The fourth day in Puerto Iguazu rolled around. It was Monday morning, Doudou had left for Brazil the night before, and I didn’t make it to the Argentinian side of Iguazu again because of the time I spent dealing with Virgin Money. UK Michael said it: “I s’pose the good thing about travelling is if you don’t like a place, you can just leave.” This is the same guy who stepped on a child in a Bolivian bus; apparently it’s more likely to happen than you’d think.
Anyway, Michael and I went for another pizza-and-beer combo special and then boarded buses to our respective destinations. I was so stoked to be leaving that I even took pictures out of the bus window. Yeah, I was that guy.
(An Argentinian couple – teenagers – are in tears at the bus terminal. I can’t stop staring. I put on my sunglasses and pretend to read a big foldy map – of Sao Paulo – but actually I stare. She is openly weeping, his eyes are hidden behind sunglasses. A single tear runs down his cheek; his nose is red from the snot. They cling to each other as if the world is ending. From time to time she sobs, he whispers something into her ear. Blowing gently, she cools the sweat on his brow; he cools her neck the same way. When I climb into the bus, they have moved from a bench to the steps. Her arms are wrapped around him and her head is in the nook of his elbow. I worry that he’s going to miss his bus.)
The 243km between Puerto Iguazu and San Igancio took five hours. It was hard to tear my eyes from the Lindsay Lohan omnibus they were screening, but it was dubbed in Spanish so that’s how I justified that. I turned down free soda! Schoolgirl error. Gaped at the green outside. So much green.
I’ve found bus travel very good so far; there is more space than on most planes. Argentinian roads are in great shape. They mostly leave and arrive on time. I have, however, always been cold. No matter how hellishly hot it might be outside, on the bus you will need socks, long pants and a jersey.
I arrived in miniscule San Igancio, Missiones, at 11pm. Tumbleweeds. Crickets. The smell of dust and bright flourescent lights punctuating epic darkness (I am not using epic lightly, here. Argentina has … more … sky; I’m not the only one to notice this). Quiet. Really quiet. If there was a saloon, its metal sign would be creaking in the breeze kind of quiet. Only to realise that it’s 11pm and I didn’t receive confirmation from the hostel before I left Puerto Iguazu and it’s dark and it’s the middle of the night and I am thirsty and I have no contingency plan. I had a cigarette and a think, then showed a very kind lady who spoke zero English the hostel address. She didn’t recognise it but called a taxi for me. She gave me water. I gave her a light.
I kinda stumbled into El Jesuita Hostel – it was midnight by now – frazzled and unsure and apologetic. The owner Herminia – soft and gentle and oozing that kind of natural compassion that is really rare and unmistakable – is the first Argentinian to welcome me with a kiss on the cheek the way the books promised they would. Two kisses, in fact. Outside, there were dreamcatchers and Spanish dreadlocks and tents in what looked like an endless jungle garden; it was hard to tell in the dark.
That night, after dropping my bags, I sat outside with Herminia and we shared her beer and spoke in hushed tones about school and holiday and Spanish (both of our attempts very broken). In that simple moment, Argentina redeemed herself.
Items lost so far
- Credit card.
- First pair of sunglasses. I forgot them on the bus when I got to San Ignacio (two minutes after I told myself not to leave them on the bus). I have a spare pair; guarding it with my life.