So before coming on my trip to South America I spoke to numerous friends, who had had fabulous experiences here, and all of them bar none, told me that I should make sure I travelled on the bus/coach (similar to National Express) at least once.
Initially I found this strange. Paying to travel upwards of 7 hours on a confined bus didn’t appeal to me one bit. But my friends insisted saying that traveling on a coach in Argentina was like traveling in first class on a plane (when you paid for the cama seats).
I found this very hard to believe, but after checking out the website images and the costs (a cama seat is only about £10-20 more than the normal seat) I decided, albeit reluctantly to give it a go!
So ticket booked, I arrived at Retiro bus station, which for be main international bus station in Buenos Aires, could do with tearing down and starting again!
The immediate area around the bus station is full of people trying to sell you tat, this isn’t the problem. The issue for me was that this is potentially the first place people will see when they arrive in Buenos Aires and it doesn’t give a good impression. The streets are dirty with rubbish and food waste – it’s really no comparison to the beauty of the city I’d seen earlier that week! And that kinda upset me…
Anyway I navigate myself through the mess and the hundreds of fellow travellers all making their way inside and to find my coach ‘platform’. I look at a a nearby screen, but that doesn’t really help. Then I find someone to ask and in spang-lish we figure out hat my bus…coach departs from the furthered platform to where I am – typical!
As I near the platform there are a row of buses all bearing the Andesmar coach company logo – I’m in the right place!
A quick look on the screen, but I can’t see my bus anywhere.. I walk up to the driver and show him my ticket, he grabs it, spends a few moments looking at it and then hands it back to me pointing to another bus. So I walk over to this bus (remember that I’m still carrying a 16kg backpack and 6kg hand luggage in 30 degree heat!)
Pushing my way through the crowds, who are exactly the same situation I am, uncertain as to whether the bus they’re about to step on will take them to the destination they paid for or some other place….
Finally I get to the second driver and discover that my coach will arrive in 10minutes – lovely! I stand and wait….
I’m nervous and slightly excited. Why? Because of the look I get from the baggage handler when I can only give him 5 Pesos because that’s the change I’ve got, and excited because I’ve never travelled in first claw before.. I‘m feeling pretty optimistic.
Living the dream
So it’s time to board. I step inside and wow – my initial impression is ok. The cama ‘bed’ seats are downstairs. There are about eight seats all looking back at me eager to recline. They’re leather looking… But tired. I can imagine that whine this coach first went into service this would have been creme de la creme of travel. But by the look of these chairs they’d seen more than their fair share of hot sweaty bottoms!
The seats are comfortable, and as the picture on he website illustrated, they do recline all the way back providing some comfort for tired bodies.
Again I’m not sure whether it was because my friends sold me such great stories, and It just didn’t live up to the vivid images I’d conjured up in my mind, or whether it was simply that this was the standard and that was that!
Either way I was happy I’d chosen to book the cama seat, even if it was a little old – at least it would make the 15 hour trip a little easier to swallow!
Time flies when your having fun
I on the other hand as not having that much fun… When they said it would take 15 hours they meant it! Despite the reclining chair, the game of bingo (which helped massively with me understanding numbers, the inflight ‘not actually on a flight’ food which was ok, and the challenge of not spilling my complimentary glass of red wine all over myself after every bump in the road, I never knew 15 hours could go so slowly!
Alas night drew in and I fell asleep watching Batman: The dark knight rises, dubbed in Spanish. Unfortunately that didn’t help with my language skills!
Finally dawn broke and we were nearly at our destination. Another tray of ore-packaged food crossed my lap and as the rubbish was being cleared away we arrived at Mendoza!
To Malbec or not to Malbec
Like Retiro, Mendoza bus station isn’t much to look at, but I found the layout and general cleanliness of the place much better! I jumped in a taxi – and headed to my second homestay house!
The house, or apartment was situated on the road in Mendoza, full of various bars and restaurants. At first I was a little concerned, but once I found out the block where the apartment was, was set back from the road it was a big relief!
After setting my stuff in the room i was allocated, was more or less an annex used by the family’s children to keep their table tennis table I was kindly invited to share their lunch too!
In a variation of Spanglish we talked about what I did in London, what the family did, how long my trip was going to be and finally sat around my phone laughing at the comical episodes of my ‘Dekan Does’ series.
After a shower and a little rest, I decided to venture out into Mendoza and get a lay of the land.
As I mentioned I was struck by the numerous bars on the main road – this was definitely a party city, and by the number of chairs that were being put out; tonight (Saturday) was going to be a busy night!
For me though it was about trying the wine, after all that’s the thing that Mendoza is famous for!
I popped into a local restaurant following a recommendation from from a friend and ordered my first Milanese – a beef schnitzel if you will – deliciously crisp and light topped off with a fried egg! And to accompany my main, a glass of the house red….But what a house red! No sharp after taste, no burn on the throat, just lots of flavour and very, very, very smooth! My next stop would have to be a winery!