April 26, 2009

When bad things happen to good people

They say that fortune favours the brave, but sometimes fortune just leaves you stuck on a metal bench in the middle of nowhere...

After the success of our impromptu journey from Ilha Grande to Florianopolis, I was convinced that I was now a hard·core traveller extraordinaire – Rick Steves, eat your heart out! No journey was too difficult, no backpack was too heavy, no delicacy was inedible and no bargain was unhaggle·able. So when we were told that the bus fare from Florianopolis to Rosario was gonna set us back a whopping 250 reais each, I laughed in the face of the ticket office lady (er, not literally) and set about finding a cheaper way to get to the Argentinian town.

I came up with the following genius plan: Catch a bus to the border town of Uruguaiana for 100 reais each, somehow get across to the Argentinian town of Paso dos de Libres (to get across the border with our normal ticket was going to cost an extra 40 reais each), then, once we were in Argentina, where the buses are cheaper, catch a bus to Rosario. Savvy, huh?

We arrived in Uruguaiana without a hitch at 3am in the morning and managed to convince our driver to take us to the border crossing for free. We got stamped out of Brazil and into Argentina, and then, after waiting at the border crossing until daylight, we caught a taxi to the bus terminal.

With my evil plan almost fulfilled, we set about getting the best price to Rosario. The first company didn't have any seats left, bummer. Oh, and neither did the second, or the third. Turns out, it was Easter bloody Monday, and everyone in Argentina seemed to be making their way to Rosario. By now, it was 6am and we had been on the move for 23 hours. We were tired, we were grumpy and we just wanted to get to Rosario, dammit!

OK, so Rosario was out of the picture. Where exactly could we go? There was one bus heading to Cordoba (which was actually on our original itinerary) with three seats left, but it wasn't leaving intil 11pm that night. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't gonna go to Rosario, and that the dingy, dusty bus station in Paso dos de Libres was to be our home for the next 18 hours.

Friends and long·time readers will remember that we crashed our van in France and lived in a carpark for five days... this was worse. We took it in turns sleeping on a hard metal bench while the other kept an eye on our backpacks, we only had 10 measly pesos on us, and survived by sharing one bowl of pasta for the entire day and night. We entertained ourselves with a game of scrabble (a la the van) and by sitting and staring, followed by more sitting and staring.

Eventually, 50 hours after we left the pousada in Florianopolis, we made it to Cordoba – and an actual bed – and decided that next time, instead of trying to be all tricky and cool, we'd just pay the bloody 250 reais!