After going back and forth between the Colonia Express and the Buquebus ticket booths at Montevideo’s Tres Cruces Terminal, after checking the Sunday schedule several times and after converting Uruguayan pesos to Argentinian pesos to Reais in my head—don’t ask, somehow it was easier to compare prices—, I realized the cheapest way to go back to Buenos Aires was to take the 7:45 a.m. bus/boat combination across Uruguay and Río de la Plata.
“What time do I have to be here?”
The two people in front of me had asked the Colonia Express employee the exact same question, but I didn’t hear the answer.
She winced and lowered her voice, as if apologizing for the early-morning departure. “7:15 a.m.…. at the latest. Sleep in the bus! Everybody does!” she added cheerfully.
“There are worse things in life than taking an early bus. I’ll just pack the night before and, ahem, go to bed early. Okay,’earlier,’” I mentally amended, just to be honest with myself.
“Come to think of it, we’ve never crossed Río de la Plata from Uruguay to Argentina,” Feng wrote. “Let me know if water is a different colour or if you can feel the ‘good air’ of Buenos Aires as you get closer to it.”
At 6:30 a.m., Montevideo was quiet, hot, and foggy. I walked to the bus terminal, which is, as always in Uruguay, inside a shopping mall—or maybe shopping malls are inside bus terminals, who knows. The building was open but all the shops were closed and it took me a while to find the stairs to get to the terminal because both the elevators and escalators were still out of service.
I wanted to sleep during the 2.5-hour bus ride to Colonia del Sacramento, but I couldn’t. Half-awake, I let my mind wander. Where should I go next? What do I want from life? Who the fuck has friends willing to pick up the phone at 7:50 a.m. on a Sunday morning and have a long and loud conversation while other passengers are trying to sleep?
The bus stopped at the boat terminal in Colonia del Sacremento, and things were very confusing from then on. I queued at the migración but I was sent back to the Colonia Express both because I didn’t have a boarding pass. I queued to get a boarding pass but then I was missing a form I had to fill in to enter Argentina since passport would be stamped in Uruguay (same thing on the way to Uruguay, migración was completed in Buenos Aires).
“Wow, that’s kind of cool!” a very excited traveller commented when we had to put our luggage through the X-ray machine. She walked up to the screen. “What do the colours mean?”
I cringed, half-expected she’d get arrested. I mean, you’d get arrested for just being human at security checkpoints in Europe and in North America, but the heavily armed military police officer was happy to share info. “Orange is organic matter, blue means it’s a firearm… oh, like here. Wait, whose bag is that?”
Not mine! I walked away with my firearm-free backpack and joined the queue to board the boat, although it wasn’t really clear where the queue began, what boat we were boarding and when. “People for Colonia Express, start the queue at the Buquebus sign!”
Yeah, like I said, a bit disorganized and I was still carrying my backpack—unlike on the way to Montevideo, apparently luggage wasn’t the company’s responsibility but yours.
I was happy to see the Colonia Express boat had an open deck. With Buquebus, we had to sit inside and I couldn’t see anything. This time, I stayed at the back of the boat, my backpack under a bench, wind blowing through my hair, enjoying the contrast between the blue sky and the chocolate-colour river.
The Colonia Express terminal in Buenos Aires is in Puerto Madero as well, but at the exact opposite end of the Buquebus terminal. This side is close to La Boca and has a real “industrial port” feel.
“I should be able to walk to the hotel,” I thought. “After all, I did walk to the Buquebus Terminal from the hotel, so that’s like… twice the distance and uphill. Yeah, should be fine.”
This is usually the moment when Feng looks at me as if I’m crazy and hails a taxi, but since there’s no one to contradict me, I went with my terrible plan. I made it to Plaza de Mayo before giving up and getting a taxi, which cost me $3 to the hotel—and this is the moment when Feng rolls his eyes and says, “why are you torturing yourself all the time…”
Never mind. Sure, I was sweaty, but I was in Buenos Aires, the weather was beautiful and it was early enough to enjoy the day.