Thursday, December 26, 2013

Surviving a 30 hour bus ride in Argentina

When I talk to people back home about the length of some of the bus rides I've taken, most of them are horrified!  However, I've grown to really appreciate the bus system in South America, and those long bus rides aren't always so bad.  From Bariloche to El Calafate, I faced my longest bus ride yet… "promoted" as 28 hours long, it took closer to 30 hours in total.  So, here's a quick little overview on long bus rides in South America and how to survive them.  

This particular bus was fully "cama", which means that the seats recline to about 160 degrees.  Once you've gotten used to it (and have your ear plugs and eye mask handy), you can actually get some decent sleep in those seats.  Other options (though not for this journey), include "semi-cama", which is a basic seat that reclines a little bit, and "executive" or "cama-suite", which is pretty much your first class 180 degree reclining luxury seat.  Most of the buses with cama or cama-suite options are two-story buses, and there are all sorts of theories on which seats are the "best".  Some buses have semi-cama up top and cama below, so by all means, I would recommend staying below.  Some people like to have the front seats up top with the massive windows to enjoy the view, but sometimes it's difficult to see the TVs.  Some people say the seat directly behind the stairs to the bottom floor has the best legroom, others say they avoid that area as it's directly above the bathroom (on most buses) and can be a bit stinky.  I've sat just about everywhere on the buses since I buy my seats last-minute, but as long as you know what type of seat you're getting and where the bathrooms are located, you'll be able to figure it out where to sit pretty easily.  

The view from the top, a few rows back.

They do serve meals on board many of the buses (for this one we had lunch, dinner, and breakfast), but the food is mostly a far cry from even airplane fare.  For lunch or dinner, you can usually expect a bit of meat with 3 or 4 carbs.  For breakfast, you're likely getting a packaged cookie and a cup of hot water with a packet of tea or coffee, and maybe a super-sugary fruit juice box.  For this trip, I packed a massive bag of snacks for the road which helped keep my stomach full (though this approach is likely one of the reasons I've gained a few pounds this trip!).

Breaded meat with rice, bread, bread, more bread, some sort of bread thing, and lentils.

To keep my mind occupied, I was fully armed with my journal, my Kindle (and one of the epically long Game of Thrones books), my phone (just a means of accessing some stored up podcasts and music), and even a few TV shows downloaded to my laptop.  Thankfully I had also met an awesome couple at my hostel in Bariloche who were on the same bus, and just happened to be seated just across the aisle - it was definitely a saving grace to have some people to talk to!  

The bus companies here also show movies during the trips, though it's a bit hit or miss with whether you'll get something decent and/or in English.  You can be fairly guaranteed the movie will be some sort of bloody action movie though - they sure do like their violent movies on the Argentinian buses!  Don't believe me?  Here's a sampling of what we were shown during our 30 hour trip:

  • Inglorious Basterds, because you can't get more bloody and violent than Quentin Tarantino.  Sidenote:  since half the movie is in French or German, and all the subtitles were in Spanish, it was a *little* challenging to follow!
  • The Dark Knight, with Heath Ledger's amazingly haunting portrayal of the Joker.
  • Che, actually two movies, both in Spanish, both with Benicio del Toro.  I didn't watch it, so I can't vouch if it was bloody, but it's still a movie about a guerilla revolutionary, so there's a bit of war involved.
  • Sometime around 11 PM as we were all getting ready to go to sleep, they actually had the nerve to turn on one of the SAW movies (number 4, perhaps?), and we all started yelling until they turned it off.  (If you haven't seen one of these movies, it basically started with two people having to saw their own limbs off.  Pleasant pre-sleep viewing.)

A rarity:  a fantastic movie AND in English.  Not a rarity:  violence!

Oh, and you can always just look out the window.  The scenery on a long bus ride through Patagonia isn't exactly terrible.  :)

Not bad at all.


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