3/29/10: El Chalten, Argentina to Perito Moreno (city, not glacier), Argentina
There are so many ways to start this post that I can’t decide on a way to begin. Let’s just try out a few different beginnings then, shall we?
Beginning one (purely informational):
Getting to Bariloche from El Chalten is either two full-day bus rides, stopping in Perito Moreno for the night – or one long bus ride over two nights and one day. (How the math works out on this I have no idea.) The two-day ride would end up costing us roughly 25 USD more per person (including one night’s hostel stay at Perito Moreno city), but on the plus side we wouldn’t have to spend two nights in a row on a regular bus. (There’s no cama or semi-cama service on this particular route – if there had been, we would have for sure taken the double-overnight.) We eventually decided that, for the sake of my sanity, we would splurge on the two-day bus rides. Because who wants to arrive somewhere with a deranged wife for the sake of saving fifty dollars? Nobody, that’s who. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure the gist of it is “let’s see how close we can get Zhou to the edge before pushing her right over it.”
Beginning two (parental advice flashback):
The one thing that my dad used to always say to me at the end of every telephone conversation when I was at school was, “Remember Zhou, your health comes first. Your health is the most important thing.” After I graduated and moved to Charlotte, it was, “Zhou, you should make sure you’re exercising regularly. If you have your health, you have the number one thing.” And before we left on the trip, the familiar refrain, “Zhou and Kevin, remember that safety comes first. If you have to spend some extra money, just do it. Don’t worry about the money, worry about your safety. That’s priority number one.” I kept thinking about this as we spent the wee hours of the morning sitting on the street in Perito Moreno, although in this situation you’d have to replace the word “safety” with “comfort” in my dad’s last phrase for it to actually be applicable.
Beginning three (conversational snippet):
Z: This isn’t romantic, you know.
K: What, for a honeymoon?
Z: No, for everything. EVERYTHING. This is most definitely NOT romantic.
But any way that I begin, one thing is undeniable. Today we spent the most miserable night/early morning/three hours that we’ve ever spent on this trip. Maybe excepting our first night in the London airport – because at least this time I didn’t throw up. Well, let me revise that statement. For ME it was the most miserable night/early morning/three hours that we’ve ever spent on this trip. I think Kevin mostly enjoyed himself. He is strange, that Kevin.
So what exactly happened? Well, our original bus, which left El Chalten on time at 9am, had suffered from some mechanical issues this (or was it technically yesterday?) morning. (It’s a bit questionable as to what the problem actually was since the bus seemed to be running ok to me.) After stopping two or three times on the road for some attempted repairs, the bus drivers evidently decided it would be best for us to stop for good at a small estancia (farm) in the middle of nowhere and call their backup bus to come get us instead of risking our bus breaking down on the road. Ok, fine. Great. We would spend four hours waiting at the estancia after already weathering a few hours of delays. Wonderful. No problem. We had a package of crackers and a Scrabble board, so we would be ok.
Our backup bus arrived just after 7pm, and we all quickly piled in, relieved that it had actually made it. In hindsight perhaps we should have piled in rather less quickly, but at the time we were just so happy to be on the road again. The rest of the ride passed without much incident. We did stop once around 1am at a small stand that sold outrageously priced empanadas. Kevin said he asked for carne, but I’m pretty sure that they got “carne” confused with “air,” because that’s all I could seem to find in my empanada.
But at least I would spend the next three hours sleeping relatively peacefully on the bus. We pulled into the Perito Moreno bus stop – which was just the front of a hotel that the bus company worked with in order to squeeze the most money out of desperate, shelter-seeking backpackers – at 4:06am, seven hours behind schedule and four hours before our next bus would leave for Bariloche. The surly and unyielding (and I might add just plain MEAN) hotel owner was asking for the exorbitant rate of 60 pesos per person for a dorm bed for just three hours repose. We mutinied. About a dozen of us decided we’d rather sleep outside in front of the hotel than give the owner any money. He shrugged and promptly closed and locked the hotel door, leaving us to the mercy of the cold sidewalks and the medium-sized stray dogs. (Dad, don’t worry, if we had been in a big city or if there had only been three or four of us not wanting to spend the money, we would have gone inside. Safety first!)
A few of the more mechanically-minded folks spent the first hour or so convening, adjourning, and then reconvening the “Is it possible to unlock a bus door from the outside?” meeting. The next hour was filled with small talk. The rest of the time? We just waited. It was awful, the waiting.
A few things opened (and by a few I mean two) around 7am, so Kevin and I sat down to a quick breakfast before getting on our next bus at 8am, which luckily left on time.
All in all, worst night ever.
But, as Kevin pointed out at five in the morning (in a statement I completely ignored, because there was no room for optimism in my brain at that time and under those circumstances), “Hey, at least it’s a good story. And now you have something to blog about!” Great.
Puzzles for Postcards
Where Am I? Name the city.
Picture of the Day: We will frame this one and call it “Prelude to the Worst Night EVER.”