2010 SOUTH AMERICA TRIP REPORT
Because I flew down to Buenos Aires a day earlier than scheduled, I still had a few work-related matters to finish before officially beginning my South American holiday. Wi-Fi is widespread in Buenos Aires and I quickly located an unsecured hotspot in the arrivals area of the airport. Work took a little longer than I thought, plus I had to call UA about an award ticket, so two hours transpired before I finally stepped out into the crisp winter afternoon air to catch a bus into town.
After retrieving some cash from an ATM adjacent to the terminal, I trekked over the bus stop where I did not have to wait long for a #8 bus bound for central Buenos Aires. At a cost of 2 Pesos (U$S 0.25) the bus proved a much more economical option than a 120 Peso cab ride. The bus ride was long, as we frequently pulled off the expressway and winded through various neighborhoods, but we made it to the outskirts of Buenos Aires in 1.5 hours. I spied a bus terminal and decided to get off the city bus and see if there were any long-distance buses to Puerto Iguazu. I thought I was at the Retiro, the central bus station in Buenos Aires, but I was actually at a much smaller station on the far end of town.
As I walked around the bustling terminal, I spied a bus bound for Puerto Iguazu. I ventured up to the door of the bus, where the driver and ticket collector were engaged in a heated discussion. They both stopped to look at me, and then went right back to their conversation. I asked where I could purchase a ticket and they directed me to a Crucero del Norte booth about 100 feet away. The bus was scheduled to leave at 2:00p and it was now 2:04p, but the ticket vendor ran out to stop the bus from departing. I purchased a ticket with my Visa card for a cost of about $70 and was offered a choice of seats on either the bottom or upper level. I chose the smaller 16-seat section downstairs and was assigned a row of my own. My seat would stay empty despite our multiple stops along the way.
The bus featured recliner-style business class seats and each seat had a packaged blanket and pillow. A single overhead monitor would provide IDE (in-drive entertainment) during the 16 hour journey. A small lavatory was also on the bottom floor, right next to the stairs to the upper deck, that was smaller and less sanitary than an aircraft bathroom (think no flushing).
Just moments after pulling out, a steward came around with a bowl of candy and queued up the first of four movies: The Bucket List. I liked the movie the first time, but was not in the mood to watch it a second time. Nevertheless, I had no choice: rather than distributing earphones (there was an audio jack next to the reading light), the movie was played loud enough for Aunt Gertie to hear with her hearing aids turned down. My Bose noise canceling headphones helped somewhat, but I could still hear the dialogue and ended up watching the movie.
Not the best area of EZE…
Note my trusty TomBihn backpack
At about 6pm a snack was served. I thought the tasteless sandwich and other processed goodies were “dinner” but it turned out to be just a snack…I had forgotten that Argentineans eat dinner rather late by American standards. A cup of sugar with a little coffee was also served. It perked me up for a few minutes before the sugar crash.
More American movies were shown, all plainly downloaded from the internet (the hotmail e-mail address [something hacker @ hotmail.com] and pixilated quality were giveaways). I snoozed for a few hours and was awakened at 10pm for dinner.
Dinner featured more processed food, but the hot main course was really tasty. A mix of mashed corn and potatoes topped with a chicken breast, slice of ham, slice of cheese, and a dab of salsa really hit the spot. Plus, the portion size was large. A choice of beverage, including white and red wine was offered with dinner. After the meal trays were cleared, champagne was offered in flutes.
A baby was sitting behind me with her mother and I feared she would be loud the entire trip after being temperamental early on, but she was mum for the rest of the night. I read a book for an hour then reclined my seat and tried to get some sleep.
I quickly remembered why I don’t like UA’s old business class seats: they are difficult for me to sleep on. I sleep on my side and a recliner seat makes this hard. Nevertheless, I did get some shuteye (even managing to sleep through breakfast) and awoke just outside of Puerto Iguazu the following morning.
We pulled up to the bus station, about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Most of the passengers had already exited at various stops throughout the night, but the last dozen or so stepped out into the large bus station. The choice to travel by bus was a wise one and I must also commend Argentina for their smooth roads—I felt few bumps during the journey. If you ever find yourself in South America looking to get from city to city, seriously consider taking the bus. It was not a "Greyhound" experience.