Two Backpacks

Sunset from bus
Florianopolis to B.Aires

Chapter 35 - The Night Bus to Argentina

            We’re taking the night bus to Argentina. We’re both worried about how we’ll get on being stuck on a bus for twenty-five hours – stiff backs, sore knees and lack of sleep. So, when one of the staff at the hostel tells us about the ‘cama’ buses and recommends the Flecha bus service, we book our seats for the following day.

            Tucano Hostel has been great for chatting with fellow travellers and getting information on what lies ahead as we travel to Buenos Aires and then Patagonia.

            It’s evening in early November when we board the Flecha bus. We hope the recommendation has been worth the extra money and we’re not disappointed. The double-decker bus is clean; the seats recline to provide an almost flat bed.

            ‘This isn’t at all bad,’ comments Ron, settling himself into his seat and stretching out his legs. ‘Reckon we’ll sleep okay tonight.’

            Our bus pulls from the Florianopolis terminal on time, and we’re soon speeding our way south along a well-paved road.

            We’ve checked out the possibility of travelling through Uraquay but the information regarding border crossings and immigration is confusing, so we opt for the direct route to our next destination, Buenos Aires.

Whizzing through the darkening countryside with the sun casting its last orange rays as it sinks below the horizon, I finally fall asleep.

            ‘What’s going on?’ mutters Ron from beneath his blanket.

            ‘How should I know,’ I reply, annoyed at his having woken me. I look through the curtained window and see we’re at the border with Argentina. A few minutes later, one of the bus staff returns our passports.

            ‘That was easy. We didn’t even have to get off the bus!’ Ron says before snuggling back into his seat.

            I check the passports. We’ve heard horrendous stories of visas and passports not being approved correctly and travellers waiting days before continuing their journeys.

            Everything appeared to be in order, and, like my other half, who is now snoring quietly beside me, I tuck myself under the covers and try to get back to sleep again.

A couple of hours later, the bus stops for a passport check – a few passengers have their passports checked by the roadside guards before we’re on our way again.

            The bus pulls into Retiro bus station at eleven thirty the following morning. Knowing that we’ve got to be on our guard for pickpockets and scammers, I leave Ron with our bags and go off to search for an ATM. There are no currency exchange booths, so the ATM is our only option for obtaining pesos.

            The terminal is large but manageable. All the ticket offices are on the first floor, and the ATM terminals are on the ground floor.

            I retrieve my cash and head back to Ron. It’s started raining.

            ‘Let’s get a taxi to the hostel. I don’t want to wander around trying to find and get soaking wet,’ I suggest.

            ‘Okay. We’ll splash out,’ says Ron with a grin.

            Given the chance, I know he’d have taken the subway, but it’s our first time in the city, and until we get an idea of where landmarks are, a taxi seems our best option.

            Taxis are cheap in Argentina. I’m worried because the ATM had only dispensed one hundred peso notes.

            ‘Get the driver to stop so we can buy water and get change,’ Ron tells me.

            ‘And how do I do that?’ I counter, annoyed that he assumes I can converse in Spanish with our driver.

            ‘You managed in Spain,’ he replies with a smile, knowing he’s over-stepped the mark.

            I try my best, and with the help of my dictionary, I get the driver to stop at a small supermarket where I buy bottled water and snacks and break the one-hundred peso note.

            The taxi stops outside a traditional building in the old district of San Telmo. We’ve arrived.

            We pay the driver and enter the hostel, where the receptionist takes our passports, and I sign the register. She then shows us to our room. We’re at the top of the building, two floors up. The stairs are demanding with our backpacks, especially as they are narrow and steep.

            Our room is lovely, with twin beds and wonderful large old windows. The beds are comfy, and the linen is clean and crisp.

            ‘We’ll sleep well tonight,’ says Ron, stretching out on his bed.

            ‘I hope so. But first, let’s find somewhere for supper; I’m starving.’

            There’s a tiny restaurant a few doors down with a mouth-watering aroma wafting from the doorway.

            ‘This’ll do. Whatever they’re cooking, I want some,’ says Ron, pushing open the door.

            There’s a table for two in the far corner. We sit, and when the waiter comes, Ron points to a nearby table and orders the same food.

            Our meals arrive a few minutes later; the food is delicious. A flavoursome sauce covers two thick slices of beef, roast potatoes and vegetables.

            ‘We’ll come back tomorrow for breakfast,’ states Ron as he finishes his meal. ‘That was delicious.’

            We both sleep well and, finding that the little café is open in the morning, we breakfast on warm croissants, eggs and coffee before returning to our hostel to pack.

            At two o’clock in the afternoon, we catch a taxi to the airport. We’re flying to El Calafate, Patagonia. I hope it’s not snowing when we arrive, or I’ll never hear the end of it from Ron!