“Where is the airport?”
“This is the airport,” I inform with a snap.
I can’t blame Mark, Puerto Iguazú’s airport does look like an apartment building. But I’m in a bad mood because I only had about three hours of sleep—I spent the night working and fighting mosquitoes with zero success (the assignment was completed, though).
The three of us are half asleep, the taxi fare was a rip-off (500 Argentinian pesos!) and the driver was the chatty kind. I wanted to stare at the bag on my lap and pretend I’m awake—and even this was a challenge—and I ended up having to make small talk in Spanish for twenty minutes.
“Did you bring the water bottle?”
“No, I left it in the fridge.”
The only place that sells drinks in the “airport” is the cafeteria. A small bottle is $4, expensive by North American standards, outrageous by Argentinian standards. Yet I buy it because we’re flying a low-cost airline and I doubt we’ll get drinks.
The cafeteria employee complains because I’m handing out a 100-peso bill. Small change is always an issue in Argentina. I shrug and stand there. This is not a pathetic attempt to break a bill and I’m not buying two bottles. We engaged in a staring contest until she reluctantly opens the cash register where a miracle, change is found.
“The plane is here!”
“Glad to see it wasn’t a scam!”
When we changed our plans, we decided to end the trip in Santiago, Chile instead of São Paulo, Brazil. The problem was, we were nowhere close to the Pacific Ocean. So we found a fun route going West—Curitiba, Foz do Iguaçu, Puerto Iguazú. Once in Argentina, the next logical step would have been to fly to Buenos Aires, the country’s hub, then to Santiago. But Feng found cheap Valparaíso-to-Mendoza plane tickets when we were in Florianópolis. We were a bit suspicious at first.
“Flybondi? Never heard of it.”
“Me neither. Let’s see… oh. First low-cost airline in Argentina. They started to operate in January this year.”
“Fare that low, we should book right away.”
“Probably won’t go through anyway.”
We have a recurring issue with our respective banking institutions—even though we notified them we would be travelling abroad, they regularly think we’re not responsible for these hotel bookings and ticket purchases or other transactions are declined. Then we have to call the 1-800 number on Skype, shout our mother’s maiden name and long forgotten answers to tricky security questions over a bad connection between South America and India, and swear that we did want to make the purchase. Meanwhile, most of the time, tickets are gone and hotels are full.
I’m going to deal with Scotiabank when we come back. My bank of fifteen years suddenly decided I shouldn’t be travelling and I haven’t been able to use my debit card since I left Canada. Good thing I have a credit card with CIBC as a backup. Morons.
“Fuck, it actually went through!”
“Guess we’re flying to Mendoza, then!”
Check the map. It makes sense. Mendoza is right on the eastern side of the Andes. Wrong side, sure, but we can get to Santiago from there… somehow.
As much as I wanted to fully review FlyBondi, I was also desperate to go back to sleep. So this is what I can tell you—the plane was big and empty, there was no entertainment system and no headrest, the “keep your seatbelt on” signs were in German—how did this aircraft end up in Argentina?—and no food or beverage was offered. We took off and landed and the next thing I knew, I was getting off the plane and the Andes were behind me.
“Mark, do you know which city is behind the mountains?”
A familiar scenery, yet my brain hadn’t adjusted yet. From the rainforest to the Andes in less than three hours is too fast for me.
Our main task in Mendoza was to buy a bus ticket to Santiago for the following day. Once the mission accomplished, Feng and Mark rested at the hotel while I wandered around the city.
I wasn’t inspired. Sure, Mendoza was pleasant and slightly exotic after Brazil—we were back in the land of San Martín, El Libertador of Argentina, Chile and Peru. But I was bored. All the streets looked the same, the tall trees casting weird shadows and ruining my pictures. There was nothing truly unique, remarkable or interesting to see. This is not my kind of place, mostly because Mendoza revolves around wine, a beverage I have yet to learn to appreciate, and winter sports, an activity I may enjoy if snow was hot and if I could wear a swimsuit.
Mendoza also has a weird siesta tradition for such a big city—stores and restaurants close between 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. They don’t even bother putting up a sign, like “back at 5 p.m.,” so I was a bit confused when at 6 p.m., some shops were still closed—would they eventually open or not? This is the only place in South America I know with a siesta that long and that general throughout the city. I wondered about the technicalities—if you’re an employee, it must be annoying to be off most of the afternoon but then have to come back to work from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., right? Do people actually go home and sleep? And it’s hot in Mendoza, but not any hotter than in other places in Chile or Brazil, where people still find the energy to work.
When siesta was finally mostly over, my camera just gave up on Mendoza and I ran out of battery. I bought seafood empanadas at the market and walk back to the hotel to make sure Mark and Feng were okay—don’t ask, bad previous experience in Mendoza…
By the end of the day, I finally stopped saying “obrigada” instead of “gracias,” though, so that’s something at least.