As it seems to be my routine now, I managed to make it to the bus station only minutes before the bus was due to leave, climbing onboard and hardly getting settled before we were on our way. An elder man sat beside me and patiently waited while I moved and twisted my bag around to get it to fit in the small legroom space of my seat. Not a word was said, but it was clear that he was glad to finally be able to use his legroom space after all of my activties.
Heading Off Again
Starting out from Curitiba at 9.30pm meant that this was a night drive from the outset. Brazilians tend to live a different lifestyle to the Argentines, and while the Argentines would be putting on another movie to watch and serving up dinner, we were sitting in the dark with everyone else trying to doze off. I think that this was my first small experience of culture shock.
Not wanting to sleep just yet, as I have become quite accustomed to the late night traditions of Argentina, I pulled out my book and read by the dim yellow light provided overhead until it reached a more reasonable hour. Outside it was raining, and at times it rained very hard. Our journey took us over some very beautiful terrain, although all was obscured by the night, the rain, and the misty and dirty windows. Apart from a slow start to the journey through some stop-start traffic on the main motorway, I remember very little of the journey until waking in the morning.
My wake-up call in the morning was not our arrival in Foz do IguaÃ§u but rather the replacement of the small man seated beside me with a lady that really needed a lot more space than the one narrow seat provided. From that point on, with my already limited space now invaded, I found it hard to sleep. Every move I made seemed to affect the lady beside me, if I moved one way I was pushing against her, and moving the other way would catch and drag her coat. Whatever I did tended to cause some sort of reaction from her, which in turn would wake me from whatever level of sleep I had managed to descend to.
A Quick Stop In Paraguay
Arriving in Foz, the rain just started to lift, leaving low lying clouds with furry fingers reaching out toward the ground. It was a pretty sight, although the cold air and biting wind kept it from being anything more. Water was everywhere on the ground, reminding me that this rain had only just stopped, and following my experience in Curitiba, it was likely to start up again at any time.
There was a bus leaving for Corrientes at 10am today. If I did not make this bus, then I would need to wait until 9.30pm instead. Spending 12hrs in a small town was not highly appealing to me, so I planned on getting this earlier bus. Since we had arrived here at 7.30am however, there was time for a quick mission to Paraguay before I headed back to Argentina.
Leaving my bag at the lockers, I headed over to Ciudad del Este (CDE) in Paraguay to complete a promise for a friend. I had bought a computer brain (CPU) in Buenos Aires, and needed a motherboard to plug it into. CDE was the best and cheapest place to find this, but the first time I came here the CPU was dead. So after replacing it with one that I was promised would work, I now headed off to the shops to grab the rest of what I needed.
When I got to the shop, the technician kindly informed me that this one also refused to work, indicating that it too was dead. I could not believe it. How could it be that two different CPUs could be dead. It was not easy to return to CDE, and the prices in Argentina were very high. I was really starting to regret having purchased this thing in Buenos Aires, because it too was a long way away. Without any other options available at the time (except buying another CPU which would make everything too expensive), I thanked the tech. and headed back to the bus station.
Making Up Time
In all of my chatting and idle walks around CDE, I had not noticed that the time had really moved on fast. It was already just past 9am, and I had not left Paraguay yet. Using public transport was out of the question if I was going to make my bus, as there were three different buses that I would need to catch. Instead, I jumped aboard a motorbike-taxi and asked the guy to take me out to the bus station.
Most of these guys simply take you where you need to go and then take off. My guy took the opportunity during slow sections to chat with me and find out what I was doing. After spending two weeks surrounded by Portuguese and struggling to make sense of it all, it was wonderful to have a conversation in Spanish again. Not only did he find out about me, but I also discovered that he was an Argentine that moved to Paraguay after the financial crash in 2001.
Throughout these dotted conversations during moments when the wind-noise was not so loud as to drown everything out, we started to re-negotiate our original deal. Rather than drop me at the bus station, my motorbike-taxi would now wait for me to pick up my bag (a daybag sized backpack) and take me all the way to the bus station in Argentina. Originally the price was excessive, but we finally settled on something that was significantly less, in part because the guy thought I was a “good bloke” and in part because it was the only unbroken money that I had on me.
Time was marching onward, and I could see that this was probably my only chance at the early bus, so we shook hands and took off again for Argentina. This time I had a heavy pack on my back that tried to pull me backwards off the bike everytime we accelerated, and my slingbag that would wave around in the air as we raced down the road at some impressive speeds. I could not actually see what speed we were travelling, as the speedometer was broken, but the tachometer indicated that the bike was going almost flat-out at times, so it must have been pretty fast. It certainly felt it, with the cold moist air cutting through every layer of clothing on me.
We deviated around traffic lights, dodged slow vehicles, and hooned around the wet corners almost as though we were in a race. My rider knew nothing about my time limits so I am unsure as to why we were travelling at such a pace, but settled back (as much as one can when being pulled backwards constantly by a backpack) and enjoyed the ride. As we passed through the Brazilian border control without stopping, I was very thankful that all of my processing had been completed when I left Brazil earlier to visit Ciudad del Este.
Back in Argentina
The Argentine border accepted me once again, inspite of the mounting number of Argentine stamps that I am now collecting in my passport, and we headed onward into Argentina. I was now home, or as close as one can come to home when you don’t really have one. Having lived in Argentina for a while now, it is a comforting feeling to return to this country once again – a place where I now understand the culture, know many of the laws, and can speak the language.
After dropping me off at the bus station, my rider told me that he often makes journeys to here from Ciudad del Este throughout the week and quite enjoys doing so. Once again he reminds me that our low price was only because he can see that I am a “good bloke”. We shake hands and he takes off. Behind me is the Puerto Iguazu bus station. I am back in Argentina again.
I am home.