Day 43-44, 12-13FEB2017
Travel by Bus.
Check out this morning from our AirBnB was at 1100, so after packing all our stuff we stored our bags in a closet under the staircase and set out for one last lunch in Bariloche.
In truth our walk down into town had several purposes. Today we embarked on a 25 hour bus ride, and heeding warnings from Alex, we decided it wise to procure a couple sandwiches and snacks for the lengthy trip. A quick grocery stop and the least impressive meal we’ve encountered yet on our travels brought us to 1400 and back at our AirBnB to grab out bags.
We opted for a remis to drive us the ten miles from our AirBnB to the Bariloche bus station. Arriving at the bus station just before 1500 we whittled away the gloriously bright afternoon sitting under the shade of tall pine trees and read our respective books. I just finished The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England and am now starting on Historian Ian Mortimer’s second book The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England. I have enjoyed both books, written as if a Lonely Planet for the modern time traveler visiting historic England, and they actually pair very nicely with the real Lonely Planets I’m currently reading about Argentina and Chile (although Chile is now taking the front seat, understandably!).
Our bus arrived at 1700, which was actually when it was supposed to depart, so we were a bit behind schedule when we pulled into the river formed terrain north of Bariloche. The first agenda of our bus attendant was to feed us, and for the remainder of the trip this activity was a constant. Josh and I did nibble on a few of the snacks we brought though so they were not completely wasted.
The sun set on the first day of our trip after we said goodbye to Patagonia and made our way into the flat shrubby desert that makes up the next part of Argentina. Josh and I watched a few movies on his lap top since the movies offered on the bus were in Spanish. Before long we were both fast asleep – I managed just under eight and Josh caught almost twelve!
We paid for the executive service tickets on this Andesmar bus service from Bariloche to Buenos Aires. On both our previous Andesmar bus services we enjoyed first class, executive service class is like their second – or business – class, and the semi-cami class is the coach class. Coach was seated upstairs on our double decker bus, and so below we had just nine passengers. This made sleep much easier because there were less people staying awake and talking into the wee hours of the morning.
We did have to change buses at just past midnight in Nequin, but this only partially disrupted our sleep habits.
The next morning when the sun rose it was blanketed in a dense cloud of fog, and this fog clung to the farm and cattle land until the sky released rain. It then proceeded to rain until the evening. Buenos Aires eventually arrived at just after 1800.
What proceeded to happen next is a tale hard to tell in a short amount of space.
The first day we arrived in Buenos Aires the “tourist information” desk at the airport managed to provide us with a single tip: get a remis from the airport to the city. We obliged, but this cost us 690 pesos. Josh and I discussed the possibility that grabbing a metered taxi from the bus station in the city to our hotel by the airport might be a better (cheaper) option. So we decided to grab a taxi at the bus station.
This decision turned out neither the better nor the cheaper option.
Heed our warning.
For starters we hadn’t any small bills on us, having just passed our final 5 peso note as a tip to the bus luggage man. What happened when we tried to grab a taxi was a man appeared out of no where and tried to load our bags into the taxi trunk. He then hassled Josh for a tip, which we had none to give, considering Josh actually loaded everything in the trunk we weren’t going to part with a 100 peso ($10USD) note. The taxi driver then passed a few coins to the man who stood with his arms inside the taxi in front of the driver. The man, looking at the few coins which probably amounted to a few cents, then began crying.
We drove off though and the driver started the meter. This was another mistake.
Never let the driver take off without first showing them your destination’s address and making certain they know how to get to the destination.
Our guy, cigarette lit and smoking up the taxi car had no idea where we were trying to go, even when Josh turned on roaming to pull up googlemaps and show the man, the driver still pulled over and asked every taxi driver at the bus station where the place was – all the while the meter kept rolling.
At one point the trunk opened, and the taxi driver had to yet again pull over and let the meter run as he fixed the trunk (guess it was a good thing we didn’t pay the luggage guy after all?)
Before we departed the bus station I told the driver we would take a remis instead, sensing this choice was not the best idea for us. The man feigned not to understand that I wanted to get out, and instead kept driving.
At one point in rush hour dead stop traffic our driver pulled out his phone and pulled up google maps. At this point I told him our address, but he made the action that he didn’t want to use his phone for google maps and instead wanted Josh’s phone. This was definitely not going to happen. So the man proceeded to pretend he had no idea where we were going, and kept running other taxis off the road to ask them directions.
After almost an hour of this charade, he pulled into a gas station and I thought he was going to make us pay for gas. Instead, he went around and petitioned other taxi drivers at the gas station to take us to our destination.
Ultimately, I don’t know what this man’s end game objective was. If he didn’t know how to get to where we were going (don’t all taxi drivers in a city know how to get to the airport though?), or if he just didn’t want to take us (weird though, the drive was certain to be a big pay check especially during rush hour), but the point is we grabbed our bags, did not pay the man who didn’t get us to our final destination, and parted ways in the back of a new taxi.
This driver at least knew where we were going, but in the rain he swerved through rush hour traffic texting on his phone and smoking cigarettes.
It was at this point I realized I really wanted out of this country.
We finally arrived at our destination, or at least close enough to it – the taxi driver couldn’t find the hotel and dropped us off instead in the parking lot of the mall. Even though the meter read 590 pesos the man charged us 800 pesos. Neither of us had the language skills, nor after 27 hours of travel had the patience to barter with this man. At least we were still alive and had our stuff.
Our hotel was set in a town that was both flooded and looked as though it was more shanty town than a place for a mall. Thankfully the mall was styled after Venice with stone walls, outdoor walkways, flickering chandeliers and fountains. The place was a complete antithesis to its surroundings. The hotel, likewise was styled and clean.
This was the first time in all our travels that we had air conditioning – that worked. It was glorious. Although paying for a hotel was pricey in comparison to our AirBnB, the air conditioning alone was worth it. We had a little bit of a scare when we first arrived in need of a shower and the only available water to our room was scalding hot. But that was quickly fixed and we were able to bask in the cool air.
We wandered the alleyways of the outdoor mall and found a pasta place for dinner. For our final dinner in Argentina we shared provoleta. Josh ordered a steak and I ordered spaghetti. It was a slow dinner, but then again we were eating very early by Argentinian standards at 2030.
The evening drew to a close while the rain still pitter pattered outside our window.