The long haul to Mendoza

For the first 4 hours until the nearest major town on the bus from Puerto Iguazu to Santa Fe we were the only passengers, which we thought was fab. Just us upstairs with the IMG_0383front seats and the two drivers chatting downstairs. They still put on the obligatory action film just for us, but after we asked if the onboard drinks machine did coffee we were promptly handed two cups of thick tar coffee which kept us bouncing around for a good while, feeling smug that we had the best seats in the house (you get to choose your seats when you buy your tickets and after the journey up we soon realised that being upstairs at the front of the bus is best – no one in front reclining their seat back, more leg room, can put feet up on the front (don’t think your supposed to do that mind) and a great view.

We arrived in Santa Fe feeling pretty good after a 14 hour journey and within an hour were on a local bus winging our way to Rosario, Argentina’s second city 2 hours away. The landscape was pretty flat and the roads long and straight the whole way. After arriving in Rosario and doing the tour of bus companies who heading our way it quickly became obvious that we’d have to do another long overnighter and Mendoza would be our destination rather than Santa Luis as that had a 4am arrival time (we work on a philosophy that if the scenery is boring and its a long journey, an overnight bus that gets in a sensible time in the morning is in order).

IMG_0388So we ended up spending a day in Rosario. It’s a pleasant enough city from what we saw, but we had the rucksacks with us so didn’t venture too far as we were too lazy to carry them round all day.

The 13 1/2 hour journey from Rosario to Mendoza was by far the worst yet. The bus looked posh on the outside but inside it was old school with lots of well polished wood, which was cool but it was also dirty and tatty. It stank of wood polish, but luckily we’re used to that after living with Stephen for 2 years. It seemed to have no heaters or air con and with not many people on board soon went cold, like really cold. We spent the night trying not to succumb to hypothermia even with fleecy jackets and hats on. It was a sucky journey and we barely slept – we arrived in Mendoza filthy, stinking, half frozen and knackered.

The only interesting thing about the journey was the farmers have moved their protests back onto the roads. We’d seen them on previous journeys with camps and banners and their tractors ready to re-blockade the roads at a second’s notice in protest at export tax increases (at least we think its the farmers again but we’re not too sure as fuel stations seem to be being targeted). Lucky for us they were only stopping trucks from passing, other traffic they were letting through and it was fun driving past looking down on it from the top deck. Usually the blockades consisted of burning buckets in the middle of the road leading up to the blockade and lots of men hanging around mounds of burning tyres with loads of banners and flags and usually a gazebo…

IMG_0389We found ourselves a cheap hotel within an hour or so of arriving in Mendoza in a nice quiet area, as we’re craving a peaceful night with no background noise. Some would call it a shithole but to us its bliss; ensuite, clean, quiet, good size, a tv, a radiator that works and a bed in a safe, central location. Okay so we’re ignoring the fact that it’s pretty run down and the paint is peeling, the plaster board is coming away from the wall and the ceiling is falling in, but we like it. Besides I was so desperate for the toilet when they showed us the room that I would have taken it no matter how bad it was.

Mendoza is in the foothills of the Andes, over the hill from Santiago. In 1861 it was flattened by an earthquake and rebuilt with wide avenues for the rubble to fall into when the next big one hits. For the moment mother nature is playing other games with us. We decided to spend 3 days in Mendoza and leave for Chile on Friday (travelling during the day as the road goes high over the mountains so we want to see the scenery). But when we went to the station to buy our bus ticket it turns out that the pass was closed yesterday due to snow and no one seems to know or care when it might reopen (in full winter it can close for weeks but we should be too early to hit that). Of 3 companies we know to be reputable 2 won’t sell any tickets for the route. Touts are still trying to push tickets, but we want a reputable company if conditions are bad. We decided to wait until Thursday and see what the situation is and make a decision then as other options are sucky, namely fly (expensive) or bus it up to Salta in the NW which is about a 20 hour journey (the downsides beng the long bus journey obviously, we’d miss most of Chile and still pretty costly).

In the meantime we’re going to explore Mendoza and its surrounds.

Observations:

  • So far on all the buses there has only been us and the locals – no other foreign tourists(maybe they all have more sense and are flying)
  • We’re now starting to see local people in Inca design hats and ponchos etc
  • They have red old style British public telephones here – weird

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