Spontaneity and the Unknown Rewarded Me With Bariloche!

Even though I was excited to head to Patagonia, it wasn’t easy to leave Puerto Iguazu, the town that got me loving summertime for the first time since I was a kid. This Argentine town gave me red-colored hostel, pool, sunset, falls, birds, Brazil, forest – and people. From the kindest and funniest staff of the Iguazu Hostel Inn (that belongs to the Hosteling International network), to the fantastic people I met at the hostel (from Israel, Germany, the Unoted Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia) to the sweet people I met on my trips to the national parks (from Brazil, from Mar del Plata and Cordoba in Argentina, and from Australia). I had a REALLY great time.

And yet, it was time to leave – and that’s when the chaos started. I booked a 7:30 transfer, so I got up at 5:30 AM. At 7:45 it turned out the transfer decided to pick me up at 8:30. Funny thing about the Iguazu area – it rains there in all 4 seasons, and the previous day, after I returned to the hostel from the forest, it started raining heavily. It continued to rain yesterday morning, as I was waiting to get to the airport. The transfer came at almost 9 AM. My flight was supposed to be at 10:15. Passengers are supposed to be at the airport two hours in advance, yet it’s a small airport so I managed to be ready to board twenty minutes before the scheduled boarding time, which was 9:45.

I walked around a small part of the airport, including a tiny art exhibition and an open kiosk with no employee, and bought my first souvenir of the trip: a tiny penguin, which I’m told was hand-made by Argentine stones.

At 10:08 there was still no plane boarding. I asked, I wasn’t sure I was sitting in the right place, a guide went to check – and only then they started boarding. That took another half hour. Usually, I would have no challenge with it, yet the flight was heading to Buenos Aires and I had another flight to catch there.

Here’s the thing: I know not to book short layovers because there could be delays. I also read that there are many delays with Aerolineas Argentinas, a company I otherwise enjoyed so far very much. The thing is, when I booked interior flights, I did so in a package that saves a lot of money (google Visit Argentina in reference to this airline), yet cannot be booked by Israelis alone. The travel agent I went to said he’s booking me a two hour layover, and promised, because I asked, that there would be enough time for the transfer. However, a day and a half before, as I did my online check-in, I noticed it was a 50 minute layover. What I realized as I was waiting for the flight to take off to Buenos Aires was that what it means is that I would have only twenty minutes between the scheduled landing of this flight and the scheduled boarding of the next flight – and the flight to Buenos Aires left thirty minutes later than scheduled.

I explained the situation to the flight attendant as soon as I could. She informed the pilot, who informed the Buenos Aires people. In the last ten minutes of the flight I was asked to sit in first class seats, so that I can be the first to leave the plane. What a difference! So much chair comfort! So much space – especially in the first floor, where I sat. There was a lot more leg room, yet even the chairs themselves were wider.

When the beautiful and diversed flight (view wise) ended, an airline representative was supposed to meet me. When we got off the flight it was by stairs to an open space (love that!) – and then we took a bus to the airport halls. I went upstairs and explained to the security guard, the one that was checking the bags in the machine, what happened. He said he can only let me through first if the people in line agree. Justified, yet I could barely breathe. He told me to ask the people, yet there was no need: the moment he said it, the next woman in line moved and let me through. I am grateful.

They checked my bag, they body-checked me and they wanted me to put my money belt through the machine as well, yet I was having challenges untying the tie so fast and a woman from the back (same one?) yelled on Spanish: She’s going to miss her flight! It was around 12:40, I think, and the flight was going to leave at 12:50. Remember, boarding was scheduled for 12:20. The guide came to me, felt through my money belt, which was already half detached from my body (so he only touched the money belt), abs then gathered my stuff for me, gave them to me and told me to look for the gate number on one of the screens.

I had already done that, so I asked him how to get to that gate, said thank you and hurried up. As I arrived at the gate (#5) – I saw a line. I asked the last woman in line if it was for Esquel, and she said yes. It was the closest I got to good breathing in many minutes.

I decided to tell the two representatives at the gate who I am and what happened, so that they know there’s no need to worry or pick me up from a flight. But they weren’t worried. They said the flight is being delayed and therefore no one came to pick me up.

I went with everyone else to the bus and waited. There were several people who cane after I did and the bus waited. As it waited and I was no longer in a hurry to catch anything, I started breathing again.

I didn’t see much of the view of this flight because I was busy talking to a very nice man from upstate New York, who was coming to Patagonia (Argentina’s southwest) for the fourth time to ski. It was a fascinating, fun conversation. I love the constant experiences of meeting great people along the way. I glanced every once and a while and took a bit of photos. I also talked to a 4 year old girl from the seat in front of mine.

Towards the end of the flight, my mouth dropped. The view became of brown mountains and a sky so blue, such deep blue, that I have never seen. Then we started seeing the snowy mountains. What a beauty!!

The end of the flight got me feeling lots of nausea. The famous Patagonian winds got the plane moving to a different side all the time, so I was happy to land, though I couldn’t get enough of the view.

Walking out of the plane, I was once again amazed by the mountains and the deep, deep blue sky and I asked a man to take my photo. This time, from the stairs I walked directly inside the airport to pick up my suitcase. I was so busy enjoying the talking and the view, I didn’t put on my warm clothes before leaving the plane. Therefore, I left it with a short sleeved shirt and a rain coat. And it wasn’t that cold!

Or so I thought. Once I entered the building, my body must have come out of it’s shock and started freezing. I went to put on warmer clothes and then went and got my new, red suitcase – which I later discovered got a little torn during the flight. It’s not torn-torn yet, but I might need to go fir a third suitcase soon.

At the airport in Esquel, I was looking for ways to transfer to my Esquel hostel – when I learned that there’s a free transfer leaving in a few minutes to Bariloche, my real destination, where I was going to go the following day. The free transfer was offered by the airline because flights to Bariloche have been cancelled (because a volcano erupted a hundred kilometers or so from there in June). My travel agent fell to mention it.

So, instead of paying 70 pesos to get to the hostel, then whatever cost it would take to get to the bus, then a 100 pesos for the bus (and lest we forget – I going to pay double for lodging in Esquel as I found a double promo in Bariloche) – I got permission by the airline representative to get on the free bus.

It was around 4 PM and we were expected to arrive in Bariloche at 8 PM. There was no time to let the Esquel hostel know I wasn’t coming or to find a place to stay in Bariloche that night – the bus was leaving NOW. Fortunately, I had the numbers of my Esquel and Bariloche hostels with me. Challenge is – my phone wasn’t working. Turned out there was no reception, and even when there was, halfway through the road, around El Bolson, my phone didn’t work. I asked the guy in charge to use his Argentine cell phone, offering to pay him the price of these calls, and he explained his phone wouldn’t work either until Bariloche.

So I let go and gave in to the views, that captivated me from the instant I saw them. I knew, and the above-mentioned man confirmed, that Bariloche is far from full and it’ll be OK. Still, I had never done something like this. Yet the views distracted me very easily – unending spaces of beauty, that reminded me descriptions I read by people who traveled through the United States. The photos I include in this post are solely photos from these four hours on the bus, during which there was sun, rain and the realization that the town of Bariloche is not snowy as I’ve dreamed for so long to find it. Its mountains are snowy, and it might snow over the town this weekend.

We arrived at the Bariloche airport at 8 PM as planned and my phone went back to working. I called the Esquel hostel, explained and apologized and they were very understanding. Then I called the hostel I was supposed to arrive at the following day, and they had space. The only way to go was by cab that cost 70 pesos, so I took it and arrived at the hostel. I ordered bad pizza (I didn’t know it was bad) because I was too tired to get to the supermarket, which is open until 10 or 10:30 PM, and I got a dorm room with no other people for the night, as another person was scheduled to arrive the following day, meaning today, and I see her stuff is already here.

Will leave you with the photos and will go explore more of Bariloche. Enjoy!

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