Surprise! I´m In Buenos Aires, Argentina!

April 11, 2009 by  

Hi Everybody, 
 
It´s been days since I´ve been in touch with anyone and for good reason, too! A combination of hard-traveling, Easter Week/Semana Santa, (over here, “Week Saint” or something like that), and a glaring lack of internet cafes in this gorgeous large capital city of Argentina…..oh, well I did locate two of them but they were closed because of Good Friday. Darkened down and might be tomorrow on Easter Sunday, as well. So, I´m jumping in when I can. 
 
Just last week, I was entering Bolivia for a one-week pass through… spent $135 on my visa and I´m not sure it was all that great an idea, though La Paz was better than I had expected after reading Lonely Planet´s gloomy-wet-and-freezing-and-terribly-uphill-cobblestone-streets description of it. From La Paz, I took a long and tiring bus to an indescript town called Oruro, simply because a train ride (one of the few on the continent) begins there. Okay, I got the overnight train which took 22 hours to get to the Bolivian/Argentine border instead of 15. Then, I stood in a line at the border for two hours because so many folks had come on the train and we all clotted up there.  The actual crossing procedure was simple.
By that time, it was hot afternoon and I´d become buddies with six other backpackers from the U.K. and Australia, all far, far, younger than I, but we hung together and hurried to the bus depot and hopped immediately on a bus for Salta, the lovely-sounding town we had all picked out, because (let´s face it) there´s not much more than dry and hot salt desert in that region. 
 
It was midnight when we pulled into Salta and we hadn´t eaten since our breakfast on the train…why didn´t I stuff my face then?…except for a candy bar that one of the fellows jumped out of the border-crossing line to go and buy for those of us who were crashing about then (all of us).   Where are those food vendors when you need them? After all these countries where indigenous people sell everything, everywhere; suddenly there aren´t any in Argentina…not even money-changers at the border, tho they still took Bolivian currency. We had to get way deep into this new country before there was any opportunity to get Argentine pesos. Sort of like an afterthought. Weird. 
 
Arriving in Salta, Argentina, I discovered that all accommodations were full because of the Easter Holiday. This is a cute little country town with outdoor activities and wine-growing and the city people flock to in during their Spring Break. Shoot! Not only did I wish to see it in the daytime, but I wished to partake of its advantages….like a hot shower and a comfortable bed, after two long days and nights sitting up in train and bus seats wearing the same many layers of clothing. Gumpy, hungry and sleepy. That was me! 
 
But, there was no room at the Inn. So, my options were slim. I could catch another bus for another 18-hour (and probably more if they past rides were any example) bus ride into Mendoza, Argentina, or an even much longer one into Santiago, Chile. I figured that Santiago, being a big city which people escape from, would surely have some available rooms.
There was an airport in Salta, so I conceived the bright idea to go there, early in the morning and try to catch a flight to either of those cities. First, I sat for six night hours in the brightly-lighted clean and pleasant Salta bus station, eating pizza and catching up my journal. At dawn, I took a taxi to the airport, which was still dark and unopened though I could go inside to wait. 
 
There, I discovered that Argentine airports all serve only their capital city, Buenos Aires, and nowhere else. You have to travel to the hub to access any other city – even those which were physically closer to this side of the continent. So, I couldn´t make a short hop to Mendoza without going clear across and then clear back again, at the price of two tickets, if I wanted to stay on the Andean Cordillera “spinal column” side. It was either Buenos Aires, or back to the Salta bus station for another long, long ride westward. No contest! When my body heard that there was a flight leaving shortly at 8 a.m., and that I could be in Buenos Aires two hours later, with the surety of a hotel bed being available, I forked over the $165 for a one-way ticket and was soon aboard a beautiful Andes Air plane. 
Once we were airborne and saw that a thick cloud cover blanketed a huge area, I remembered the soaking rain that had fallen on our train during the night as well as sopping ground and enormous puddles everywhere. There was probably going to be no sunshine for the folks who had come so far to celebrate Easter in the country…only a very drippy sunrise for the next few days. It took us a long time to fly across that bunch of bad weather. But, eventually, we left it behind and came to clear and sunny skies. 
 
That´s how I arrived in this gleaming, beautiful, warm and clean city. Great weather!  Found a hotel through the airport reference desk, took a taxi and checked in ($40 per night), showered and went right to bed after taking all my dirty clothes to the front desk for the lavanderia (washing) service. 
 
Yesterday was Good Friday and things were relatively buttoned-up, even in this big city, though a huge and fancy shopping mall was open and I got some important things done there. It was hard to find the usually-ever-present Internets and the two that I did locate were off-line. Guess this new-fangled internet business is a no-no on the Holy Day. Luckily, today it`s functioning, but I wonder about tomorrow, which is Easter Sunday. Better get it all typed and finished today. 
 
This detour over to the eastern coastline of the continent has changed my headlong rush down the spinal column of South America, but it couldn´t be helped. So, I´m trying to pull it out of the hat and finish my original objective to get all the way down to the tail “End of the World”; to the little city of Ushuaia, Argentina, jumping off place to Antarctica. Since April is the southern hemisphere´s equivalent of October, things must be getting pretty cold down there by now. I`ve been buying a few articles of clothing to help me manage – a good fleece jacket, as well as a wool one. Talk about bulk for the backpack. 
 
When I spotted a travel agency in the Galleria Mall I sat down with the guy to discuss ways of getting to Ushuaia, since it is actually in Argentina, though there` s a lot of Chile down in that tailbone too. I wound up buying a round-trip ticket for $298 to fly next Thursday, April 16 and return on the following Wednesday, April 22. Actually, I´ll leave Ushuaia at 9 p.m. Tuesday night but won´t get to B.A. till 1:00 a.m.
That may prove to be the best way to travel to and from that remote spot because the highways below Santiago look as if they would take a whole lot of time to bus through so many spectacular national parks, glaciers and forests along the way.  If it´s anything like the Andes around Cusco, those hairpins take many, many white-knuckle hours to cover.  And it also might have been my luck to get to Santiago, Chile, and learn that I couldn´t fly to Ushuaia without going to Buenos Aires, anyway, though probably I could have gone to their town of Puento Arenas, not far from the Argentine border down there. Now, my only chance to tip into Chile will be to maybe go to Puento Arenas from Ushauaia. I´ll decide when I get there. But, I have about five days to get to know the place intimately. Brrrr! 
 
I went right to an outdoor shop and invested in a good pair of mountain-climbing pants and some warm socks. Salivated over climbing/hiking boots but held off. Today, in this lovely heat, all those things look so unwelcome, as they also will when I get back to Florida in just a few weeks. 
 
I have located the Continental Airlines office in this city though it´s (natually) closed till Monday when the holiday will finally be over. So, I shall hie myself in to change my return ticket to bring me home during the last few days of April. That might leave enough time to get up to Iguazu Falls from this city after I´ve recovered from my End of The World trip. And, also, in these next few days, perhaps I can cross the water to visit Montevideo, Uruguay, on a day trip. Sounds like I´ll be jumping about quite a lot before finally boarding that flight for home. But, it`s all coming together in it´s own unexpected way. 
 
Well, that´s it for now. Don´t worry if there are long silences. They will be forced upon me if they happen. These next few days are just going to be easy city ones in fantastic weather. I´m out of the cheap zone, so won´t be snapping up any more gifts. In fact, my next duty is to try to find a hostel or cheaper hotel to see if I can cut back expenses after all these big airfares of late, plus a $200 change fee on my homecoming flight still to go. I think I can find a hostel dorm room for a whole lot less than my private hotel room and now that I´m rested up, that would be just fine. More soon! Happy Easter tomorrow! 
 

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No, I Have Not Died And Gone To Heaven! Just Zanzibar!
The Search For Meaning In Life Is Probably The Same All Over The World
Life In And Around Lake Victoria, Africa. I Have Achieved My Destination!