On our last day in Paraná, I walked to the bus station to check the schedule once again and finalize our plans.
“Sorry, the 5:40 a.m. bus to Concordia is full!” the guy behind the counter said. I had asked for the morning schedule but I shuddered at the thought of taking a bus that early. Mornings don’t start at dawn for me—and how can this early bus be full? Who the fuck is that desperate to go to Concordia at 5:40 a.m.?
“¿Hay un bus más tarde?”
Yes, 11:15 a.m. Phew. Much better.
We came back with our passports to buy the tickets as this is now the rule in Argentina. One last night in Paraná, then some adventure. The night was short.
It was a long and tiring five-hour bus ride from Paraná to Concordia, the Argentinian border town with Uruguay. There was one amusing moment, though, right before the bus left the station in Paraná. A guy came on board to sell stuff, which is fairly normal in Latin America—drinks, sandwiches, gum, pens, pocket notebooks, etc. are often offered for sale by street vendors who climb on board and speak to a captive audience. Except this time, the guy was selling giant hunting knives, presumably as part of a parrilla set. I can just imagine the same scene in a North American Greyhound bus… Gotta travel? Grab a knife first!
So, how can sitting in a bus be so draining? Who knows. First, Mark took so many selfies with the tablet that he accidentally deleted his movies. I made a half-assed attempt to read, write on my laptop and do some craft but I wasn’t focused. I didn’t feel like sleeping. I watched the Pampas going by, got off the bus for a few minutes when it stopped here and there and waited for Concordia.
Yet, I knew there wasn’t much to wait for in Concordia. Most border towns aren’t scenic, interesting or particularly fun. Concordia was just as expected. Sleepy during the day, bit rough at night with federal police patrolling and horny guys catcalling every woman who walked by. “You do that with every girl?” I asked without slowing down. “Must be exhausting.” Despite my slightly offensive reply, they still called me bonita. Go figure.
That said, people were surprisingly nice and welcoming during the daytime. I stopped by a panadería and, as usual, it took me several minutes to pick a few of my favourite—cheesy bread, facturas, etc. I made conversation with the owner, a young guy from Buenos Aires. At the end, after everything was bagged and I was sure I wanted no más, he told me it was a gift and wouldn’t accept any money. “Come back and visit us again, one day!”
Corrientes, Las Heras, Sáenz Peña, La Rioja, Mitre, Urquiza… street names are always the same, only the map changes. I can’t remember if the supermarket on Mitre and Primero de Mayo is in Concordia, Buenos Aires, Rosario… ah, here it is. Concordia indeed it was, I walked by earlier and made a note to check business hours. Not that I can buy much, we are leaving in the morning anyway and there is no fridge at the hotel. We are squeezed in the small room and it’s overpriced for what it is.
It doesn’t matter. We are only spending a night in Concordia. We don’t need a comfortable place. Like most people who end up in a border town, we need a plan to cross said border.
We thought there would be buses going back and forth between Concordia, Argentina, and Salto, Uruguay, about an hour away. When we asked at the station we were given two options: the 7 a.m. bus and the 7 p.m. bus. Neither would work for us since we had to check out in Concordia at 10 a.m. and could only check in in Salto after 12 p.m. We would either be hours early or hours late.
I asked around. Plan B could be a boat across río Uruguay. Hey, why not? For about thirty minutes, I loved the idea of crossing a border by boat. We walked down to the harbour and I asked at the prefectura but it turned out the boat was a Uruguayan service—you had to come from Uruguay and it only picked up passengers in Argentina if there was room. Oh, and there was no boat scheduled.
Boat plan was off.
We heard of a bus leaving at noon. Could be a new plan if we found the company.
I walked around Concordia as the city was waking up from the siesta. It was a bit bigger than I thought, with plenty of clothing stores and usual plaza-church combo. This is where we headed for our last meal in Argentina—pizza for Mark, super pancho (hot dog) for Feng and empanadas for me. We shared a “mommy Coke,” like Mark said. No, not cocaine. Just plain old Coke Zero, a rare treat for Mark.
We still didn’t know exactly how we would go to Uruguay when we went to sleep. Somehow, we would.