Ushuaia Travel Blog› entry 27 of 71 › view all entries
(This entry is titled "The Bottom" because it describes my trip to the bottom - literally - of South America, and it describes the bottom - figuratively - of my travels so far.)
The alarm went off at 6:15am this morning. Time to catch my bus to the southern tip of South America, to a town called Ushuaia.
I packed up and unfortunately didn’t have time to enjoy breakfast • the cab was early. He dropped me off at the bus station at 7:00am, the required “presentation” time for a 7:30am bus, per my ticket stub. Apparently, that means absolutely nothing though. The bus station didn’t even open until some dude showed up at like 7:10am. And all he did is just sit behind the counter with a cup of coffee.
It was about this time that I realized how ill-prepared I am for this 12-hour bus trip. Not just ill • which yes, I am still ill. But ill-prepared. No water, no snacks. (Or so I thought at this time. I later found a few munchies buried in my small day pack…some nuts and bran cookies.) Shoot. Sitting out there in the sun, I didn’t see any market within running distance.
The bus showed up • late.
As I boarded and headed toward my window seat, I of course went through the normal panic of who would be in the aisle seat next to me.
And it got worse. I quickly found out that the bus’ air conditioning no funciona. That means “It doesn’t work.” What about just a fan, forget the cool air. Sorry, fan no funciona. Great. Fifty people on a bus for 12 hours with no air conditioning or circulation system.
And it got even worse. As I tried to scoot away from Mr. B.O. Chainsmoker and toward my window, I then quickly found out that I was above some kind of vent releasing HOT air! I thought maybe it was because I was over the rear wheels and this was some sort of heat rising from the axles.
And yes, it got worse still. The front half of the bus was occupied by a large group of older German tourists, who represented a beautifully disgusting chorus of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling sounds.
So there I was. Sitting on an airtight, no-circulation bus. With Mr. B.O. Chainsmoker on my left. Rushing hot air on my right. Breathing the same air as 25 sick Germans. With no water. Good times.
About an hour in, I was completely miserable.
But then - as they always do - things got a little better. Someone closer to the front complained to the conductor, so he opened the two ceiling vents • that got a little cross ventilation going. Phew. I could at least breathe. (Yes, had this person not have complained, I would have. And in fact, I did complain twice later on in the trip.)
Also, feeling so miserably sick not to mention uncomfortable, I somehow managed to doze off for an hour or so.
And the best news was the conductor announced we'd be stopping for a 30 minute lunch break, where we could eat as well as buy supplies.
After lunch, back on the bus, things continued to improve. For some reason, the rush of hot air on my right just stopped. Wierd, but I'll take it. And I found my aforementioned hidden stash of nuts and cookies that I had forgotten about.
That afternoon, we stopped at two different immigration offices. Once to exit Chile. And again to enter Argentina. While each of these stops took an hour of waiting in line, I didn't care. At least I wasn't on the damn bus. And we stopped for gas, with a minimarket where I replenished my supply of hydrating liquid - this time with a liter of orange juice.
By 8pm, we finally arrived in Ushuaia.
I walked up the hill to Hostel Freestyle - as Lonely Planet describes it, it is truly a "five star" backpacker's hostel. At $17 a night for a shared room, that was ok with me for now. Tomorrow I'll deal with trying to get a private room to get better sleep. The "concierge" who goes by Rasta Max was outstandingly friendly and jovial. Even though he was in the middle of helping another weary backpacker, upon seeing me he took a moment to stand up, shake my hand, and say "Welcome to Hostel Freestyle! I´ll be with you in a minute." That customer service made all the difference in the world.
This hostel was indeed impressive - with a packed kitchen full of people preparing their own dinners; a social lounge area with people hovering around tables exchanging stories and downing beers; an upstairs lounge with big comfy couches, a pool table, and amazing view of town and Beagle Channel; spacious rooms with surprising clean and you might even say stylish bathrooms (ok that´s going a bit far, I guess...but "clean" is the key word there).
After checking in and settling in, I took a walk around town focused on a few priorities:
1) Money. I needed Argentine pesos. I struggled to find a bank, surprisingly, in this tourism-focused town. But I did finally find one, and much to my delight, my ATM card worked. This is so superficial and gringo to say, but it´s always comforting to have a wad of local currency in my pocket.
3) Alternative hotel. I did a quick survey of alternative lodging choices, to get a feel for prices and availability. I wanted a single room to maximize my sleep opportunity. I found one that would suffice, but I´ll make the decision tomorrow, pending how tonight´s sleep goes.
4) Food. Well, here I went to the extremes. I had a pineapple smoothie to get some vitamins, and I had a plate of french fries just because I felt so awful.
Successful on my errands, I headed back to the hostel.
Although I went to bed relieved that one of my longest travel days was over, I also couldn´t help but think back to the Shackleton video and realize that no matter how bad my little bus trip was.... I really have zero reason to complain.