Monday, March 31, 2014

Northward bound

Nearing the end of my journeys in South America, I am once again traveling by bus to another destination. Sadly, I lost what I considered one of my more entertaining blog posts created during the 2-day bus ride from El Chalten to Bariloche. User error, I suppose. I will try to recap what I recall, moving on to our trekking in the next post.

El autobus

I don't like sitting. Not for long periods, anyway. So the concept of riding a bus, 12 hours a day for 2 days made me twitchy. But what can you do? In a region thousands of miles long, you either take the bus or you fly. Obviously I'm too cheap to fly (did I mention that everything is expensive down here?), so bus ride it was. Fortunately, I had Lora and Mike to suffer with.

Day one was a blur of Mars-like landscapes, dirt roads, and stops in the middle of nowhere. One of the tiendas we stopped at was called "Siberia", if that gives you any idea. One stop was literally miles from nothing, and I imagined this is what Afghanistan must look like. This was when we all piled out to pee behind the nearest rocky dirt pile, minding the wind direction. It was really glamorous, something everyone should experience. I think I had the unique distinction of including my foot in the antics, which I actually don't recommend at all. Especially when wearing Crocs, and socks (don't judge!). Yeeaahh.

The remainder of day one was uneventful, except for when the bus broke down for 45 minutes (yes, in the middle of nowhere). Fortunately, our drivers were also mechanics and they fixed it up after poking around for a while. The fun resumed when we arrived at our mid point destination for the evening. The town of Perito Moreno was of no particular interest as far as we could tell. One of my guidebooks even implores one never to go there, except out of necessity. Of course, our exposure was limited to less than a one block radius, which we considered to be the safest distance worth traveling. Our lodging was arranged by the bus company, and the Hotel Belgrano was a magical blend of stale cigarettes, amazing 70s decor, and general sketchiness. The attached restaurant had equal charm, a place untouched by indoor smoking bans and run by the same slum lord as our hotel. He also seemed to be the candy czar, operating a small but densely packed refined sweets display common across every town, store, and gas station everywhere I've been in South America. It was bizarre and a little awesome at the same time.

Day two went much the same as day one, though the landscape slowly started to improve. When we finally reached San Carlos de Bariloche, it was nearly 9pm and we were a bit shocked by the big city bright lights, quite the change from sleepy El Chalten. We settled into our nice hostel, found a delicious vegetarian restaurant to enjoy a late dinner, and slept off the bus funk.

Next, we prepare for the Nahuel Huapi Traverse...

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