Getting to Patagonia was easy enough — duh, we flew from Santiago. Now, getting out of Patagonia is a whole different story. It took us a week in total.
We were stuck in Ushuaia where we had to wait for the first bus of the week. From there, we crossed to Chile, stopping another night in Punta Arenas, and two nights in Puerto Natales, to visit the Torres Del Paine national park. We were still down under, at the bottom of the world. Out of Tierra Del Fuego though. We crossed again to Argentina, leaving Chile for good. A six hours ride to El Calafate, North.
From El Calafate, we bused to Comodoro Rivadavia, a city on the Atlantic Coast, a 15 hours overnight journey. Slept in Comodoro, left again the following day for Bahía Blanca — another 15 hours overnight bus. Another 10 hours and we made it to Buenos Aires, Argentina´s capital. Phew.
In total, we bused over 3,000 kilometers from Tierra Del Fuego to Buenos Aires. It´s not as bad as it sounds: most buses are comfortable double-deckers. Yet, it´s a long long ride.
The bus schedule is totally fucked up in Argentina. A lot of buses leave in the middle of the night (i.e. midnight or later), or arrive ridiculously early (I´m talking 3:00 am or before). These are not an option for us: if we leave late at night, we have to pay a night´s accommodation for nothing (where would we wait with our backpacks?), and arriving early in a new city is not great either. So we have to ask every single bus company for the schedule and price. I think I´m almost fluent saying “¿tiene un servicio de bus a…?”, “¿A qué hora sale el bus ya qué hora llegara?”.
Bus rides are pretty tiring. We try to sleep as much as we can, but between the police check points (“Señores passajeros, por favor, su pasaporte o su cedula de identidad…”) and the many many stops, it is hard to doze off for more than a few hours. Not to mention that at every stop (including gas stations), the driver will yell “cinco minutos, no más” and that we will jump on our sits and run outside for fresh air, a smoke, bathrooms or a snack. The break is invariably longer than five minutes (after all, the driver also has to pee, smoke and eat), and by the time we are back on board, we are too sleepy to be awake and too awake to be sleepy. Tough life, eh?
There are distractions in the bus. Movies for example. On the bus to Buenos Aires, we watched six, I repeat, six Adam Sandler movies, back to back, dubbed in Spanish. To this day, I can not watch an Adam Sandler movie without shivering. I became quite addicted to Podcasts, on the other side: my favorite are from the BBC or American Public Media. Or I read, whenever I have a new book (I use book exchange in hostels). All in all, time goes by fast enough, once you get used to the idea of 15 hours bus rides. We do get hungry, sometimes. If we get the chance, we stop by the supermarket before we leave for basic supplies: water, Coke, cookies… But sometimes, there are no supermarkets or we simply don´t have a chance. We became quite good at not eating but there are times where I would sell a member of my family for a sandwich or a chocolate cake at 2:00 am, lost somewhere on the road.
Buses are often late, delayed, ahead… It is useless to count the hours. The bus ride from Bahía Blanca to Buenos Aires, for example, drove us crazy. The bus was at 7:00 am, another early departure because we wanted to arrive early in the capital. In fact, the bus only left at 8:30. It was an old bus, and it was dirty: I think it had been on the road for two days straight, coming from Río Gallegos. The stereo system was right about our head, so loud and so annoying… plus, I told you about the Adam Sandler movies thing. Ten hours later, we were getting close to Buenos Aires, way later than expected. That is when the driver decided to first drop off one of the passenger: a 45 minutes detour. Then, he skipped the express way to stop at a suburb bus station. Then, about 200 buses converging together competed to get to Retiro, the main bus station. I had never seen a road jammed with buses before… We were getting really hot and tired and just couldn´t wait to arrive. Hungry, too. We eventually arrived in Buenos Aires three hours later than expected… but hey, at least we made it.
I shouldn´t complain. We are now in Argentina´s capital. It´s 30C, the nightlife is great and I even spotted things I hadn´t seen in a while: a movie theater, a market, cheap internet…
Yeah, I should not complain.