“Mendoza it is!,” I emailed Feng a few minutes after finalizing this leg of the trip, i.e. booking the hotel and the plane ticket, hoping my credit card wouldn’t be flagged for suspicious purchases—I mean, I usually use it to buy groceries at Walmart, in Ottawa, Scotiabank could legitimately worry about my whereabouts.
Both transactions went through and Expedia congratulated me—“You’re going to Mendoza!”
Why Mendoza? Because it’s across the country, on the east side of the Andes, close to Chile. Because I found a cheap hotel. Because I found a great plane ticket that saves me a 1,000-kilometre bus trip across the country.
Because at one point, you have to make a decision.
I overstayed my welcome in Buenos Aires. The travel Gods are telling me to move on. On my last day, I was under the weather with a stomach bug—probably something I ate, with the heat, food goes bad fast. The Wi-Fi had stopped working. My favourite bakery had run out of their delicious tortas, which was only a minor inconvenience (see point above). I was getting sick of crossing Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world—don’t fucking run through, you won’t make it, wait for the green light.
I did the laundry, packed and set up my alarm for 7:30 a.m.
My flight was leaving from Ezeiza, the international airport outside the city, so I had to take a taxi. The hotel booked the remís for me and he was on time, smoking a cigarette in front of a big van. Did the front desk guy assume female travellers have a bad overpacking problem and lug around with twenty suitcases? There was quite a bit of room left once my backpack and I were in the car…
9 a.m., Ezeiza. I checked in with Austral Líneas Aéreas, the sister company of Aerolíneas Argentinas. I picked a window seat and I was surprised I was offered the choice—we mostly flew with budget airlines lately, and we always ended up at the back of the aircraft, close to the lavatory.
Since it was really early—everything went faster than planned! —I sat in the departure hall and connected to the free Wi-Fi to work for a while. At 10:15 a.m., I figured I’d better go through security, because God knows how long it will take in Argentina’s busiest airport.
One fucking minute. That’s how long it took. I started taking my laptop out of my bag, as usual, and airport security staff stared at me, completely puzzled. “Huh… why would you do that? Don’t take anything out, just go through!”
And the gate was right there, in front of me, so I worked another 45 minutes until boarding started.
“Doesn’t look like it’s going to be a full flight!” I commented, chatting with another passenger in the shuttle bus to the plane.
She laughed. “Yeah, that’s because we’re flying Aerolíneas Argentinas! Like, who does?!”
Nothing like a bit of national airline hate right before the flight to feel like you’re in good hands…
I didn’t see the plane at first because it was hidden between two giant Air France and American Airlines planes. It was… small. Like, really small.
There was no lengthy pre-departure procedures. “Todo parece normal,” the pilot said, and that was it.
We took off and I fell asleep. Just wake me up if the company declares bankruptcy mid-flight, gracias.
I’m being unfair. It was actually a very relaxing and laid-back flight.
Once in Mendoza, I figured there was no point in taking a taxi. I had plenty of time, I was alone, may as well wait for the bus—there had to be one, right? A few other passengers were waiting as well, as clueless as I was. Eventually, a city bus showed up.
“Do you know what’s the fare to downtown?” a guy asked me.
“No idea. You?”
“Can we pay cash?” we asked the driver.
“No, you need to buy a bus card.”
“Can we buy it at the airport?”
“No… Oh, whatever, don’t worry about it, just let me know where you want to stop.”
And so, we all got a free ride to the city centre. I got off close to the main square, hoping to find the hotel street easily without a map. Guess what—it actually worked. I mean, I kind of knew where it was but still, I was lucky.
Now off to me next mission—buying my bus ticket out of Mendoza.