I'm still staying with Vanesa in Rosario, so after a day on the beach yesterday, it is time for a bit more blog action today. One more day's update and I'll be telling you about the city where I'm actually staying. And that hasn't happened since I was in Salta - so, it's progress of sorts (even if I am still well over a week behind schedule)!
Right, here goes:
Tuesday 18th January 2011
My bus wasn't leaving Tafí until 16:30, so I had most of the day to kill after checking out of the hostel at 10:00am. At least I was able to leave my stuff at the hostel, but still, I didn't feel inclined to go on any major hikes (which would have been nice had the hostel been better and I had therefore felt inclined to stay longer). But, as it was, I made do with talking to Lucas and Victoria and wandering around the town with them. I then cooked lunch and chatted to another Argentinian guy, Omar, who was having a work-crisis, similar to the one I had when I decided to stop being a landscape architect 4 or 5 years ago. He was an actuary, so had even more reason to be in crisis, I suppose! ;-) Anyway, it was interesting to compare notes and realise that there are plenty of other people out there who aren't satisfied with their chosen careers.
It was another sunny day, but relatively cool (mid 20s, I would guess), so the walk to the bus station was quite pleasant (and downhill, which always helps with a 15kg rucksack). The first stage of my mammoth bus journey was from Tafí to Tucumán. The bus was late leaving (giving me the chance to get the wind up about whether I had heard right when the driver I spoke to told me to wait for the double-decker bus). But it was okay... and the bus even made up time en route - arriving a little bit early into Tucumán.
It was really interesting to see how the landscape changed on the way down into the lowlands (and how your ears popped too, what with the change in altitude [nearly 2000m of vertical drop]). Alpine meadows gave way to misty, scrubby mountainsides, to a jungle-clad ravine (with a gushing rock-strewn river far below) and finally the sugarcane and tobacco plantations of the plains below. Innumerable hairpin bends and steep drop-offs made it a rather hairy ride at times, and once again I had that annoying combination of aisle-seat and smoked glass windows. However, I must say the seats were incredibly comfortable (with a great recline) and the bus clean and new, so I have to give Aconquija credit for that! Alas no photos, but you hopefully get the gist from the description outlined above.
I was lucky to have a relatively quick (45 minute) connection in Tucumán, prior to getting the bus to Rosario. This was something else that I had been worrying about because for the first time I hadn't bought my ticket in advance. (As usual) I needn't have worried, though, as there was no problem getting a seat.
One observation from the bus station (check Picasaweb for photographic evidence) was the presence of coin-slot TVs on the concourse. It struck me as quite odd to see small groups gathered around TV screens in the bus station, but I suppose it is as good a way as any to idle away the time waiting for a bus!
At first I thought the bus journey was going to be a complete nightmare. There was a hyperactive child who wouldn't stop talking (loudly) and playing with a toy-sword that made a loud whoooshing noise when he waved it in the air (which he did approximately every 15 seconds). If only I'd known the Spanish for "if you don't stop making that bloody racket, I'm going to stick that flipping sword where the sun don't shine"... Instead, I just sat there (feeling increasingly irritated) waiting for him to fall asleep. I also tried ear-plugs (but to no avail - it was still incredibly loud). He didn't fall asleep, though... He just continued talking and waving that bloody sword. And then, just to add insult to injury (don't worry non-native speakers, this is just an expression, he hadn't literally injured me with his sword), he started to pretend to be different animals: "soy un tigre... RRRRRRRROOOOOAAAAAAARRRRRR!", "soy un cock... (yes you are)... COCK-A-BLOODY-DOODLE-DOO." Didn't he realise that animals don't have swords? Idiot. He then repeatedly tried to get him mum's attention : "Ma, Ma, MAA, MAAAA, MAMIIIIIIIIII"... and failing that (ignorant cow... of course I blame her for her son's behaviour), tried talking at the poor kids sat next to him (some indeciferable waffle, that I couldn't make out).
In the end I was forced to use the "glare". I cut out the middle man and glared straight at the mother, and on the second attempt she took the hint and told her spawn to be quiet and go to sleep.
Shortly afterwards I fell asleep myself and actually managed a few decent spells before taking out the ear plugs and removing the sleeping-mask (which I sketch I must look - even more than usual) just after 7am. I treated myself to some coffee syrup from the coach's coffee dispenser, which was utterly foul. I guess they just pour in more and more sugar until it reaches saturation point and will dissolve no more - it was even sweeter than dulce de leche. No wonder diabetes rates are soaring in Argentina - everything is just so SWEET.
And before I knew it (how these journeys just fly past - and on this occasion I'm actually not kidding), I was in Rosario...
Wednesday 19th January 2011
Upon arrival at the hostel I discovered that it cost 5 pesos more than advertised (annoying) and that I would have to wait until 10am to move into my room (less annoying, because I expected to have to wait until 12 noon).
I watched a bit of the Australian Open while waiting (Federer winning a 5-set epic) and did some stuff on the internet. Then I moved into my room, had a shower and started writing my diary (in physical, hand-written form). The hostel seemed nice (good kitchen and a CLEAN swimming pool out the back). The weather was very hot and humid (we had already had a few thundery showers, but luckily not until after I had walked to the hostel from the bus station). While I was writing my diary there was a group of 6 Israelis discussing things very LOUDLY and very aggessively (well, it sounded aggressive to my sensitive British ears). Maybe it's just the language. They really seem to spit things out. The only things I understood (thus confirming my suspicions that they were Israeli) were TEL AVIV, KIBBUTZ and FACEBOOK - all articulated with what sounded very much like pure venom!
I was hoping to get to the supermarket in between showers and then have a bit of a siesta...
Hahahahaha... that was a joke. I got to the supermarket between showers, but didn't manage to get back! While I was shopping the rain just got heavier and heavier. By the time I came to walk the 3 blocks back the hostel the rain was sheeting it down and the streets were awash (and I mean awash - the water was over a foot deep in places) and I literally had to paddle back. Once I had overcome the initial reluctance to get my feet wet (impossible), it was actually quite amusing to be wading through knee deep water just to cross the road. As noted in a previous blog post, Argentinian drainage leaves a little to be desired.
Well, back in the (assumed) shelter of the hostel, I managed to dry out a bit... and because I had been walking about in bare feet (while my flip-flops dried out) I decided to go and wash them before having a well-earned siesta. But, while I had my foot in the sink (no, not an idiom), I heard a bit of a commotion downstairs. After drying them off, I went back downstairs... only to discover the entire ground floor (including my dorm) covered in a good couple of inches of water! Ooops (I was now beginning to regret my oft-proclaimed "I like a good natural disaster" interest in the power of nature)! And it was a wasted foot-washing effort, as well!
First, I thought it had rained so much that the water had come in from the street, but no... what had actually happened was that there was a bit of a drip in one of the upstairs room, so the guy from the hostel had gone onto the roof to investigate. He found some leaves blocking a drain, so decided to remove them. Unfortunately, said leaves were also blocking a hole in the roof, so when it was cleared, the water rushed straight on in, down the stairs and ended up pooled on the ground floor. Whooops!
I spent the next couple of hours helping to try and get the water back outside (a mixture of squeegy-thingies, brushes and cloths) and in the end it was sort of dry(ish). Thankfully, the Israeli guys were in the room at the time and had kindly put my bags on the bed, thus saving me from flood damage and a subsequent insurance claim! ;-) And thankfully the rain water was clean... it wasn't like the stinking brown flood water you see on the news... if that was the case, Houston we would have had a problem!
Luckily, as is often the case in times of war, famine and flood, people are brought together and a community is formed around the hardship. Thus, a strange mixture of people bonded over the receding floodwaters: the aforementioned Israelis (not much bonding on their part - they were already happily ensconsed in their own little group) a nice Anglo-Irish couple (well, totally Irish, but she had lived in London for years and almost totally lost her accent), Kevin from France (who was over the moon at the opportunity to speak French after a week of stilted discussions in a mixture of English and Spanish), a weird American doom-monger (everything you said was countered with tales of woe and hopelessness) and, well, I think that was probably it. So, I had a pleasant evening chatting with them, with intermittant visits to the toilet (oh yes, the shits had begun!). Still, it didn't stop me enjoying a steak and some rough plonk... although they might have further contributed to my downfall, which will be detailed in the next installment of "A Sidmouthian Abroad" aka "The shit hits the pan: surviving the trots in Rosario"!
So, that's all for today. I'm about to head out into the balmy (or still sweltering - judging by how hot it is in here) evening air... and get the bus into the centre... paying a visit to the guys at the hostel (I'm now staying with Vanesa, slightly out of town) and then meeting up with Oscar for a drink.
I'll hopefully have more to report tomorrow, but if not, have a good weekend everyone.
Love J xx