Sunday, December 29, 2013

Border hopping, and more border hopping...South.

We had a couple weeks of window (actually more like a couple months), after we decided to go to Ushuaia for New Year's, to plan the whole thing out.  But, who really wants to spend their travel time figuring out buses and what-not?  Not us.  Infact, I've always been a procrastinator, but the funny thing about it all, was that we actually thought to book a hostel in Ushuaia for New Year's, but not a bus/flight/boat,etc. to get there...

Well, while still in Bolson, we did a little (a lot) of research on bus prices only, and I was actually at one point, a week before Christmas, super close to buying our bus tickets through a company called 'Taqsa' that passes right through El Bolson, all the way down to El Calafate.  It was pretty pricey, and infact, would have cost us about $300 US to get down to Calafate, then we'd still have to get to Ushuaia.  Bottom line was that buses in Argentina, although very nice, are the priciest so far on this trip...Yes, even more expensive than Chile!

So, after some research, and talking to our friends in Chile at the time, we decided to do a little bit of back-tracking, back up to Bariloche, and across the border to Osorno, where we'd spend the night, wake up, and jump on a Chilean bus, hop the border in reverse, and jump right back on Ruta Cuarenta, and head down through Argentina before crossing again, into Punta Arenas, Chile.  Also, on the map, Punta Arenas is pretty damn close to Ushuaia, but as much as I love maps, it's much more difficult than that, especially in this season (Hoidays/Summer in the south).  We hadn't booked anything further than Punta Arenas, and just sort of figured we'd be fine, and due to the distance between the two countries, and the fact that they literally 'share' Tierra del Fuego, we really thought it would be easy.

Upon our arrival to Punta Arenas, after our brutal 28 hour bus ride from Osorno, and our numerous border crossings, of just basically filling our passports with useless stamps, and not to mention useless searches (with dogs) of our luggage coming from Chile, and back into Chile, we were back IN CHILE, in Punta Arenas...Quite a beautiful sky upon arrival, and numerous cruise ships lining the shoreline, we had actually made it down south, real far south.  We found a hostel for the night at "El Mirador," a family run place with an incredibly friendly and helpful woman working the desk, frantically trying to find us transportation to Ushuaia.  I told her our plans to spend the end of the year there, and our reservation at a hostel, but she still ensured me that if for some reason we were unable to, Punta Arenas was (also) a great place to bring it in...Sweet lady.  We had dinner at "Lomito's," a 50's looking diner with hot dogs and beer.  Kind of a cool place, especially after such a long bus journey.

Heading out of Punta Arenas, with a view of Tierra del Fuego in the distance, across the water

We found some info, mostly letting us down, believing we couldn't get there in time.  I remember going to bed, pretty bummed, thinking that we'd get there after New Year's, but not for it, and that's been our plan for a while...

We slept like champions in one of the most comfortable colchones (mattresses) in a while, and woke, had some Yerba Mate.  I walked straight to the company doing the trip that morning to Ushuaia, to see if maybe someone had canceled, but to no avail it was a huge tour group, with months of reservations ahead of us...

When I got back, I decided to see if maybe we could figure out another route.  Instead of Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, I thought, well, maybe Rio Gallegos (Argentina) has more buses, or at least options on getting there.  First I searched for buses from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia, and sure enough found the company "Tecni Austral" was doing the journey the next morning, and had spaces left.  I kept the page open as I attempted another search for buses from Punta Arenas to Rio Gallegos, and sure enough, found one as well, aboard "Pinguino," leaving at noon.

I quickly typed in my credit card details as if they were going out of style, and felt excited and relieved.  The nice woman at El Mirador offered to print out our tickets for us, to save us from going to an internet cafe, and we had done it.  Next stop, Argentina.  Again.  Of course though, not before crossing the same border again.  Wow, it seems our passports will not have any room left in them after this trip.

As for our decision at this point, to travel through a Chilean company, even though it was cheaper for the tickets, we ended up paying more in the long run.  Sure, we had a comfortable journey, and got to see the famed city of Osorno, which was actually kinda fun, it was unnecessary to say the least.  We could have been picked up in Bolson, hopped aboard, and left out the whole border crossing nonsense, and went directly to Rio Gallegos, but guess what, we have much more of a story to tell this way!  Oh, and the Chilean buses do not serve meals.  They gave us a bit of white bread, with a pinch of ham and cheese for lunch the first day, and the second, they just pulled into some expensive rest stops and said "Almuerzo."  Let's see...$30 for lunch (empanadas and a shitty glass of wine.  And, I almost forgot to mention, the horrid movie selection that began with a movie called "Journey to the Mysterious Island," featuring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, and continued with a movie starring none other than Brendan Frasier, where raccoons and squirrels are trying to drive his family out of town...Wow, thanks Chile for all of that!  At least the Argentine buses served us a hot lunch.  I'll try and keep all that in mind for the next decision making process...

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