Buenos Aires, Argentina

Porteños (Argentinians born in Buenos Aires) woke up today to find another woman is getting more powerful. No, it´s not an Evita and nobody in the whole Argentina seems to be crying that she is the new President. I´m talking here about Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, wife of the current President Nestor Kirchner. Looks like this guy is so well loved after turning around Argentina´s faltering economy that the Argentinians have thought they might as well elect their First Lady. Welcome to the Club of Lady Presidents, Mrs. Kirchner - you certainly got company in the Philippines with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo or right across your neighbor Chile with Michelle Bachelet! If Hillary Clinton up north wins, that´s even more merrier eh? Talk about shopping together during your future APEC summit meetings!

Yesterday, I got into one of those buses that ply the route Foz do Iguacu-Puerto Iguazu and paid 3 reals for the trip. Thanks to a concerned Brazilian (who happen to notice that I was the only foreigner in that bus), he informed me to alight the bus at the Brazilian immigration to surrender my exit card and to resume the journey with another bus towards Argentinian passport control, a few miles away. The bus driver gave me a transfer voucher and so there I was, in this forlorn edifice in the middle of the road having a cursory eye contact with a Brazilian immigration officer who took my passport and exit card.

I´m finally out of Brazil and went into this waiting shed where a young woman sat. Her name´s Sabrina, a 20-year-old Argentinian who´s living and studying in Foz do Iguacu. It´s hot as hell even in the shade but our conversation for the next hour (yes, h-o-u-r) while waiting for a bus was convivial, helped by the fact that she speaks good English. This Porteña admits not being able to vote as she can´t be in Buenos Aires in time. All she needs is to report to a government office in Puerto Iguazu to get an exemption certificate of sorts and be out of potential trouble - at least, she´s not a flying voter no? We talked about things that you don´t usually open up to with a stranger but this young lady was just a motormouth herself. She listens to Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and despises Britney Spears! She sings well, taking voice lessons at an Evangelical College in Foz. Her bus comes along and dreadful of waiting any longer for my bus, I join her and paid 2 reals for the trip. We stopped by at Argentinian immigration and the bus waited for us - I was the last one back! Sabrina could only ask wistfully: "When are we gonna talk again?" when we arrived at Puerto Iguazu bus terminal. I shot back: "I dunno, you might become famous and you won´t even remember me". "Have a safe journey to Buenos Aires then", were her parting words.


I arrived early this morning in Retiro, Buenos Aires´ massive bus terminal after 16 hours on the road from Puerto Iguazu. Before anyone says oh my butt, that´s a long time to be in a bus!, I´d say the buses in Argentina should put to shame the lame bus service there is in America - Greyhound listen to this. I´ve booked myself a ticket on Via Bariloche´s super cama bus for 220 pesos (roughly $70) which is actually their most expensive service. They have less expensive buses touted as cama and semi-cama which basically differs only in the degree of the seat´s recline and number of passengers onboard. Flying into Buenos Aires is a more expensive option at $150 one way (flying within Argentina is expensive). I decided to go for the most expensive bus service as I´m already saving in hotel expenses anyway.


What sets Via Bariloche apart from the buses I´ve been on - like the chicken bus in Sagada, Philippines or that smelly Greyhound I took from Miami to Key West - is the service while you´re on the road. We´re talking here about airline-like service. First of all, the bus itself is a huge double-decker and in the case of super cama service, there are only 20 seats in the upper deck plus 8 in the lower deck. These seats are what´s actually considered First Class seats in most airlines - they recline a full 180 degrees and there´s a blanket and pillow waiting for me as I board. A steward greeted me at the door after my backpack was tagged and secured at the luggage hold. "Bienvenido!"




It was indeed a welcome to airconditioned bliss after that stifling heat in the afternoon. As soon as we were seated, the bus moved on time at 3:10 p.m. Shortly thereafter, the steward came up and passed around a basket of candies. About two hours on the road, he came up offering cups of hot coffee and cookies. Stretched completely flat on my seat/bed, I was merely reading a book while taking a glance every now and then at the movie being shown on one of the LCD TVs. By 8:00 p.m., the steward started the dinner service, bringing us lap trays and feeding us a better than expected meal - a warm dinner consisting of rice and chicken! He returned with a selection of drinks - mind you, this includes wine. Seated across the aisle from me was Avram, a 25-year-old Israeli who has just trekked to an active volcano in Chile. He agrees that this service - his second Via Bariloche trip in Argentina - is the best he´s experienced thus far for a bus ride.

While we were chatting, the steward comes for the umpteenth time for anyone wanting coffee or tea. I politely refused to be infused with caffeine - I still want to sleep. Downstairs was the toilet with an extra large bowl meant hopefully to catch someone´s pee from splattering all over the floor while the bus is in motion. I brushed my teeth and went to my, well, boudoir upstairs. The lights were already turned off. Hmmm.

I must have been sleeping soundly (read: snoring) when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Oh, "Buenos dias, desayuno señor", it´s the steward with his lap trays again - wait, are we eating one more time??? Yes amigo, there´s breakfast before we arrive in Buenos Aires. I pulled the curtain to reveal a more crowded traffic scene of buses, lorries and more buses and other signs of urbanity: buildings, houses, waiting sheds, billboards and people walking on an early Monday morning on their way to work. Aha! We´re just within the perimeter of Buenos Aires. We all finished breakfast just as the bus finally pulls into Retiro. I disembark and was immediately swallowed by a humongous crowd of travellers while trying to find a money changer. Finding none, I went straight into an ATM machine and got some Argentinian pesos for my subway ride to our starting point hotel, The Hotel Splendid. GAP Adventures, here I am! Who could my roommate be?


  1. hi nomadic pinoy,

    you mentioned the gap adventure tour for this one, what tour did you take? would you recommend escorted tours vs doing things on your own? also, have you tried contiki?

    nice blog. very informative. im going to south america myself next month and im doing my research for my itinerary.

  2. I did the "Bolivia Crossing" with GAP, a well-run adventure outfitter. (Check their office in NYC) I've also done independent trips and I can say both have its advantages/disadvantages. The freedom of independent travel appeals to me but at the same time, I also yearn the company of like-minded people.
    I've read about Contiki but I do find their prices rather steep for me. All the best on your South American journey!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...