The traffic is horrendous in Argentina – and worse in Buenos Aires. Not in the sort of characterful way that people like to criticise the Italians or the Parisians for their enthusiastic honking and swerving, nor in that naively excitable way that Indians seem to pile on everything that moves.
No, the driving on display in the capital was genuinely fearful, to the extent that you are constantly expecting mass autocide. Every car is covered in battle wounds, and what rules of the road there are seem only invitational. Road signs, traffic lights and lane markings are reduced to the role of mere background clutter. I saw several incidents during several days of traipsing along the mean streets of the capital city, but was constantly surprised there weren’t a lot more.
Riding in the back of taxi cabs, only rarely equipped with rear seatbelts and sane drivers, you got a prime view of dicey manoeuvres conducted without the use of indicators, mere centimetres away from other cars. The traffic is a constant flow around Buenos Aires, like an epic flowing river. There must be more people on the go at once in Buenos Aires than there are living in the whole of Wales.
It wasn’t just cars, either, but motorcyclists in shorts, vests and flip-flops sat smoking at traffic lights, helmets perched right on the top of their heads. Huge colourful buses, brightly decorated and filled with people, blundering around with strings of inexplicable words festooned on their foreheads. Endless police cars with their lights constantly flashing, grotty little Fiats supplementing their meagre incomes by pulling over fancy cars and foisting spurious spot fines on them.
They do everything on a grand scale in Buenos Aires. The massive arterial road that flows into the middle of the city and up to the shores of the Pacific from the outer rim of the sprawling suburbs has seven lanes on each side at one point. Crossing the road here - and we're talking 14 lanes of baying traffic coming from all directions - even with the faintly reassuring knowledge that the green man is there to protect you (a knowledge that grows ever fainter the more accidents you see at traffic lights), is absolutely terrifying. You start off playing it cool, but by the fourth lane you break out into a trot that turns into a run before you’ve even reached the sixth lane.
We were supposed to rent a car and drive through Argentina to get to Patagonia where we would be staying with friends, but me losing my licence before we left put paid to that idea. In actual fact, although I had been looking forward to an epic roadtrip before I left Europe, once I had spent any amount of time watching Argentineans drive I was actually quite glad that I was reliant on public transport, however dangerous it might prove. I seriously and sincerely believe that losing my licence (which turned up while I was away) saved my life. The traffic was that bad.
3 hours ago