If you have to eat meat just the one time, you eat it here
With Brasil and its people still in our thoughts, we embarked on a 20 hour luxury bus ride from Porto Alegre in Brasil to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I don’t travel on buses very well, but bus rides in Brasil, Argentina, Chile and some parts of Peru are a different cup of tea altogether. They match the first class service offered on airlines, right from 2 person wide leather seats, to having a hostess on board serving meals and drinks. They do come at a price that matches a cattle class ticket on a budget airline, but are worth the money given the comfort they provide on over land travel.
Chapter 1: Good Airs, vibes. Mad partying
We arrived into Buenos Aires on a hot and humid day and boarded a bus to make our way to our CS host Pablo’s house. We were a bit taken back by the relatively hostile reception on the bus; relative because we were treated as rockstars on the buses in Brasil anytime we asked for directions or any related question. We were horrified when all we got in response to asking directions was a grunt. Had we stepped into a different world? Were we back in Australia? What on earth was happening? What had happened to the super excited bus drivers and ticket collectors who went out of their way (at times physically), to ensure that we always arrived safe and sound at our destination.
Well, all those terrifying thoughts were put to rest once we met Pablo who turned out to be just as mad as we had imagined him to be. I say that because whilst we waited for him to come home from work, we took the liberty to take a walk around his kitchen where we came across pot plants with wires popping out of them connected to a multimeter. I imagined Pablo to be this mad scientist who had set out to resolve some ordinary men’s obsession with vegetarianism and upon meeting him, he was exactly that, just a tad bit more nutty.
Pablo insists all his CSers to make a painting and hangs them up on a wall and our contribution to the wall is shown below
Whilst in BsAs, we also had planned to stay at Beatrice’s place (another CS host) in San Telmo, but we were confronted with a man made disaster whilst our move to Beatrice’s house. We were on the metro when it stopped all of a sudden with transit officers stepping on board announcing that there had been an incident down at the port and that all metros would be discontinued for the rest of the day.
Once on the street, we saw people covering their faces with masks made of paper and whatever cloth they had. Seemed to us like the plague had struck BsAs. What we found out post multiple rumours and news posts was that there had been a pesticide container in the post that had caught fire and exploded sending toxic chemicals in the air. We were cautioned against going in the direction of the port, which is close to San Telmo, and ended up back at Pablo’s place who was nice enough to offer his room for another night – top bloke!
It would be a tragedy if one does not experience the madness of an night out in BsAs and we were certainly not going to miss out on one. The pattern of the night goes as follows: people have dinner around 10-11pm and then call their mates over to their place for a drink or head out to a pub for a few bevvies to line their livers post which at 3am they march onto to find a place to shake their hips at. This normally then goes well past sunrise and usually ends up with some alfahores or fuktratis(?) for brekkie – both delicious argentineans delicacies or junk as some might call it. We had a fab night out with Carla, a CS member and Pablo dancing well away into the hours of the morning.
Chapter 2: Mendoza and my first encounter with the authorities
Post a 17 hour bus journey we found ourselves in Mendoza – the wine region of Argentina famous for its range of Malbec wines. Mendoza is a little town with plenty of highly priced restaurants and bars but at the same time has plenty of green to lure nature lovers such as Dee and I to it.
We stayed with a German expat Oliver and his lovable lab Laika, both of whom had great travel stories spanning over a decade! Oliver adopted Laika in Mexico in 2001 and has been traveling with her around Latin America and Europe. I found that to be absolutely fascinating and hope that I can do the same one day with my 2 pets back home in Sydney – Sasha and Zaara.
We caught up with our french couchsurfers in Buenos Aires – Diana and Axelle in Mendoza and did a bike trip of all 4 vineyards around Maipu, the central wine region in Mendoza. We were very thankful to have a beautiful sunny day and some cold white wine was handy.
Post many a glass of fine wine and cheese, we were on our way back to the bike rental store to return our bikes when I had what I had been dreading all along – a flat. I was a good 5kms out and with not many passers by, I had resigned myself to undertaking an energy sapping walk back in the 32C heat. It was then that I saw a police bike approach and me and stop. The cop proceeded to ask me if everything was alright and I pointed to the obvious. He then looked straight into my eyes and proceeded to observe my posture which was a slight bit shaky post all those ‘vazos de vinos’ but I somehow managed to hold my own. He then gave me a smile and said that his fellow ‘Tourist Police officer’ had called for help and that it was on its way. In fact, when a pickup truck arrived escorted by a second police officer, I was asked by all around if I was alright and I wanted water or any other luxury. I was to find out later than there are 2 divisions of police officers in Argentina. One are the civil police who are out there to maintain order and the second form the ‘Tourist Police’ force, whose primary job is to ensure the safety and well being of tourists. And at times, pose for photos with them…