), and historic buildings (the seat of their legislature).

This Wednesday I hopped on a ferry for the one hour trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay. From Colonia I took a bus in to Montevideo and promptly headed for the nearest diner to try a chivito. The picture pretty much lays it out, but a chivito consists of a thin steak with a slice of mozzarella-stuffed ham and an egg on top accompanied by a mess of French fries, potato salad, and some lettuce/tomatoes. Cholesterol bomb

Before and after: a basket of bread, grilled red peppers covered in garlic, a steak the size of my forearm, 1/2 a liter of the house red wine, and a cortado to top it all off. A dinner to remember, all for $18.

After hopping on a quick 2 hour flight to Buenos Aires (flew a KLM Boeing 777-300 - awesome plane) I checked in to my hostel in the Palermo neighborhood and walked around the corner to El Ateneo, a converted theater that is now considered one of the top 10 bookstores on earth. A fun place to wander around and leaf through a few books while sitting in one of the old theater booths, but the prices were laughably high. 50 Shades of Grey for $50? No thank you.

After a great week in Pichilemu we said our goodbyes on Sunday and prepared for the next stops on our respective journeys. I took a bus up to Santiago and, after a nights rest, hopped on a plane to Buenos Aires yesterday.

Pichilemu is famed throughout Chile (and internationally) for its waves. Surfers from around the world come here for the consistent summer rollers and the huge winter swells. Given that it’s approaching the middle of winter down here, we’ve seen plenty of waves between 3 and 5 meters, though nothing has approached the 5 feet at 15 seconds perfection that comes with the warmer months (sorry Bub).