Tales of Travel in Argentina

It was 3.50pm by the time I called the taxi agency again. Where was that taxi that they had promised me for 3.45? My bus was leaving at 4.07pm and with a 10 minute drive from here to the terminal, time was getting tight. It shouldn’t have been this way, as I had already arranged everything, which would have given me plenty of time to get down there. Now, as the phone rang, I wondered what had happened to my driver.

The same young girl who had taken my first call and booked the taxi answered the phone again. I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m from the Quintas,” I said, “and I would like to know where my taxi is?” The moment I finished those words, there was a gasp and then a flurry of activity on the other side of the telephone, before she squeaked, “Oh! The Quintas! Yes! The Quintas! Oh my…! I’m sending a car now!” and with that she hung up.

Looking at Madryn city from the Quintas

The view of Puerto Madryn City from the Quintas. It is normally a 10 minute drive to town.

Getting Late

Waiting expectantly, I started to become alarmed by 4.00pm when there was still no car to be seen. So I rang again to confirm all was well. The only answer I received was that the driver should be arriving, “any minute now.” With no other course of action available to me at this late stage, I started saying my good byes to the few people who were still in the base on such a perfect day off. One of them suggested that I call the local bus terminal and ask them to hold the bus until I arrive. When I talked with the local agency, they told me that I would never make it as the bus was about to arrive any minute now. Pleading with them, I managed to get a promise that they would hold the bus for five more minutes. Unbeknown to me, this was a hollow promise designed only to get me off the phone.

There were less than 5 minutes now before the bus was due to arrive and only a miracle would get me there on time. Still, I continued as though all was well, grabbing my bags and walking out to the gate to wait. Looking up I saw an empty street where the taxis normally come from. Just to be complete, I look down the street too and see a distant car. It becomes evident that this is my taxi when it suddenly roars into life and hurtles at break-neck speed toward me leaving behind it a great plume of dust. I glance at the time. It is 4.05pm.

Finally Moving

As the taxi screeches to a halt before me, the boot pops open and I load my luggage into the back before climbing into the front passenger’s seat. Even as I am still climbing in and in the process of farewelling my friend Paul, I glance at the taxi driver and tell him that my bus is due to leave right now and although I have called the agency it is not going to wait around for me very long. The driver takes off with a burst of speed uncommon amongst his breed while I continue my story of how his agency girl forgot about me and is about to cost me a bus fare to Buenos Aires if I do not get there in time.

Speed suddenly becomes my ally. Hurtling at over 100 kms/hr down the loose gravel road leading from the Quintas to town in any other situation would normally have seen me praying silently for God’s protection as the car darted furtively from one wheel track to another. This time I was almost hoping it was possible to go even faster. Reaching town we hardly slowed down, and even the slowing for intersections would have not allowed us to stop should it have been necessary. None-the-less I was not greatly concerned. It was already past 4.07pm and since the bus company had changed owners it was extremely accurate with its timetable. That worked greatly against me and I desperately needed to get to the bus station or the non-refundable electronic ticket that I had purchased via the internet would be lost.

One of many taxis in Buenos Aires

Rix and Trudy disappearing in one of the many taxis found in Buenos Aires.

The Terminal

Finally we race through the last intersection and pull up outside the bus terminal. It is now 4.10pm. We got here in little over 5 minutes. I can see nothing from here and only hope that the bus is still there. The fee was almost $15 pesos, but I hand the driver $20 pesos and tell him to keep the change. Never before have I had any driver so concerned on my behalf before. This man had earned every part of his tip.

I haul my bags out of the boot of the car and run through the main doors and then through the secondary doors to the main platform, avoiding the police luggage scanner in so doing. As I burst onto the platform, I see my bus at the other end with all luggage and passenger doors closed and the drivers climbing in, ready to depart. I call out and they stop. Before I can reach them, another person races up and quickly climbs aboard, delaying them enough for me to reach the bus and explain my situation. They examine my ticket and agree to let me on. After loading my bags into the hold, I climb the stairs and find my seat, slumping happily into my place as the bus begins to pull out of the terminal.

Somehow I had made it. What only moments before had seemed impossible had now become reality. Maybe it was chance, or luck. But with the amount of prayers that I had been praying to be able to make it there in time, I prefer to consider it as being something God did. Either way, I was now on the bus heading for Buenos Aires.

The Other End

Getting into the taxi in Buenos Aires I struck up a conversation with the driver and guided him to the YWAM base in which I was going to be staying. The fare was $14 pesos so I handed the driver a $20 and a $5 so that he would hand me back a $10 peso note. Instead he takes the lot and is about to leave. I look at him quizzically and tell him that he had just received a $20 and a $5 from me and I was awaiting change. He hands me a $5 peso note and tries to take off again. Again I remain in the door in such a way as to prevent him from doing so. He looks at me and I at him. The $5 peso note that he gave me is still in my hand before him. “It was a $20 peso note,” I explain to him, “so you need to give me $10 pesos in change.” He tries to convince me that it was a $10 peso note that I had given him, but as I had not one single $10 peso note in my wallet at the time, it was futile. Finally he parts unwillingly with the $10 pesos he owes me and exclaims that he is certain that I had given him $15 pesos and not $25. With the correct change sorted, he is gone.

Ironically, even though the driver had complained and argued and exclaimed that I was robbing him, the simple fact that he had given me the $10 pesos in the end was more than sufficient evidence that he had been trying to steal my money. If the man had been as certain as he claimed to be that I had given him $15 pesos there is absolutely no way on this earth that he would have even considered parting with the money. He was simply trying me, to see if I would give in and let him go even though it was ill gotten gains. Drivers such as this man are around the place in Buenos Aires, but with a clear mind and by paying attention they never normally get much further than a failed attempt.

All the same, it seemed the perfect end to an otherwise interesting experience with taxis on this journey.