Last month when we were in Montreal staying with my sister and her family Don suggested we book an apartment for Buenos Aires for three or four weeks. I was initially reluctant. We have six months to travel around South and Central America and it didn’t seem right to be squandering one of those months all in one city, especially a city that was not really high on our list of all the cities in the world that we wanted to see. After some discussion we settled on three weeks. I didn’t know why we were to spend three weeks in BA, only that Don felt it was right so my reluctance gave way to trust and he went ahead and booked an apartment for us. I’ll get back to this.
After two sweet lazy weeks visiting Don’s son and his family in Sweden we had five days in Vancouver. A partial list of what kept us busy: get me a new bankcard and drivers license to replace those stolen in Mexico, get computers repaired, buy new heavy-duty external hard drives, Don to naturopath, optometrist, heart doctor for ultrasound and check-up, me to family doctor for prescription renewal, get electrical plugs for South and Central America, new walking shoes for Don, waterproof spray for rain jackets and spray same, stock up on vitamins etc, get yellow fever injections, a mammogram for me and a visual fields test for Don, pick up Don’s new glasses, see our financial planner, and both get our teeth cleaned. And that is only a partial list. Phew! In between we managed to spend some nourishing time with our friends.
Our time in Montreal, apart from visiting with family, was also spent getting set up for South America. We were all over the city by metro and by bus – way out into the suburbs in one direction to drop off my camera for cleaning, and again two weeks later to pick it up; way out into the suburbs in another direction to get Don’s computer repaired and to get mine checked out (since there wasn’t time to get them done in Vancouver), and again to pick up Don’s computer, and again to drop off my computer after I spilt water on it, and again to pick it up; way out into the suburbs in yet another direction to buy puffy hooded jackets for the cold of Patagonia, and again when we decided we also needed water-proof pants; downtown to drop off my application for a new passport and again to pick it up; order, and later pick up US dollars from the bank. And once again we managed to fit in time with family, a hike up and over Mount Royal, and a day out in the country apple picking.
Which brings me to Buenos Aires. All we had when we arrived here were a couple of vague ideas that we wanted to see Iguazu Falls, and Patagonia, and that Uruguay is just across the river from BA and a nice place to visit. Argentina is an enormous country, the eighth biggest in the world, and Iguazu and Patagonia are literally at opposite ends of the country. The distances are staggering, even for a couple of Canadians. And what else is there to see in Argentina? And Uruguay? And is it possible to get buses there? What about the cost of flights? What do we want to see most? All this had to be discovered.
I’ve been busy photo editing and blogging and Don was trying to work out some kind of itinerary and feeling completely overwhelmed so I joined him in the work of creating travel arrangements for Argentina and Uruguay. We’d looked at a tour and it was (of course) very expensive but it did at least give us some ideas of the names of towns and where to start. We’ve been in BA for 16 days and here’s why we’ve spent about two thirds of that time in our apartment, lost in our laptops:
We’ve researched, and in almost all cases booked, and in a few cases actually paid for, the following –
17 Oct return flight booked to Iguazu Falls, apartment in Iguazu booked, 4 days there, 22 Oct return flight to BA, overnight in same apartment we’re in now (arrangements made for this), 23 Oct ferry to Colonia, Uruguay then bus to Piriápolis (booked and paid for as far as Montevideo at their office in BA), apartment booked for 4 days in Piriápolis, 28 Oct bus to Colonia, hotel booked in Colonia, 2 days there, 31 Oct ferry to BA (overnight in same apartment we’re in now), 1 Nov flight booked to El Calafate (way south in Argentina), hotel booked in El Calafate, 4 November bus to El Chalten, hotel booked in El Chalten, 8 Nov return bus to El Calafate (we went to their office in BA and paid for this return bus trip), 10 Nov bus booked to Puerto Natales in Chile, hotel booked in Puerto Natales, 14 Nov bus to Punta Arenas (not booked – so many buses running we’ll book it when we get to El Calafate), hotel booked in Punta Arenas, 16 Nov bus to Ushuaia, Argentina (the most southern town in the world) booked and paid for, hotel in Ushuaia booked, 20 Nov flight booked to Santiago, Chile, and we researched all the activities and tours (and cost of tours) available in each place. Phew! Are you dizzy yet?
It takes hours: to find out where to go, what to see, where to stay, what’s available, how to get there. Don found one boat/bus combination for travel from BA to Piriápolis and back for about $500. We just about gagged. Upon further investigation we can get the same trip with another company for about $100. We have a little hiccup in that we’re going from El Calafate to El Chalten and back, and then to Puerto Natales. We found out after we’d made all the bookings that there’s a bus direct from El Chalten to Puerto Natales. By this time we don’t have the energy to start changing everything. Some things just can’t be done by Internet so we Skype phone to confirm we can pay cash on arrival, or to nudge someone along to send the promised invoice. We’ve also walked/bussed some long distances in BA to pay for various things in cash.
We could just go but hate the thought of arriving in a new town and then having to start looking for a place to stay. Too daunting, too stressful, especially if we arrive late at night. Also we tend to go to places at the best time of the year for that place. So does everyone else. Which means accommodation and seats on planes and buses could be hard to come by. Even though November is the very start of the season for Patagonia we are already starting to see places getting booked up.
We have managed to do some sightseeing, going to most of the requisite places in this fine city, but much of our time in BA has been spent in planning all the movement to come. And we have yet to buy an onward ticket from Santiago, and book a hotel or apartment there, which must be done before we get on that flight from Ushuaia. On arrival in Santiago we’ll start looking at the next leg – a bit more of Chile and then Peru, arriving in Ecuador for the best weather in January.
I think I need to rest now.
Photo of the day: Roadside sculpture, near Åtvidaberg, Sweden
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.