To Patagonia ! ...someday at least.
After a slow week in Buenos Aires with our host Daniel, a canadian couchsurfer, we decided that it's time to head south, by bus to Rio Gallegos. But let us tell of the last week:
Our journey with Trevor, the American cyclist, was a short one. Not done yet with Montevideo he decided that it would be best for him if he stayed another week and turned around after 30km of cycling. Montevideo is a beautiful city and there is lots to explore within. We wish you a nice time and godspeed for the next trip.
Just the two of us again, we rode towards Colonia del Sacramento. A small town with a historic center, picturesque, old and welcoming Colonia, with a lot of charm. Nearby deserted beaches and the old town with cobblestone streets, nicely lit in the evenings made for a pleasant stay. The streets were decorated with yellow wrought iron lamps and the horizon glowed with the lights of nearby Buenos Aires. All in all it was a really nice surprise, a big difference from the big cities we visited so far. Even the climate was nice or a change, a cool wind coming from the ocean side.
We spend the night camping in the forest right next to the beach and took the ferry towards Buenos Aires the next day. It took 2 hours and 25€ to cross the bay. The boat was comfy, but it was a shame that no one was allowed to go out on deck.
Next: Buenos Aires. I don't really know where to start. The harbor alone was a complete different class then what we are used to now. Instead of flat, empty countryside, we stood before skyscraper, gaint ads along the way and 8-line highways. Apart from the enormous traffic, we managed to get safely to Daniel, the couchsurfer that would host us for the next days.
The flat was another surprise... Rustic stone walls with African styled interior. Awesome! We stayed for 5 nights. The flat is close to the center and the biggest sights. And there are lots of them in Buenos Aires. Called the Paris of the south the city is full of boulevards and parks, many statues and buildings in renaissance style. The first days we visited a bookstore located inside an old theater, dead center in the main hall. Almost every building has high ceilings and dark wrought iron decorations. The place were this comes really apparent is Recoleta, the graveyard. Not just any graveyard, but a whole neighborhood full of crypts for the rich and famous, among others Eva Peron, guess you know her from Evita.
The biggest tourist destination in the city is without a doubt La Boca. Colorful houses, a street market, tango on the streets and several small museums decorate 3-4 blocks in this neighborhood. I have to note that La Boca lies in the old harbor area and is one of the poorest and unsafest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Even before we came here we heard three stories from other travelers, who have been stolen from or robbed in La Boca.
In the meantime we did a lot of organizing. Laundry, buying food for Tierra del Fuego, going to the post office, e.g. We even managed to print 100 business cards, because we were asked a lot of times for our blog and email address.
Well, yeah, Ushuaia. We booked a bus that should have taken us to Rio Gallegos, far south. We would have changed buses there towards Ushuaia. We payed 150€/870 Pesos in total for that ride a day in advance to make sure that we will get the bus. And yes, the bus left on schedule the next days, with us standing right next to it. They wouldn't take us, because of our bikes. After a long, long talk with the company (we don’t speak Spanish, they don’t speak English) we were completely stuck.
First they said bikes are ok, but later the driver told us: No bikes.
The bus left without us, we should take the one next day.
To change the ticket to the next day we should pay an additional 45€/261 Pesos
again, this next bus will NOT take our bikes.
Reason for that: bikes are too big, only one bag for each customer.
The solution: (not joking) Send the bikes boxed seperatly in a truck.
OR: box the bikes and put them in the bus as luggage. Wait, what ? Why didn't you tell us this before?
Everything highly illogical. We really don't understand why the bikes were impossible for the bus, but big boxes with bikes in them would have been ok.
We won't see our money again.... We have been stopped and mishandled for so long that our tickets are not valid anymore and we have no rights to cash them in. The only offer the company made us was to change our tickets to the next day and then cancel them to give us back a percentage of the price. Sounds good, BUT: We would get 15€/91 Pesos back. We would have to pay an additional 22€/130 Pesos to change them. So, all in all they offered us a return of -7€/-39 Pesos. Argh.
After a long night at the bus station we decided to stay a month in Buenos Aires. We'll use the time to learn Spanish, a course directly in our hostel here. We stay here in a private double room with private bathroom for 300€/1800 Pesos a month. We get internet, breakfast, all day tea and coffee, and a kitchen to use. Yeah. All that's left is lunch and dinner. The Spanish lessons come at 150€/900 Pesos for 20 hours.
A few hours online later, this is what our deformed minds came up with:
1 month in Buenos Aires to learn Spanish.
1 month biking though northern Argentina towards Bolivia
1 month biking through Bolivia till La Paz.
5 days in a bus to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, starting the Panamerican Highway.
The plan is to get better Spanish abilities to avoid further problems like the one at the bus station. We ignore the winter in Patagonia and go north towards Bolivia. Winter is, strangely enough, the best season for Bolivia, with mild temperatures at day, the least rain and the most sun of the year and cold nights that kill most insects. Yes, Bolivian summers are hot and humid, full of insects and yellow fever, with flooded streets and muddy landslides. The winters are sunny, dry and blessed with the same daytime temperatures. Weird.
A gaint detour, but one that will pay of in the long run, mostly because we'll be able to see northern Argentina AND northern Chile. We thought we would have to decide between those, but this way we see both. And we will cycle with the good weather for the rest of Southamerica now. We changed winter followed by rain season for dry season followed by summer. Not a bad change I say. ;)
Done. I hope that our reasoning, or at least the explanation of it is confusing enough for our readers :) We'll post another update next week, in fluent Spanish ;)