Posted by David:
We have used just about every mode of transportation that I can think of on this adventure, but our travels of the last week were extraordinary.
After five weeks of language classes in Buenos Aires, we decided to take some excursions to the northwest and northeast in Argentina. We were heading for the town of Salta City in the Salta Provence (one of 24 Argentine provinces) and then venturing out from there to Jujuy, the salt flats, and some places in between before moving onto Iguazu Falls and finally back to Buenos Aires where we planned to fly to Lima, Peru.
There are plenty of flights to all of these places but we had been hearing about the wonderful long-distance busses in Argentina that are more like planes than busses complete with seats that turn into beds, food service, and movies, and we thought it would be fun. So we bought the tickets.
I haven’t had stellar experiences on ultra-long distance bus rides in the past. I once took a bus from Tel-Aviv to Cairo. Smoking was mandatory and as you might expect, the windows of this bus were sealed shut. There was also a video monitor above each seat, which blared a continuous loop of Arabic music videos at an ungodly decibel. I was traveling with two friends and the one that sat next to me vomited the entire trip. Two other very memorable long distance hauls include a 24 hour train from Cairo to Luxor which was very similar to the above mentioned bus trip, and a 48 hour Amtrak ride from Chicago to Seattle in which my friend, Eduardo, and I were seated next to a woman who berated and slapped her young kids for most of the journey.
Our first bus ridewas 20 hours, our second bus was 26 hours and our third bus was an easy 18 hours!
For the most part, the busses were really nice. The seats reclined enough so that you were almost in a prone position. They were double-decker and we always got to sit on the second level, which was cool except for when there was a lot of wind and it seemed that the bus might tip over. The bathrooms were, well….they were bathrooms on a long distance bus. Use your imagination and then multiply times two and you’ll get the idea.
On the first leg of our journey, there was a man sitting a couple seats in front of us who snored. Before the bus ride, Amy worried about a lot of different bus-related scenarios. What if the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere? What if there is a traffic accident? What if the road gets closed by one of Argentina’s many manifestacions (protests)? She forgot to think about the likely scenario of the snoring man who may be seated in front of us. I am told that I snore, but I am sure my body is not capable of making the sounds that came from this man. He produced a continuous and brutal head throbbing noise that came from a place in his body that was most certainly controlled by aliens. It’s hard to believe that this man was able to stand up and walk after producing this sound for more than 8 hours.
There was food served but it made dormitory food look incredibly tasty and beautifully presented. After the meal and before “bedtime” we were offered champagne or whiskey. It was a nice touch but a bit incongruous with the overall experience. Having the movies was nice but unlike the movies shown on a plane where you choose to watch the movie or not by plugging in your headphones, everyone had to listen to the soundtrack.
The kids did great. Amy and I aged about 10 years each but I will say that I was able to read a lot more in one sitting than ever before.
The second bus ride was the longest, 24+ hours, from Salta, Argentina to Iguazu, Argentina. In addition, we had one transfer and an hour and a half layover. I don’t remember much about the trip other than it was incredibly long and I found myself wondering whether having a catheter, although incredibly uncomfortable, I’m told, may have improved the overall experience.
The third ride from Iguazu back to Buenos Aires was only 18 hours and the bus was a notch above the other two we had taken. The seats were more comfortable and the movie selection was pretty good, and the bathroom was clean(er). The time went by quickly and I had a fun conversation with a young guy from New York named Ron Golan whose father had emigrated from Kabul, Afghanistan to Israel, fought in two wars in the Golan Heights and changed his last name to Golan in honor of the battles.
The kids did great on all three rides. Amy was a trooper, as always, and I tried not to complain but really wished we had flown! I do believe that it’s all in the journey, but I must say that long distance bus rides may not be included in my journeys in the future.