James Ihaka

On the road with the All Blacks in Argentina

Day Five: Following the All Blacks in Argentina

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Juan Carlos Pino, who runs the La Rienda Parrilla in Buenos Aires. Photo / James Ihaka
Juan Carlos Pino, who runs the La Rienda Parrilla in Buenos Aires. Photo / James Ihaka

After a few days in Buenos Aires I have made a number of observations, which today I thought I'd put into two categories.

WHAT BUENOS AIRES DOES BETTER THAN NZ

NO FAST FOOD THANKS:

I saw a McDonalds today after four days of looking for one in Buenos Aires.

And, no, it's not because I want a Filet-O-Fish with a side of McNuggets, I was just fascinated as to why you don't see the global "food" behemoth that often in Argentina.

This is a slow food country and while it may seem like entire beef farms are wiped out to serve customers at Parrilla around Buenos Aires, the Portenos like nothing more than to sit down at the end of the day and literally chew the fat over a Malbec, the par excellence local red that comes only in blends back home.

You will also struggle to find McDonalds mates over here; KFC, Wendy's and Burger King, although coffee Starbucks is making appearances throughout the city.

Another thing you won't see is extreme obesity: there are just so few overly large people here because their dietary options here are not flooded with deep-fried choices.

DRESS SENSE:

The women here are effortlessly stylish, elegant and fragrant. Even the men wear collared shirts and trousers to go out to buy a newspaper and wearing shorts in public earns sideways looks and laughs.

I saw a woman in Hamilton a few weeks ago in her pajamas at a supermarket.

CHEAP EATS FOR LOCALS:

It's a big gripe back home that New Zealanders see their best quality meat sent to overseas markets. No such problem here - the Argentine government has made exporting their world-class beef an expensive business for farmers, taxing them hard if they do so.

I heard locals began complaining when the started paying the NZ equivalent of about $12 for a kilo of rib-eye steak.

CLEVER, PETTY CRIME:

"Oh señor, a bird has crapped on your jacket!" has been heard more than once by All Black supporters over here, a couple of whom have had their wallets swiped.

WHAT NZ DOES BETTER THAN BUENOS AIRES

STUBBING OUT:

Local newspaper La Nación recently lauded Nueva Zelanda - not for its rugby, economic performance or low road toll - but for its arbitrary approach to smoking.

Back home I think a packet of cigarettes costs about $15 - here you can pick up a pack for $2.

The La Nación editorial said BA should follow New Zealand's lead as smoking rates, particularly among women, here are high.

STOPPING AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS:

Think you're safe crossing a Buenos Aires' road when the pedestrian lights go green? Think again. The lights here are more like "guidelines" rather than compulsory orders. Walking a pedestrian crossing has never been as thrilling.

EFTPOS:

Argentinians pay in cash and haven't embraced electronic transactions the way New Zealanders have. It's a shame because changing money into pesos over here is like undergoing root canal surgery.

Expat Kiwi Allan, our guide, told me he paid cash for his home - ha, try that in Grey Lynn!

RUGBY ?

Juan Carlos Pino runs our local Parrilla (steak house) in Claro and says Argentinians know the All Blacks "mas o menos" (more or less) because they're the best.

He also knows them because his daughter had her picture taken with Jonah Lomu in the early 2000s.

"It is a tough, physical sport, and when the All Blacks are here they pay attention," he said.

But the All Blacks have always struggled in Buenos Aires and there's a growing feeling among Pumas fans they could get the win they have never had but always wanted.

"Mas que nada" (more than anything) said Mr Pino.

James Ihaka is in Buenos Aires following the All Blacks and their supporters thanks to the courtesy of Air New Zealand.

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