about me, arnaud and François crossing the ocean and the equator looking for...

23 August 2006

picking up the story, all the way to Montevideo

after that good night sleep, I woke up and went for my horseback rding trip in the desert surrounding San Pedro de Atacama - which is actually an Oasis.
The other half of my group - meaning the german girl supposed to be coming with me and the guide - was 15 minutes late so we left without her before we were called back a minute later and went to pick her up. so we were three. and has it happened, I already knew her since we'd met in the bus station in arica when I'd asked her f there was anything to pay for the bus terminal, and she'd said no - where in fact there was....
so we set off, first going to see some inca ruins (not really well preserved) and then went up, and up, and up to have a good view of the surroundings, and the horses were having a bit of trouble carrying my big wheight all the way up the mountains (after a month and a half of french fries, you bet!)
discribing the landscape is a bit futile. try imagining that I went from an Oasis to a moon-like surface then into a stone desert they call the death valley. then we went down the steepest dune of all time and I thought the horse were gonna stunble and fall, and me with them. but of course they didn't.
after all that horseback riding we was well hungry and so, my new-found friend and I (her name's janine) went for dinner. she had stomach issues, so she only ate potatoes, no need to say it was a real pleasure having lunch with her.
having nothing better to do (for there is nothing to do in Atacama besides taking expensive trips) we chatted time away, and as it happened, we discovered we were going the same way, at the same time (to buenos aires) and so I had a travelling partner for the next three days (and luckily not more than that, 'cause towards the end she was getting a bit on my nerves, especially since we only spoke spanish together and that didn't make the conversations any easier). we then went for a drink, then on the internet where we were cut half way through by a black out. the whole city - which ain't much - went dark and candels were lit eerywhere, which was a rather nice thing. being late and dark - and us bieng tired - we went for dinner (where it took her the same time to eat 30cl of soup as it took me to eat an empañada twice the size of both my hands and drink two glasses of wine - unbelievable!!). well tired and well fed, I went to bed - not without one last Pisco sour and a cigarette by myself in the quietness of a blackout in the middle of the desert.
Next day was the day to Salta - because of course there was no way of making it direclty t B-A. I took the bus at 1100 on which there were a couple of frenchies whom I chatted with whenever there was an ID or custom check. After 3 movies, we arrived in Salta at 2200 and of course, by then there are no more busses for B-A so we had to check in a hotel and chose the "international Hostelling". which was a great idea. it was full of lone travellers - like us - and had quite a family spirit to it and after 2 beers we all decided we should go see a local band downtown and so we did. the place was packed and nobody could get in but the guy from the hotel knew a guy who knew a guy and he let us in the backdoor. the concert was real nice and I wished I had some of my friends with me at the time....I met loads of people but the quantity didn't quite make it up for the quality....It was a good night alll in all, and a little tipsy I got back to the hotel in a cab with my german friend, another german girl and a suiss guy who always seemed a bit lost but he was my favourite one :)
next day was the buenos aires day - and it's really a DAY since it's 23hours in the bus - so we checked out the hotel and went for a good breakfast. which we didn't get. being a little hung over I wanted lots of food but the breakfast was only made of 2 "croissant" and a cofee, so I asked 4 croissant and an orange juice and I got two coissant and a coffe. I called him back and asked for two more croissant and an oranje juice and he brought me one croissant. no need to say he was getting on my nerves. I asked once again for the oranje juice - which he brought - and a croissant -which he finally dare to say he didn't have any more. why the heck didn't he say so earlier!? so I had my 1/2 breakfast and then walked around the city before going to the internet (at the time of the previous post) and then had a -rahter expensive - lunch on the plaza but it was the best steak I had eaten in three weeks, so I didn't care (and jeanine had potatoes!!).
we then went for the bus - which we nearly missed since she eats so slow - and hopped in. 3 movies later we were stopping in a "garage"-like place to have dinner, and as the guy behing me said, it rather looked like a prison cantina. but it was all included in the tickets and it was quite good too, so no need to complain. I then felt fast asleep and in the morning, after another movie, we arrived in B-A where it was - Finally? - time to say good bye to jeanine.
I walked a good while around Retiro - the bus station - to find a bus to montevideo. the urugayan bus agencies where all cramped in a little corner which I finally found. I enquired about when it was leaving and when they said 2200 (it was then 1200) I figured I should give the boat a try. so, armed with my guidebook and my backpack, and my sleeping bag, and my polar sleeve, and my little bag - all reallyy handy to walk 1.5km - I set off to the boat terminal, not wanting to pay for a taxi, recalling my bad experience a month ago.
after a bit of asking around, I finally found the terminal, and after abit of asking the prices around I decided to walk back to the bus terminal and take the bus at 2200 (it was 195 pesos whereas the bus was 90!)
the day was spent reading my book about the incas in some corner of the terminal before going to eat in the terminal restaurant where I thought I was gonna slaugther the waiter. I asked him a coffee and got it. then a milanesa, and got some kind of sandwish about the size and width of my thumb. then I asked a "lomito" and I got to old lumbs of bread. not knowing how to make myself understood - for I was readin from the menu and it all seemed very clear to me, I asked a steak with french fries and, after some time, finally got it. by that time, I was half crying-half laughing and completely at loss on how the heck I should order my food. while eating, the TV was on, and it appears ben laden is in love with Whitney Houston and wanna kill her hursband. and this was announced all the most seriously by the national news television!!!
the time of getting in the bus finally came and so I went. it was really nice. I had two seats for myself and even Francois would have had enough space for his feet. the bus was driven by a pair of dudes in their mid 50's, early 60's and could definitely have been a couple. they were real considerate of everything and I've never been so well taken care of in a bus. only they had garfield in spanish on the TV, and that wasn't too cool, but it was rapidly forgotten when I fell asleep. at the border with urugay, they filled in my papers and the guy stamped my passport without even me being there. I went back to sleep.
I woke up in montevideo where I waited in the terminal for the info kiosk to open and asked for a hostel. the nice lady gave me the adress of the international hostelling and so I was on my way.
when I got there, nobody answered the door so I patiently waited for someone to come out and when finally someone did, I waited inside some more that someone pay attention to me. when someone finally did I was told the room wasn't gonna be ready for another hour and so I waited somne more. when it finally was ready, I rushed in and slept for 3 hours. after 3 days in busses, I was knackered. I woke up and washed all the bad smell away from me, washed my hair and entirely changed my clothes because by now I smelled something between a sheep and an old trash can.
I then took a map of montevideo from the hotel and set off to eat in the centre. for the first time in a long time I had fish and vegetable. Then I walked around the city, bought some "souvenirs" and that Mate-kit (a thermos, a cup, a straw and 1kg of Mate) I'd wanted to have for such a long time. so now I don't stick out so much in the streets of montevideo where every other person is holding a mate-cup.
now I'm back in the hostel (where they have free internet, youpieeee!) and I'm gonna make myself a mate before going to dinner in a "ratito".

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