Buses and Breakdowns

Well it is the 16th of November and I am on my way to Puerto Iguazu on the bus once again. I suspect that this will be my last time heading up this way for the year, so hope to take advantage of my time here if possible. My journey has already been spotted with some unusual events, starting with the arrival of my bus.

It was just before the scheduled departure time of 12.30am that I arrived at the Corrientes Bus Terminal, expecting that the bus would be within half an hour of its scheduled time. This seems to be a normal amount of delay on most bus lines in Argentina when the bus does not originate from that station. It was over half an hour later that I wandered up to the ticketting window and asked the man if he knew when the bus was likely to turn up. He simply told me that the bus, “would be turning into the bus station shortly.”

Having forgotten to bring my book with me, I was left with the option of the noisy television sets or watching people as my entertainment. I tried both, but with few people and competing chanels it never really worked out so well. Instead, by lying down on the seat, I could stare up at the peeling paint on the ceiling and let my thoughts ramble while I waited.

At almost 2am in the morning, the ticketing officer for my bus company approached me and said that, “now I will call to find out what happened to our coach because it should have been here by now.” It was now more than an hour late, and I had watched many other buses enter and leave the station without sign of it. 20 minutes later the ticketing guy returns and tells me that the bus had blown a tyre and they needed to change it, but it was all done now and they would be arriving shortly.

Shortly turned out to be another twenty minutes, so at 2.20am in the morning, I finally climbed onboard my bus that was headed for Puerto Iguazu. I had made a specific request for a seat next to the windscreen and was told that I had it. It was even written on my ticket. So when I found a couple occupying the seats, it seemed to me that it was just one more of those mix ups which I have experienced from time to time in my travels here. Instead, I found a seat behind them and settled down for a decent nights sleep, as I was feeling exhausted.

During the night, I was suddenly awoken by a piercing buzzer. Assuming the worst I quickly righted myself and prepared for a fast exit. Looking around me I was surprise to see all the other passengers sleeping soundly, but soon my muddled brain started to clear and I found the source of the buzzer. It was a warning that the bus was exceeding its designated top speed of 90kms per hour. Every time the driver exceeded this speed, the buzzer sounded until his speed dropped below 90 once again.

That buzzer woke me a number of times throughout the night until 6am when we were all served breakfast. Breakfast was hardly worth waking for, being a biscuit and coffee, but it felt good to have something. After this it was a series of dozing on and off until our next stage of the journey, which occured just as I started writing this, so it is written as it happened.

LIVE: Right now we are driving at 30 kms per hour and weaving all over the road. It appears that the bus has pinched yet another tyre,so I guess that we will be waiting here for a while yet before we will arrive in Puerto Iguazu. This is certainly turning out to be an interesting journey.

Not sure if it was a tyre now, as we have just stopped and the motor shudded to its end. Half on the road, and half off the road with trucks and buses racing past, it looks like this bus has seen the end of its term for this journey. We are situated some 30kms north of El Dorado, and without the engine to power the air conditioning the inside of this bus is going to turn into a sauna very quickly. There is no shade outside either.

Young girl watching our broken down bus.

One of the passengers suggested that we are out of fuel. That could explain the driver’s unusual weaving behaviour, but then we just got the official word to grab our stuff and get off the bus. This bus is broken and will not be continuing its journey. We all climb off and grab our bags. There is another bus waiting for us which we climb onto. It s a standard bus without anything fancy and does not seem to be related to our original bus company. It amazes me how united the bus drivers are in this country in the way they stop to help out others and even carry their passengers (although possibly for a fee that we don’t see).

So now I am here on this older bus, writing the end of my story. Travelling in Argentina is normally a very reliable affair, although the longer I stay here the more I hear about broken buses and experience it. Last year a team heading to Chile had to wait an hour for anoher bus to pick them up when their bus broke down inexplicably. Last year I was on a bus that pushed ahead with broken airconditioning and we lived through tropical heat that kept getting hotter until we reached our destination. Only one week ago, a number of staff heading to Buenos Aires were on a bus that broke down and they had to wait the entire night before someone was able to help them out.

Break downs do happen, but in all of the travels that I have done, they are not too common. Common enough to keep in mind if you are depending on the service getting you somewhere at a specific time, but otherwise it is just one more experience to chalk up in the travelling diaries. Oh, uh oh. On my way back to Corrientes my bus stopped and picked up another load of stranded passengers due to a bus breakdown.

So maybe breakdowns are a little more common than I first thought. The next time I need a bus to get me somewhere on time I think it might be wise to not cut things too tight.