Saturday, February 23, 2008

End of the Road

This morning, I got up at around 7:45, showered, and ate my last breakfast at Hostel Inn, Iguazu Falls, Argentina. I sat with Kjell, of Belgium fame (we traveled together from Rio). We ate breakfast while taking care of personal business, Kjell on his SmartPhone and I on my laptop. After breakfast, he took off for the bus station to get a ticket to Buenos Aires and then on to visit the dam on the Iguazu River, while I went downstairs to finish packing my bags and check out.

After buttoning things up and bringing my bags upstairs—I stayed in a room below the main floor of the main building—I saw Lena and Stena, of Norwegian fame, eating breakfast, so I joined them for a chat before leaving. It's easy to become friends with people when you travel with them and spend time around town together, so it was with a little sadness that I gave them a hug goodbye and headed out to the curb to wait for the bus. There will no doubt be countless other goodbyes in the coming months.

Although the information desk at Hostel Inn was quite unimpressive—they didn't know too much about the helicopter tour over the falls, for example—they were right when they told me that a bus leaves the main bus station every hour for Posadas, the next decent size town South of Iguazu Falls. I got to the station at 10:30, bought my ticket for forty pesos (about thirteen bucks), waited for about twenty minutes and boarded a small bus just before 11:00.

At about 4:00 PM, we arrived in Posadas, although there had been a time change. It was now 5:00 PM. I think there are time changes between cities in South America. There had been a change within Rio regarding Daylight Savings Time, I think, and my clocks have been out of whack ever since.

At the bus station in Posadas, I told them I wanted to get to Uruguaina, and ultimately Artigas, Uruguay, but they informed me that I would need to go to Paso de los Libres first, as Uruguaina is in Brazil. I paid the forty-six pesos for the ticket, grabbed a hamburger and pop, then went to the platform and waited for the bus.

During the entire day's travel, as I looked out the window of the bus, I saw a hundred great photos, both as we passed through small towns, and in rural areas. Unfortunately, the bus didn't stop for me.

At 11:15, I arrived in Paso de los Libres, the end of the road for me in Argentina, for the time being. As we pulled into the station, I saw a hotel located conveniently within a hundred meters of the bus station, exactly what I was hoping for. As I threw on my pack, grabbed my camera bag, and headed out of the bus station's parking lot, I felt a little bit lost. I'm in a podunk town, my Spanish bites, and what if the hotel has no rooms available, or some other problem arises? I don't feel equipped.

I was worried for no reason. I walk into the hotel, they have a room, and it's forty pesos. That's no more than I've been paying for hostels, but I have my own room, with my own shower, and two beds—nice to spread my stuff out on. The walls are concrete, painted white, but quite dirty, the bathroom a single coherent area of tiles, with the sink in one spot, the toilet on the opposite wall nearby, and a drain just past that for the shower. Light in the bathroom is provided by a single bare bulb screwed into a fixture which is barely hanging on the wall. Water for the shower is heated in typical South American Style—there are electrical wires running to the shower head to heat the water on demand. To say it's simple and a bit run down might be an understatement, but it'll work just fine. Rock on.

When I get up in the morning, I'll grab some breakfast—I saw a diner on the corner—walk over to the bus station, and figure out how to make my way to Artigas, Uruguay. Tomorrow will be the start of a trek across the second smallest Latin American country. With almost half the population located in the greater metropolitan area of Montevideo, I should be off to a good start with my goal of staying off the beaten path. This may be the end of one road, but it's just the beginning of another.

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