If there was one thing I feared most before leaving the UK, it was the thought of long distance bus journeys in South Americia. I like the outdoors, I’m a runner. The opposite of outdoor running is the South American bus. Being cooped up for 20+ hours sitting in one seat seemed an insurmountable challenge before we left blighty but we’ve surprised ourselves – we’ve come to enjoy the South American bus.
I write from front seat of the top deck of an 18 hour journey from Puerto Iguzu to Buenos Aires. Its a scary seat as I have a drivers eye view of the road in front but I’m a metre or two higher up than the driver. Its dark but my extra height means that during overtaking manoeuvres I can see the cars in the dip. Tracy is obliviously sitting next to me watching her second film on her personal screen above her seat. Its 21:30 and we have just had dinner, meat loaf and mash followed by panacotta. We were also given two small bottles of wine each. The food is served airline style, simple and small but satisfactory in the circumstances. On the bus from Jujuy to Salta we were given a large serving of whisky, that was the pinnacle moment but standards have hovered just below that ride ever since.
Argentinian buses have set the standard which we have come to enjoy. There are different classes of ticket available, Cama (full flat bed), Semi cama (almost fully flat bed) or just an upright seat. There are then premium class seats, “camma with service” or even “super cama”. We are currently on a super camma bus. It cost £75 each for the 18 hour ride not much more than Camma, it breaks the frugal travellers budget but it beats the cost of the plane hands down. Camma class or super camma class is like a ropey version of business class on a plane but expect something to go wrong, in our experience it usually does. On this bus the WIFI’s not working, my bed broke on the previous bus and I had to prop it up with my rucasac and on our first Argentinian bus you could hear the engine revs when you plugged our headphones in – weird. Generally though Argentian buses have been fun and thoroughly relaxing.
I doubted I would be able to endure the 21 hour ride between Cordoba and Puerto Iguazu – I completely had the fear, Tracy watched me in a concerned fashion as I paced about the bus station pausing for occasional leg stretches before boarding the bus. In the event, the marathon ride was fun. The thing about long distance bus rides is that you are forced to relax, there is nothing else to do. Never before have listened to music for two hours at a time, I’ve enjoyed a heightened musical experience, I didn’t realise so many songs had a story that you can follow. I’ve never been a big reader, free time in the UK comes infrequently and when I do get a spare minute running trumps reading any day. There’s definitely no running on this bus so I’ve read and really enjoyed that too. At home Tracy often bemoans my lack of enthusiasm for the cinema – three hours sat in a cinema seat – no thanks. On the Argentinian bus I’ve rediscovered films, amazing.
A 21 hour bus ride in Argentina is a thoroughly relaxing and pleasant experiencing, you even get rocked gently to sleep. We’ve ridden Balut Bus, Plus Ultrabus (operated by Mercobus), Fletcherbus and we are currently on a Via Bariloche bus. All have been a similar standard. If I had to choose I’d pick Fletcherbus bus but only because the whisky bottle came round!