Jan. 23, 2011: San Luis, SL, Argentina


Today's episode: Public Transit (or: how not to take a bicycle on the bus).

So my internet research into transporting bicycles unearthed the advice that the prospective traveler should not buy a ticket until he or she was certain that the bus would be able to take the bike. (Notwithstanding the size of one's bribe, the baggage compartment is of limited — and fixed — size, and sometimes a bike just can't be accomodated). Were this to be the case, one's ticket price would not be refunded.

With this in mind, I showed up at the Laboulaye bus station an hour or so before the bus' scheduled 14:50 departure, didn't buy a ticket, but settled down to wait. Shortly before the bus arrived, I disassembled the machine, used my cable lock to cinch the parts together as tight as I could (aided by a roll of packing tape), stuffed the seat, pedals and other small pieces into my backpack, and was done just as the bus came into view.

"Is there room for this to go to Mendoza?" I asked the baggage kid in my best Spanish, slipping him a fifty (about $CA 12). One brief argument between him and the bus driver later, my bike and backpack were tagged for Mendoza and safely on board. I was asked for my ticket, and discovered that the answer, "Oh, I just have to go get it," while pointing to the ticket office, was the wrong answer.

Their faces instantly soured, and I could feel the glares burning into my back as I ran for the ticket office, money in fist. Enlightenment came when the ticket agent languidly hunt-and-pecked at his computer before turning to me: "I can't. The bus is full."

One of those interminable ringing-in-ears pauses before he spoke again: "There's a seat as far as San Luis?"

"Yes! Good! I'll take it!" I grabbed the ticket, left him the 6 pesos in change as an impromptu tip, and ran out to see the bus pulling out of the parking lot. With my bike and backpack still "safely" onboard.

Aaaaaaaack!!!!

I ran after the bus, caught up with it when the driver miraculously turned out to be the only person in Argentina to stop at a stop sign (with no cross-traffic, anyway), banged on the door, and was able to clamber on board. Handed the ticket to the scowling conductor, and minced guiltily to my seat. The on-board movie was "Mr. Bean's Holiday," dubbed into staticky (i.e.: barely comprehensible) Spanish. It seemed... more than a little apropos.

The scenery out the window was more flat, featureless pampas, of the sort I'd already been riding through for days. I don't feel like I really missed much by taking the bus over this part. Which is, you know, good.

When we arrived in San Luis, I went to collect my bags.

"I thought you were going to Mendoza?" asked the baggage kid.

"I was..." I started, but the baggage kid didn't want to hear it. He just started pushing luggage around, trying to get at my mis-tagged stuff. I couldn't quite hear what he was muttering in the process, but I'm sure it had something to do with "damn bloody Gringos."

Thanks for nothing, Internet!

From San Luis (a much bigger city than Laboulaye), there are buses leaving every hour or so for Mendoza. I briefly considered getting a ticket and going the rest of the way right away, but decided against it. I'd had enough buses for one day.

Instead, I found an overpriced hotel downtown, and wandered around in many semi-concentric / semi-overlapping circles in search of an internet cafe open on Sunday.

San Luis is an interesting city. It's visually attractive, being at the base of the Sierras — the first range of Andean foothills. It has one of my favourite (thus far) central plazas and cathedrals, with huge overhanging trees in which live thousands of noisily-chirping avian animals. (Birds? Bats? I'm not sure, and couldn't quite catch a glimpse).

But it's odd; there's this subtle undercurrent of — I'm not quite sure what — in the people. Everyone seems ever-so-slightly on edge, for some reason that I couldn't begin to understand. I'm not even certain it's not my imagination?

Maybe it's just me and my bus experience, projecting.

Tonight's wine: Graffigna Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. It's four days later, and I have completely forgotten what I thought of this wine. Which... maybe says something?

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