The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside the Buenos Aires airport was the air. It was my first breath of fresh air in over 45 hours; I could literally taste the difference on my tongue. The air was also chilly. I had left hot, muggy California summer behind and was entering the crisp bite of Argentina spring. I stood there a moment, breathing in the air and letting my eyes take in the sights of my new home for the next six months. My revelry was abruptly ended as Jimi waved me forward, calling out, “Vamos!” I readjusted my grip on my suitcases and followed him towards the shuttle platform.
Did I mention there was still a 14-hour bus ride ahead?
No, we probably didn’t do ourselves any favors by booking the cheapest tickets on the planet. Getting stuck in airports for 16 hours at a time is never exactly “fun”. On the other hand, Jimi and I were both able to have great conversations on the phone with friends and family. We said our good-byes and I attempted to explain how WhatsApp works to my grandparents. I also spent some time reviewing Spanish vocabulary, writing in my journal, and chasing pigeons out of the nest I had made for myself in baggage claim.
The flights were delightfully uneventful. We had no problem getting through immigration or customs. [Note: I did have a bit of a panic attack in Newark before my flight to Sao Paolo when the United clerk asked to see my Brazilian visa. I quickly explained, “No, I just have a three-hour layover there!” She called her manager over and when she explained the situation he gave her a look that could wilt a flower. “She’s fine,” he said, and walked away.] Jimi’s dad, Steve, was waiting for us at the airport in Buenos Aires. He happened to be in town getting his passport renewed and his presence was quite helpful with all of our bags!
We shuttled from the airport to the bus terminal, winding our way through the heart of Buenos Aires. I caught a brief glimpse of the capitol building and the stock exchange. Old World architecture was balanced against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers. I was surprised to see how green everything was— there were trees and parks lining all of the main streets.
With my curiosity piqued, I was slightly disappointed to remember that we wouldn’t be coming back until December. Jimi and I had considered staying a few days in Buenos Aires to start our trip, but with all of our luggage, technology, and cash on hand, we decided we would rather be safe than sorry. The sooner we arrived at the Estes house, the sooner we could unload.
The bus terminal was chaotic. There were over fifty different bus companies selling tickets aboard their liners. We found a “nice one” that was heading to Tucuman at 8pm. When I asked Jimi what he meant by a nice bus, he said, “Well, it will be a double-decker and have leather Laz-Z-Boy type seats that fully recline. There’s a bathroom and personal tvs and they’ll serve us dinner and stuff.”
Umm… What? Why isn’t this a thing in the United States? I have traveled by Megabus enough to realize how valuable a fully reclining seat is, let alone dinner!
When our bus arrived, we loaded up our bags and then found our assigned seats. While not quite glamorous, they were everything that Jimi had said. There were curtains to separate the compartments and leather footrests to complement the reclining seats. The TVs were old, but were showing several American film titles that I recognized. The blankets and pillows also seemed to be a bit weathered, but they were clean and cozy against the chilly bus temp. Within minutes of departing, our server came around with hard candy. Then minutes later with drinks.
“Agua, coca cola, café, o vino?” he asked.
Jimi looked at me with a grin, knowing what my reaction would be.
“Vino?” I asked, my eyes bulging like saucers. Wine on a bus? This is awesome. “Rojo, por favor.”
The server handed me a cup full of dark red wine and I toasted Jimi’s cup of coke. If there had been any question of me sleeping on the bus tonight, they were out the window now.
We attached large, plastic trays between our armrests and waited for dinner to be served. The meal was a full tray of… food? Even Jimi couldn’t identify the bread and chicken concoction. I made little sandwiches with my bread rolls and slices of meat. The server brought a hot dish out for us, too, which included chicken, gravy and vegetables. Desert was some sort of flan. Not being able to identify the dishes did not stop us from eating everything in front of us. After the server cleared our plates and trays, we leaned our seats back. Within seconds, Jimi was out. I turned on my side to face the window. Millions of stars stared back at me. It was beautiful.
We slept through the night and woke to breakfast being served. Coffee and pastries seems to be about the extent of it around here (Argentines are also very big on dulce de leche). We arrived in Tucuman around 11am and took a short cab ride to Jimi’s home. Jimi’s mom, Marlene, greeted us with hugs and Jimi’s beloved dog, Pirata (“Pirate” in Spanish), tackled us with excitement.
After taking a shower, eating a delicious lunch, and hanging up my clothes in my own closet, I am starting to feel like a real person again. The afternoon siesta lasts from about 2pm-5pm, during which all the stores close and people take naps. Isn’t that wonderful? It also means that dinner is usually served around 10pm and midnight is considered an early bedtime! Just more things to get used to. Looking forward to a few days of relaxing, writing, and exploring Tucuman.
[Note: Better pictures are coming!! For safety’s sake, I didn’t want to pull out my DSLR at bus terminals and such. I’m looking forward to honing my photography skills more on this journey, too.]