Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wed eve - Friday : Into the unknown

We arrived at the bus station with plenty of time spare, so sat in the station cafe with some beer. At twenty to eight our bus still wasn't on the electronic displays, but we moved over to the waiting area by the platforms. At two minutes to 8 I heard a tannoy for the bus, and Joth spotted it pulling into a platform. We joined the back of the queue to deposit our luggage, and went to find our seats. We didn't manage to get seats next to each other when we booked, but for the first part of the journey there were two unused seats together so we used them despite the bus being fairly full. Most people on the bus were only traveling for a few stops, and as soon as people got off, another person would join and take the seat. Fortunately we managed to either find spare seats, or swap seats with someone else to enable us to sit together for the majority of the journey minimizing the number of strangers we had to sleep up against! We had read conflicting advice regarding food availability during the journey, so took some sandwiches with us - luckily as it turned out! We got a biscuit and hot drink facilities in the morning, but that was all. We took it in turns to run into a bus station when stopped, so managed to buy more snacks enroute. The general feeling of the journey was that it was a bit like being stuck in suspended animation. During the day at least half the busses occupants seemed to be asleep, and at night, virtually everyone was. Other than watching the occasion film (english subtitles if we were lucky!) and watching the endless pampas out of the window, there really wasn't anything else to do. The time seemed to pass remarkably quickly though. Long bus journeys must be a good source of time for the history monks (Editor : Terry Prattchet reference) . One of our reasons for taking the bus rather than flying was to take a good look at the terrain. Our first few days of cycling are over the southern end of the pampas. The most concerning aspect of the terrain was the lack of shelter and water sources. Rivers and streams were very far apart. Being summer I guess many of the smaller streams had dried up. It was also interesting seeing the animal and bird life we would be seeing more of on our travels.

The other useful thing we had the chance to observe from the bus was the protocol for the police checkpoints which we came across periodically. Generally it was just a passport check, although they were also doing some searches. At Trelaw we had to swap buses, which resulted in a humorous moment when all the locals disembarked leaving a bus of backpackers. The guy with the best Spanish was fairly sure there was no change, but eventually we put together the announcement and ran off to retrieve luggage to ensure it made it to the next bus. We arrived into Rio Gallegos around midday (approximately 1 1/2hrs late, not bad really). After a few taxi journeys and some carrying of panniers, we determined that Dobbin hadn't arrived at the cargo depot, but may arrive mid afternoon, and that the campsite office was closed until 3pm. We booked into a cheap hotel instead and took much needed showers. After food shopping and determining that Dobbin hadn't arrived on the afternoon van, we grabbed a steak sandwich snack (nom!) and went back to the hotel to repack the bags into cycling configuration and have a quick snooze before going out for some more food. At least, that was the plan. I don't think we realised how tired we were though, as when we briefly awoke it was already time to sleep. In all we had a solid 13 hour kip - who would have thought 40 hours dozing on a bus would be so tiring!

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