28 January 2008

Vacations: Getting there is half the fun

On the Chevallier bus, near San RafaelThe title is ironic, of course. The weather was oppressive the day when we departed from Rosario. We took the Chevallier bus to San Rafael, Mendoza, at 8 PM (in full afternoon glory, thanks to our crazy DST scheme). There's no direct bus from Rosario to tiny Malargüe so we had to make a combination.

Off we went, west and south. Some time afterwards it began raining lightly, and then a T-storm broke out. Nothing serious. Around 1 AM, near Venado Tuerto (I'm guessing), the bus stopped. A tree or a branch or something had fallen over the road, so all traffic was stuck.

At first nobody told the passengers what had happened, so we speculated it was a car crash. Then we learned about the tree and started waiting for whoever was in charge of removing it.

We stayed there for over an hour, possibly an hour and a half. I slept in short stretches, while the rain continued. Finally we resumed the trip, but instead of arriving at 9:15 as scheduled, we got to San Rafael around 11 AM. We missed the bus we could've boarded at 10:15, and the rest were all full. The next available bus departed at 6 PM. We were faced with the choice of taking that bus (spending 7 hours in San Rafael) or looking for emergency cheap accomodation in San Rafael for the night.

Now San Rafael is a nice city, but not particularly attractive, and we were after all carrying our huge travel bags, so we couldn't possibly just take a walk around and do sightseeing. And San Rafael's bus terminus is truly creepy, a cramped half-block with dirty platforms and unpleasant-looking little shops, with some people looking as if they either want to rob you or sell you a fake Rolex, to the point it reminded me of Paraguay.

The alternative, however, wasn't really for us. We didn't want to spend a night in San Rafael, but anyway finding accomodation was hopeless, and it entailed losing the day completely, as well as a night's expenditure. So we dragged our bags from the terminus to a nearby public square, and I set off looking for two things: a phone to call the hostel's folks in Malargüe to ask them not to cancel our booking, and something to eat for lunch. I got an OK from Malargüe, and got us the ingredients for sandwiches. After those, we sat there sipping mate, getting suntanned, and generally looking like out-of-luck bums.

The bus finally came in time, and after almost three hours of travelling south with several stops seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we reached our destination at about 9 PM (under a Patagonian sun at full blast). I was back in Malargüe at last, after a year of waiting for the peace and quiet of that little corner of Argentina, and 25 hours in the road.

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