Time Traveling with Biking Buenos Aires
“Get a bike,” they told me, “you’ll see so much of Buenos Aires on a bike.”
For months and months, this is what I heard. So when I was offered the chance to take a 7-hour bike ride through the city with Biking Buenos Aires, I leapt at the opportunity.
The Biking Buenos Aires tour met at the company’s San Telmo location, in a quaint office I immediately recognized as the spot for Jueves a la Mesa’s weekly dinners. The staff was friendly, as were the other patrons in our group (but then again, I can’t imagine anyone with mala onda volunteering themselves for a 7-hour bike ride) and we soon found ourselves sitting around the company’s coffee table, chatting and laughing while we waited for the rest of the clients to filter in. Once we were all gathered, the two guides, Rodrigo (main guide – he’d be leading us) and Anne (trail guide – she’d assure that the bikes, and the people on them, were managing well), explained where we’d be riding to that day and a few minutes later we were off; gliding through San Telmo with our stylish polo helmets.
The tour started on the edge of San Telmo at Plaza Lezama, where Rodrigo, our energetic, Buenos Aires-born-and-raised guide stopped us in front of the towering Pedro de Mendoza statue. Rodrigo carried us through Argentina’s early history: beginning with Mendoza’s colonization, continuing to the Paraguayan War, then captivating us with his retelling of Buenos Aires’ yellow fever epidemic.
“Questions?” Rodrigo looked around inquisitively, obviously hungry to instill us with more information. I had to manually close my gaping mouth, stunned by his knowledge of the city and how much more Buenos Aires “made sense” when considering its past.
“Why are there palm trees in this park?” one biker inquired, and Rodrigo launched into an acute explanation, tagging on a brief history of the botanist who brought them over. Cue gaping mouth once more.
Hopping back on our bikes, we continued the tour, looping through La Boca and stopping for a quick stroll through El Caminito which included an explanation of the tango movement and a brief history of the dictatorship (the chronological order of the tour was not lost on me). With wet eyes, we circled up to Puerto Madero, an abrupt juxtaposition against the former, more humble barrio. Once there, Rodrigo carried us through the history of the 90’s and millennium, explaining the corrupt quilombo behind Puerto Madero and the president who created a private corporation to fund the federal-local love child. Falling silent, his eyes darted from biker to biker.
“Who’s hungry?” he asked. Within minutes I was parked outside La Parrilla de Mis Sueños with the rest of the group, happily gnashing and gnawing away on what I can only describe as the best bondiola I’ve ever had.
With renewed, carb-induced energy, the afternoon seemed to fly by. We explored Retiro, then cruised over to Recoleta and heard the story behind Floralis Genérica, the steel flower plopped in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Climbing “Buenos Aires’ biggest hill,” we quickly reached Recoleta Cemetery where we engaged in the ritual-like sharing of mate before taking a quick walk around the graveyard of elites. Then, our group took off through Recoleta’s gold-studded neighborhood to reach the financial district, where we blended into the daily commotion of the city’s streets. The tour came to a close in front of the Casa Rosada before we all found ourselves back in the San Telmo office for water, alfajores, and a brief conclusion by Rodrigo and Anne.
I returned home that night exhausted, yet content: in my two years of living in Buenos Aires, never did I imagine there was so much history and so many secrets hidden throughout the city. Nor that I’d ever see so much of it on bike. Or so much of it period. Whether you’re in Buenos Aires for a decade or a day, check out Biking Buenos Aires for an immersing, fun, and informative look at the city that steals so many hearts.