Although the flight from BA to Puerto Iguazu is only two hours, and quite reasonably priced for residents, the 18-hour bus ride is far more affordable for foreigners, whom airlines can apparently charge up to three times as much for the same flight. And the bus line, which includes “sleeper suite” buses with fully reclining seats, offers a hefty discount if you pay in cash. So, obviously, we chose to take the bus. Besides, we knew the view along the way would be an exciting learning experience in itself.
The huge bus terminal in BA is at any time a noisy, busy place. In the evening, when most of these long-haul tours leave, it is even more so: Nervous tourists huddle in groups, clutching their bags closely, or wander over to check the news stand for some reading material for the long ride (we grabbed two sticker books for the boys and a dirty magazine for ourselves!) People are drinking mate, having their hair cut,
The constantly-changing schedule board offers direction to those of us who are new and have no idea which of the roughly 100 gates to head to for our bus. While we stand near our gate waiting, a father with filthy hands pushes a stroller containing a grimy-looking toddler past us; he asks for some money. I give him a cookie instead -- I had baked them for the road. His equally unkempt wife finds me a few minutes later and asks if the cookies were prepared in my “cocina”, which I have learned means “kitchen”. I confirm this with a nod of my head and a “si”, and she smiles with crumbs falling out of her mouth and proclaims them “muy rica!”, which Jorge taught us means “delicious”. I wish I had a whole bag to give her. Instead I smile, say “gracias”, then point to my kids and say “hemelo”, the word I have recently learned means “monozygotic twins”. We smile a moment longer at one another, and I head back to Tats and the boys. Our bus has arrived, and it’s time to board.
The service begins at the door, with two friendly attendants greeting us, checking our tickets, and offering us a candy before we head inside and upstairs to our seats.
The boys are wired!
Each seat is quite spacious, fully reclining and with its own adjustable foot rest and individual TV. On each seat is a pillow, a blanket, and a bag containing headphones (why did I pack my own?!) and a “grooming kit”. Wow!
Shortly after departure, an attendant comes around to serve drinks and a small h’ors d'oeuvre. Tats runs into trouble because -- like pretty much everyone here in Argentina so far (no kidding, she's been chased out of numerous washrooms!!!) -- the attendant assumes she’s a 15-year-old boy, and so won’t serve her a drink! As Tatsy rummages for her password, I try in broken Spanish to explain that she is in fact “treinta y una”. Moments later, Tats has the much-needed strong drink in hand. (As a side note, she continues to avail herself of the free champagne, wine and more throughout the evening – “on principal”, she says, and also because the other three in our party aren't drinking, so she has to make the tickets worth their money, she claims!!)
Exhaustion soon wins out over excitement for the boys, and it doesn’t take much convincing to get them ready for bed. They each have a window seat, which means they have their own curtain, providing a nice, dark cubicle for sleeping. A few chapters of read aloud and a short massage later, they’re both sleeping soundly.
While I wait for dinner (no point trying to sleep before that commotion is over), I check the TV -- Gatsby is on. I never did finish that movie when I tried to watch it a few months ago, so I settle in with the headphones. It’s even in English (with Spanish sub-titles, to help me practice)!
Presently, dinner arrives. For me (I had requested a veg meal), it is an enormous tomato and cheese salad, or so I think. Turns out that was just the appetizer. A hot meal soon follows; the service on this bus is truly amazing!
After dinner is done and the movie is finished, I attempt to settle in for the night. I recline my chair, pull up my foot rest, and stuff in my ear plugs. I close my eyes, but even with this somewhat comfy chair, sleep is elusive; it is too bright, the bus is lurching around corners and stopping at every brightly lit check point for inspection, the thin blanket is too chilly… I do manage to doze a little… around 1:30 p.m., the curtain opens and Alex checks in on me. “What time is it, Mommy?” I tell him it’s 1:30, and he can go back to sleep, which he does. I, on the other hand, visit the washroom several times and try to get comfortable and warm by adding a layer and tucking my shirt into my pants. I drift in and out of a fitful sleep until suddenly it is bright outside.
The digital clock at the front of the bus says “6:52”. Hard to believe we have 8 more hours to go!!
Alex is just waking up, too, and I offer him the wet cloth from the grooming kit. (Had I only looked in there earlier -- it includes a toothbrush, paste, a comb, and an EYE PATCH!! Oh well, now I know for the ride home!)
An amazing sight greats us when I open the curtains: GREEN! Everything is green! There are trees, and fields and just so much GREEN!!! I haven’t seen this much green (outside the Botanical Gardens) in two weeks!!!
Not long after we awake, the attendant is back around with drinks (including tea this time, oh, so wonderful after my fitful sleep!) and a tray of generic packaged foods. Luckily, I had also saved a peach cocktail and an apple from dinner last night.
We eat, and then it’s time for the boys and I to write a little in our travel journals (me on my laptop, and Alex and Simon on the graphic organizer I made them for the journey; they’ll transfer it to their blogs when we get back home to the apartment).
After the morning writing, the boys have a bit of free time before we begin “school”. (With such a long bus ride, I decided to bring a few things with me, so that we could continue with our learning on the road.)
School is held this morning in Alex’s reclined seat. Both boys perch there as we begin with our Bible study (a passage from Romans), and then move on to reading, word study,
What a way to start the day!