I left Montevideo in the early morning. The flat sheen of water was pale blue beneath the smog of the city. The bay was peppered with marooned, rust stained ships and yards stacked high with orange and blue containers.
Excited to be back on the road, it felt like the right time to leave. I had met some amazing people and enjoyed the atmosphere of Uruguay but I had other things to see. This was the first in a series of short stops on my journey down towards Chile and Patagonia.
An anthropologist I met the following week suggested that the desire to travel is natural for humans. I can’t help but agree. Although I feel that I often leave pieces of my heart in places I have visited or lived, the excitement and potential of the unknown drives me forward.
Back in La Plata, I enjoyed several days with Barbara, her friends, family and amazing cooking. Eventually, however, I had to leave the comfort and, entrusting her with a large box of alfahores, I made my way to central Buenos Aires.
Here, I visited El Ateneo. This was a library in a grand, old converted theatre! It was stunning to be able to browse Argentinian literature in such a decorative location. With its painted ceiling, gilt decoration and plush curtains, I felt like royalty. I wandered around Buenos Aires, bought some salad and an overpriced coffee. I felt fairly safe there but the city did not thrill me. It is indeed like the Paris of South America: bland. The next day, I was on the way to the airport.
Argentina has a rather unfriendly system (much like London’s Oyster cards) which means you can only buy permanent cards and recharge them with credit. No cash allowed. Previously, I had been using Barbara’s kindly lent Sube pass to access public busses. But since I was leaving, I had relinquished my hold on it and resolved to ask other passengers if they could pay twice in return for cash. This worked surprisingly well; several passengers even refused to accept the cash. I even tried this in front of inspectors. The moral of the story is, guys, if you play the lost, gringo woman well enough, you can essentially travel for free.
I had chosen to take a flight instead of one of my 24 hour bus rides for some semblance of normality. Unfortunately, I got to the airport, the staff of several airlines were on strike. Four hours and several poor translations later, I was on the flight to San Carlos de Bariloche. The flight provided me with my first incredible view of the Andes. Bariloche, famed for its views, lakes and chocolate was a delight to explore. But, predictably, it was soon time to leave.
After some further trouble with the busses and taxis (all part of the adventure), I made it across the snowy border towards Osorno. The woman sitting beside me on the bus described Osorno as safe but not cute. I found little to do, except make the most of the overpriced hotel and plan my exit. The next day, I caught busses and ferries south towards Puerto Montt and then Chiloe.
I feel that I am getting into the swing of travelling. It may have taken me almost 2 weeks, but I am truly enjoying the freedom to travel when I feel like it and leave places that hold less of interest. It is not always glamorous (you can probably imagine the state of a bus toilet after a 15 hour journey), but I am becoming increasingly self sufficient and better at solving myself out of tricky situations.
Sitting on another bus discussing the downsides of travel with my latest companion, we suddenly heard a crash. One of the windows had shattered and glass rained down on the passengers. The driver, in his own compartment, was unaware until I banged on the door and shouted ‘la ventana!’ Their solution was essentially to close the curtains and continue driving! By this point in my travels, however, I wasn’t even surprised. It exemplifies perfectly the absurdity of the various delays that have punctuated my travels. I may have reached the destination a little later, but the journey was more eventful. And for travellers, it’s the journey that’s important.