Friday, November 20, 2009

(new) The long way home, sort of.

a photo from our 2001 visit because we were too tired to do any sightseeing today.

Too many night buses in the last month have made us very tired and very cranky. Everyone talks about the luxury of Argentinean buses, Sure the on board food and movies are great (when you get them) compared to say, Guatemala or Belize. But what everyone seems to forget is that they are still buses and unless you fork over big bucks for the fully flat seat, you’re still sleeping sitting up on a bus. So we woke up from our half-seep at 7am with almost 6 hours to kill before our arrival in Buenos Aires. At 9, the bus pulled into La Plata and I was surprised to see signs announcing the Capital Federal was only 43 km away. Since we had been told that we wouldn’t be arriving until 12:45pm, I assumed that this was maybe some sort of highway sign trickery to get me all excited about being early. I refused to give in and ignored the kilometer countdown (43, 37, 28…) but soon I realized it was indeed the city the signs were referring to and actually, we were now in the city. The bus driver took side streets with lots of stop lights in an apparent attempt to slow down our arrival. But even still we made into the Retiro bus terminal, all 75 bus bays of it, just after 10am. Why couldn’t any of our other buses have arrived this early?

Although tired and hot (we were still dressed for the frigid south and frigid bus) and carrying our huge packs we decided to first head to the South African Airways office nearby to find out if we had 2 tickets for December 9, and not 4. It took us a good half an hour to get out of the bus terminal and another 45 minutes to walk to the address. It was an office building with security guards who took one look at sweaty us with all gear and immediately demanded to know where we were going. When we told them, they quickly escorted us out of the lobby and into the SAA office behind the elevators. We dropped all our bags and stripped off a few layers then approached the woman sitting at the desk. Thankfully she spoke English. And she quickly able confirmed that we had a reservation for just two spots and not four like I feared. But she let us know that there were no tickets issued in our name yet and then gave us the South African phone number for the online booking help. Wha… Well apparently, all website related stuff can only be handled by the South African office. Grr. I wasn’t bitter because we’d hiked all the way there (well maybe a bit) but only because that would be a mighty expensive customer service call. Thank goodness for Skype. Well with that resolved (sort of) it was time to get to the hostel.

Adrian whinged that he wanted to take a cab. But since he doesn’t speak Spanish, I told him no because I had no desire to deal with a cab driver without a good night’s sleep. Actually, I had no desire to deal with a cab driver ever. Instead I shoved him towards the stairs to the Subte (the Buenos Aires subway). The fare was about 25¢ for each of us. After hearing from sooooo many people about the shortage of coins in the city, Adrian dug out exact fare. But there was no need because the attendant had a pile of coins sitting there. So much for the coin shortage. I guess we’ll have to find another use for the pocketful of change Adrian now has in his pocket. We rode five stops and got off about 5 blocks from the hostel. God, how I miss the subway. However those were five long blocks and the hostel was actually up a flight of stairs.

The owner welcomed us in and encouraged us to get settled in and shower first and check in second (We must have smelled a bit.) The hostel looked just like the pictures on the website. Yay. Except for the room. Boo. It was dark and dismal but we were lucky to have our own bathroom. Sure it was one of those closet sized bathrooms where you basically sit on the toilet and shower at the same time. But it was ours. So we showered, changed into more temperature (28º) appropriate clothes, checked in and then headed out to find some grub. Since we’d enjoyed our stay at Che Lagarto in El Calafate so much we headed over to the BsAs location to at their pub. Unfortunately, the good vibe of the El Calafate location hadn’t transferred over here. Sure it looked the same but the downstairs pub was more of a business person hangout in the day. Still we sat down, hoping that the weird vibe was just our tiredness. It wasn’t. We waited 15 minutes for a server to pay any attention to us the only backpackers in the place and when she didn’t, we got up and left. Luckily, there was a little café next door that despite having a line up of hungry locals rushed to serve us. And for half the price, we got giant tasty milanesas and salads.

We weren’t in the mood to do any more sightseeing so we headed back to the hostel. Boring I know, but we were feeling tired and cranky. On the way back we spotted a “british curry house” and decided to head there for dinner. But first, Adrian dropped off our laundry (a third of the price we paid at the hostel in El Calafate). And then it was nap time. Well, Adrian napped and I worked on this thing. Dinner was very good. We were the first ones through the door (we can’t wait until 9pm to dine like the porteños) but we were kept in good conversation from the owner a guy from Dorset and his partner, an Argentinean. The food was good too – and definitely one of the best chicken curries I’ve had (and not just on the road). A man from Glasgow joined our conversation later. In his retirement he spent winters in BsAs, lucky duck. Between him and the owner Adrian was able to find out where to get proper everything in the city. It still amazes me – no matter what awesome place we arrive in, the first thing Adrian wants to seek out is a proper English newspaper or magazine and food. I guess you can take the Brit out of England dump him in Canada for 13 years, drag him half way around the world, but you still can’t get the England out of the Brit.

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