Yesterday, I left Argentina. Catching the bus proved to be a real adventure in and of itself. It had been three weeks since I had traveled anywhere of much distance, and it seems I’d forgot my method of moving around! I hadn’t had any stress in a long while, but my last day in Argentina got pretty stressful! I don’t remember all the specifics, but my bus was leaving from Bariloche at 1:15pm.
My friend Amanda (the girl from Australia who is living in Buenos Aires) asked me to grab a ´Route 40´ highway bumper sticker and mail it to her. My bus was supposed to leave at 1:15 in the afternoon. Juampi, the helpful host at my hostel, suggested I catch a city bus to the long-distance bus terminal (2 miles away) about 12:15. So, about quarter to noon, I walked down the main street (Moreno St.) one last time. It was interesting to do after spending three weeks in this little tourist town studying Spanish. I went to the little shop Juampi had recommended, and sure enough, they had the Route 40 stickers. I bought a few of them (great idea Amanda, I thought), and then stopped by the cheap little bakery on my way back to the hostel. I got a sandwich and a couple empanadas for the road (which proved to be a mistake – more on that later). Finally, I swung in a Kiosk (little store that has gum, drinks, and magazines) and got myself a plastic bottle of Coke to spoil myself on the bus ride.
Back at the hostel, it was 12:15. As a joke, I asked Juampi if I owed him anything – 270 Pesos (about US$60), he said! What?? I thought I had paid. Well, I did pay for the Friday night before my friends and I went up to the town of El Bolsón last weekend, BUT I hadn´t paid for this week! Oh dear. I didn´t have any money left! I had to use a US $20 bill and almost all of the Argentinian Pesos I had left to pay him. This got me a little stressed out. My brother is going to add more of my money to my travel debit card on Monday, but I don´t have much to get me through until then! So, by the time I paid him and walked out of the hostel, it was almost 12:25. My stress level was rising — I really didn´t want to miss my bus. If I moved with a purpose, and didn´t have to wait long for the bus, I would be OK, I told myself.
I walked 3 blocks to the bus stop. As I waited for the city bus, a cool breeze made me want to put on my little black fleece pullover from The University of Montana. I reached in my little day pack, and it wasn´t there! Crud. I hustled back the three blocks to the hostel, went to the corner of the main ‘living room’ where I´d left my bag when I did the little store run half an hour earlier, and there was no coat! I asked Ben, who was sitting near my stuff on a computer, if he had seen it. No, he had´t.
I went back upstairs into the room I had stayed in the night before. A guy was there Skyping with someone in Europe. I interrupted to see if he had seen my jacket – no, he hadn’t. I looked in the locker and on my bed – not there. I went back downstairs and opened my pack… I dug through it, not finding the fleece jacket. My blood pressure was rising. I really wanted my coat, but at the same time, I needed to catch the bus!
I then ran back to the bumper sticker store. The lady hadn´t seen it. I ran back to the hostel. I then did a few more minutes of frantic (unhealthy) searching… Ben, who is from Boston, offered to bring it to Chile with him if it showed up… I thanked him. It was now only 20 minutes until my bus was leaving for Chile.
Finally, I could look no more. I was sweating. My blood pressure was through the roof… I went out the front door of the hostel again and started to jog to the bus stop. I went up the little block and turned left… there was no bus to be seen. I needed to get out to the bus terminal ASAP.
Now I was late. It was 10 minutes to 1:00. A cab drove by. I flagged him down and asked how much it would cost to get a ride to the bus terminal – 20 pesos, mas or menos (more or less), he said. I had about 30 pesos in my pocket. OK, I said.
I frantically checked my pockets for all my cash as I rode in the cab – I had to watch the meter in the taxi as we drove. If the meter went over the cash I had, I was going to have to ask to get out and run the last little bit! … the cab meter was already at 15 pesos. My mind started racing… what if I didn’t have enough cash to get to the bus… 19.5… oh man, what a day, and no coat… 24… oh crud, red light! Arrrghhhh….
The light turned green and the meter jumped to 28. Oh dear. How much further, I asked the man in Spanish. It’s right over there he replied, and pointed. He put on his turn signal and pulled in. 28 even! I had half a peso left – perfect!!
At the bus station, I decided I must have left the coat at the bakery. My bus was about 40 minutes late, so I called Juampi at the hostel from a pay phone, and he said he would check at 4 when he got off shift. Then Gabriel, the French man, came into the station. Gabriel was surprised to see me again, as we had said goodbye at the hostel over an hour earlier. I told him my bus was late and he told me Jaumpi had found my coat up in my hostel room — CRUD! At least it was found. If Gabriel had known I was going to be here at the bus station still, he could have brought it with him! Darn.
You’ll need to check out the photos of my seat in the photo album, but it was a plush ride, for sure! Big leather seat, blanket and pillow – all waiting for me as I walked on. I settled into the seat for an awesome ride. Indeed, it was a beautiful bus ride west from Bariloche, Argentina.
As the bus pulled out and headed for Chile, one of the bus employees brought us a lunch. Why did I buy a sandwich and empanadas?? I had just eaten the sandwich when he showed up with a lunch and a Coke (like you get on airplanes sometimes in the USA)! So, I put the empanadas away and was stuffed by the time I finished my lunch. Then a movie started – classic! It was about TIME. When people ran out of the time (digitally displayed on their arm), they died. People could trade time, but when your clock ran out – you were done! Not the best movie ever, but I liked hearing the English and then trying to read the Spanish subtitles at the same time! While speaking of movies, the second one we watched was called ´Wild Hogs´and starred John Travolta. Again, not the best, but watching a movie in Spanish is pretty challenging for me AND great practice! This movie did not have any English – Spanish speaking actors´voices had been dubbed over the top… so all you heard was Spanish. This was interesting, as sometimes the Spanish voices said the lines a little differently than what the subtitles said on the screen. For example, if the English line in the movie was, ¨She shrieked at him,¨the line in move may have been ¨She yelled at him,¨¨She screamed at him,¨ or just ¨She said to him…¨It was quite interesting.
The scenery out the window of the bus was AWESOME, so it was hard not to spend all my time staring out the window. I really wanted to practice my Spanish, though, so I balanced my time between the two activities. As we neared the border, the sand and ash on the side of the highway became more and more obvious. Last year, a volcano in Chile erupted. When it did, it dumped a ton (over a foot according to my friends in Bariloche) of sand that had been the top of the mountain all over the area. After the sand came a ton of ash… this sand/ash mixture had to be cleared off the roads. I took a lot of pictures of it as we drove – it was weird, plowed and piled like we do snow during Montana winters.
After a couple hours, we hit the border. First we got out and had our passports stamped to leave Argentina. Then we got back on the bus and drove for another half hour or so. When we hit the Chilean border check, they stopped the bus. We had to all get out. The bus drivers took all the luggage off and laid it on a metal rack next to the bus. Some dogs walked along the rack and checked the bags for drugs and firearms. We waited in line and got our passports stamped. I had found 200 more Argentinean pesos in my bag on the bus, and so I changed it in for 16,000 Chilean pesos. Sounds like a lot, but things in Chile are priced far differently.
When we thought we were done, the group started to board the bus. One of the Immigration police said something, though, and then the bus driver commanded that nobody could get on the bus. He said something very quickly that I couldn´t understand after that. The group got visibly upset. About 4-5 people started questioning the driver in front of everyone. Their blood pressure was up. All I knew was we weren´t getting on our bus… ¿Que pasó? (What happened), I asked a couple standing near me. They said someone didn´t have their papers stamped. I pulled mine out and showed them – I was fine. About 3 minutes later, an elderly man was determined to be the one who hadn´t gotten his passport stamped. We took care of the issue and got back on the bus. Onward into Chile! It was tense, but we got through it…
When they stamped my passport at the border, I realized I had been in Argentina almost a month – Holy Cow, Time Flies! I have so many excellent memories of Argentina. The bus came into Chile, and continued a bit south to the city of Puerto Montt.
At the bus station in Puerto Montt Chile, it was dark when we arrived. I used an Internet Cafe to hop on a computer and scope out my lodging options. I didn’t have any cash, so I needed a place that would take a credit card. I found one – called the Hostel Tren del Sur. I needed a place that would take a credit card, because I still didn’t have much money – I think I had exchanged a US $20 at the border so I had a bit of Chilean funds in my pocket, but not much!
Now, as today is Easter Sunday, Puerto Montt is pretty much shut down. I took advantage of the day and a quiet lobby to work on updating my photos and blog. You may notice that there are now a number of photos I´ve taken on my trip that randomly appear at the top of the blog. There is one exception: the shot from the airplane window of New York City was not taken on this trip. I posted it as the initial picture in December when I began getting this blog ready for use, and now I´m unsure of how to delete it!
I was able to ´Facetime´ with my family last night using my iPad and the wi-fi in this fancy ‘hostel.’ It is fancy, as I have my own bed in my own private room! Anyhow, my niece (Olivia) decided she was going to march around the house with the iPhone and let me talk to my family for a moment. I almost got sea-sick, as she thought it was funny NOT to move the camera slowly and steadily! Nephew Jacob was working on homework (over spring break!?!) and Nephew Kellan was beaming after his spring break trip with buddy Zander down to Moab, Utah! Uncle Chris, Aunt Jamie, and two of their girls were there from Ronan, and Grandpa/Grandma Jim and Jan were there too. It was great to see them! Hard to believe I will be back in Montana within a month… wow, this trip has gone by far too quickly (except for missing my family — this face-time chat definitely made me a little home-sick).