My first, and only previous, visit to La Plata was in 2013 during my first trip to Argentina. That trip was career-changing for many reasons, but it also taught me a few valuable lessons.
On that first trip, I missed my first flight. I'd been in Queensland for several months (despite the fact that I was living and working in Sweden at the time) and forgot how chaotic Melbourne Monday mornings can be. I thought I'd left myself plenty of time to get to the airport by train and SkyBus... and I didn't. And because I missed that flight to Sydney, I missed the subsequent ones that would have taken me to Santiago and Buenos Aires. Pro tip: don't ever do this. Had I listened to Flight Centre, I would have had to pay more than the cost of a new set of flights to change them: thankfully, a kind gentleman from LAN Airlines was able to rectify the problem for about a third of what Flight Centre was going to charge me.
I arrived in Buenos Aires a day late but made up for it by getting straight to work at Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales (MACN; 21th–24th August 2013). There I met with Paul Upchurch and Phil Mannion, with whom I'd be travelling for the rest of the trip (the vibe of this year's trip could not be more different; I'm travelling alone).
We headed to La Plata on the 25th, and I had one good day in the collections (working mainly on Neuquensaurus) before my trip took a bit of a downward turn. I had had a dull earache for a week. I periodically moved my jaw and massaged behind my ear in order to ease the pain, but to no avail. After an interrupted sleep, during which I thought I had successfully unblocked my ear, I woke at 5:00am on the 27th to find that the entire left side of my face was paralysed. I was in shock. Could I have had a stroke? I checked my symptoms and they fit better with Bell's Palsy - my ear infection had become so severe and put my facial nerve under so much pressure that it stopped functioning! I immediately returned to Buenos Aires to see what could be done, and a doctor confirmed Dr Google's diagnosis and said that it should self-rectify. So, for the next two weeks, half of my face looked like Droopy Dog, but once we made it to Trelew I was back to "normal". Thus, my first trip to La Plata lasted a grand total of two nights rather than the projected four.
Fast forward to October/November 2018, and La Plata struck again. However, just like last time, I can't really place the blame on the city itself.
At the start of my last day at the MACN, my camera battery was running low. I inserted the battery into the charger, plugged it in to the powerboard I'd been using all week, and heard a "pop". Normally, a small orange light turns on when charging is in progress, but this no longer happened. Needless to say, I was a bit worried - my camera was essential to the success of the trip! Like an idiot, though, I put off trying to find a replacement charger (which, again, you should never do) until I got to - you guessed it - La Plata.
Changing topic slightly for a moment: I made another mistake before arriving in La Plata. In May, I had sent Marcelo Reguero - the Collections Manager - an email requesting access to the two named Antarctic dinosaurs in the Museum's collection. At around the same time I was sending emails to curators and collections managers throughout Argentina and - much to my disdain - I received responses from no-one. I eventually realised that they were all going to my junk mail, and that their responses had been prompt; however, I somehow failed to notice that my request to study in La Plata had not been granted. I only realised my mistake the day before I was due to start researching! Frantically, the night before, I sent an email to Marcelo... and he agreed to let me study there for the whole week. Had the Museum been busier, or had those specimens been off limits for whatever reason, there would have been no reason for me to visit. Lucky! Another pro tip though: don't do this either!
Back to my camera troubles: the charge in my batteries lasted until the end of my first day in La Plata. Once they were flat, I took action: the next morning, I went hunting for a universal charger, thinking that it would suit my purposes. I visited at least seven shops, showed them my camera's battery and asked them if they had anything that would work. None did. It started to rain, metaphorically and literally.
Deflated, I headed towards the Museum and started typing notes about Antarctic dinosaurs while mulling over what to do. I eventually worked out that I could buy chargers online through Argentina's Amazon equivalent, MercadoLibre. With the help of Julia Desojo, I made the purchase and put the delivery address as the Museum itself. It was meant to arrive on Wednesday, but didn't. In the meantime, Julia let me use her camera (too kind), but I was still worried. By Thursday I'd all but given up - the charger had not arrived. Worse still, overnight I received an email from the courier company Ocasa that stated that they "could not find my address". How they could fail to find Museo de La Plata, one of the biggest and most prominent buildings in La Plata, beggared belief.
With Marcelo's help, I contacted Ocasa, and was informed that I needed to pick up the package in person from a warehouse in Buenos Aires. It was 1.45pm on Friday; the warehouse closed at 6. I needed to get money out before departing (and was lucky to be able to do so - the bank wouldn't process the transaction, and I only arrived at the only official currency exchange building in La Plata at 2.45pm, about fifteen minutes before closing time). I left La Plata for Buenos Aires in a taxi (a trip which takes a little less than an hour, and costs the equivalent of ~70 AUD [more than I'd paid for the charger]), full of hope that I'd finally be able to get my charger and make the most of the rest of my trip. However, on arrival I was told that my package had been returned to the vendor. Without phone reception or wifi, I had no way of knowing who they were or getting in contact with them. Angry, frustrated and dismayed, I returned to La Plata.
Once back, I used the Hotel's wifi to check my emails again. I found that the vendor had sent me an email with instructions for what to do if my package was undelivered. I noticed that the business was open from 11am-2pm on Saturdays, and that they had left a contact number. After trying (and failing) to talk with them in English, I was able to get one of the hotel attendants to call on my behalf - and found out that I could indeed pick up a charger in person the next day! I was elated... even more so when I picked up the charger this morning. In fact, as a failsafe I bought two; that caution has already been validated, since the light in one of them doesn't work even though it does seem to be charging the batteries.
I'm now in Buenos Aires, heading to Plaza Huincul tomorrow. This evening, I will finish writing up the blog posts on the two Antarctic dinosaurs I studied in La Plata. If nothing else, this post will explain why my some of my specimen photos are not up to my usual standards!
I would like to sign off by thanking Marcelo Reguero for hosting me at Museo de La Plata last week, and to Julia Desojo for being so helpful while I was there. I should also thank Martin Ezcurra for hosting me the week before last at the MACN. You guys are awesome - muchas gracias.