xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: The Worst Part of a 7 Hour Bus Ride? Boarding the Bus.



Monday, March 21, 2016

The Worst Part of a 7 Hour Bus Ride? Boarding the Bus.

Two days ago, we checked out of our Bariloche apartment hotel, and took a taxi to the Bariloche bus terminal for what we had prepared ourselves to be the most challenging transportation day of our entire five month trip: a seven hour bus ride over the Andes into Chile. As it would have cost over $1,000 for us to make the same trip by plane, we had resigned ourselves to taking this long bus ride with Sydney, but braced ourselves for the absolute worst.  I, in particular, had been dreading this part of the trip since the day we booked it online over a month ago.
Waiting for the Bus

Our bus pulled into the station at 15 minutes to 10AM, the departure time.  We lined up to hand over our backpacks, then waited to board the bus.  With only two other passengers behind us still waiting to board, the bus attendant looked over our passports and tickets and then said something important-sounding in Spanish.  Although my Spanish is decent, borderline great after a few cervezas, my comprehension deteriorates when I am stressed, which, you can imagine, I most certainly was, as the attendant shook his head at us and pointed inside to the station.  

With Sydney strapped to my front, the three of us went into the station to speak to the Andesmar office attendant.  After three repetitions, I final got the gist of our problem: Although we didn’t have to purchase a seat for Sydney, we still needed to get her a ticket in order to cross the border from Argentina to Chile.  As the attendant reprimanded me for not taking care of this earlier, Nolan watched the last two passengers board our bus.  “Will we have time to get Sydney’s ticket and board the bus,” I nervously asked.

“Not sure,” the atendant answered with a shrug.

“But our bags are already on the bus,” I cried, holding up our claim tickets.  

The attendant shrugged again, “That’s why you are supposed to do this before the bus arrives.”

Hearts now thumping, Nolan and I looked at the bus and then back to the window where the attendant slowly pecked Sydney’s passport numbers into a computer.  The bus driver closed the baggage door. “40 pesos por favor.” Nolan grabbed a 100 peso bill out of his pocket and pushed it under the window.  As we watched the bus driver walk around the bus, a final tire inspection, the window teller rummaged through his cash register for change.  Although we would have sacrificed the 60 pesos to run to the bus, where all of our belongings awaited us, we still needed the golden ticket: the receipt showing Sydney had the right to cross the border. The bus driver now climbed the four large stairs up to his chair.  The receipt started to print. Nolan and I nodded at each other, and then Nolan ran out of the bus station to the bus, where he waved furiously at the driver, just as the driver’s door swiped shut in front of him.  

Meanwhile, I continued to tap my fingers at the office window, where the attendant now offered Sydney a lollipop, but made no movement to hand over our receipt.  Outside, Nolan beckoned us to please come quickly.  Finally, the attendant slid the receipt under the window, and I ran out to the bus, Sydney bumping up and down on my front.  The bus starting rolling forward just as we fell into our seats.
At the Border Crossing

Entering Chile, Bags Laid Out for Contraband Check
Sleeping Sydney

After this tumultuous start to our great Andean adventure, we were understandably elated when Sydney promptly fell asleep, just a few kilometers outside of Bariloche. Disembarking the bus at the two immigration points -- first Argentina’s customs check, and then Chile’s point of entry -- we waited for guard dogs to sniff our belongings for contraband, changed Sydney’s diaper, and stretched our legs.  Then we loaded back onto the bus, and within mere moments, Sydney was back asleep, leaving Nolan and I to enjoy spectacular views of the Andes and lush cattle farms lining the sides of the road.  

We arrived in Osorno, Chile, after an amazingly easy 7 hour ride. Well-rested, we walked through this small city, originally inhabited by Mapuche peoples, and then formally settled by German immigrants -- farmers who were invited to Chile by the the Chilean government to develop the land in the late 19th century.  Formally settled relatively recently, Osorno has maintained much of its German character; German restaurants, architecture, and language abound.

Having enjoyed enough South American steak on the other side of the Andes, we decided to try some German fare at a restaurant called Wufhef, which proved to be a truly memorable, delicious, and fun night out.  At this unassuming, 12 table restaurant located inside of a strip mall in the city center, our waitress suggested we order the Menu del Dia: a pou-pou platter of meat: steaks, hots dogs, chicken, and kielbasa, laying over boiled potatoes and peppers.  And so, after a tumultuous start, we had a happy, carnivorous end to our long, exciting day.

I had expected the worst of this long travel day, assuming that a winding, long bus ride with baby could never be pleasant.  Being so anxious about dealing with Sydney, I had forgotten to prepare for other obstacles: like getting all of the proper documentation required to board the bus on time. As such, this Andean adventure brought home the point, which last Saturday’s mugging first taught me, that you can never predict what will go smoothly and what will not when traveling, especially when traveling with a toddler.  Or as Nolan likes to quote from Monty Python: “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

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