A Stone's Throw

practice your aim. you never know when you'll spy 2 birds at once.

Monday, August 22, 2011

6 Countries, Johnny Walker Red & A Bus Full of Guns

There may be a longer route to get to Argentina, but if there is, I´m unaware of it. And after around 36 hours of cars, planes, buses, ferries, and subways, I´m certain that if I ever have the extra cash for a direct flight, I´ll jump on that.

The day, Friday, started out with both unexpected smoothness, and perhaps a bad omen. After a wake-up at 5AM, my brother-in-law and I took off for JFK airport. Yet somehow we made it there with perhaps the best traffic either of us had ever seen in the New York area. Strange indeed. Yet during the car ride, I noticed that I seemed to have a number of bug bites on my forearm. It itched, but that´s sometimes what happens when you´ve been sleeping in a basement - unexpected bites.

I easily made my plane and had the odd seating assignment next to a man who looked like the Hispanic Barack Obama. No lie. Ears and all. We chatted on the way to my first layover in El Salvador. A note for anyone worried about El Sal: Most of the dangers in El Sal are in San Salvador, but the airport is way outside of the city in the countryside. So if you wanted to fly into El Sal, you could then simply bypass San Sal, and travel onward to any number of incredible beaches, volcanos, and the like.

My next flight to Lima, Peru was trouble free, and the flights were ontime. I´ve used the Lima airport before, and it was as modern, clean, and easy to get around as always.

My next flight(s) were to Asuncion, Paraguay, and then finally to Montevideo, Uruguay. These were the best flights, as a friendly Uruguayian and I drank Johnny Walker Red and swapped stories until the wee hours of the morning.

I breezed through customs the fastest I´ve ever made it through customs, probably helped by the time, as it was 5:45Am. When I stepped out of the airport into the dark morning, I only knew I had to somehow make it to a bus station called Tres Cruces, where I was to catch a bus to the colonial port city of Colonia. From there I had already booked a spot on a ferry that would take me to Buenos Aires.

The problem, however, was that it was 5:45, and my bus wasn´t supposed to leave until 1PM. And there was an unholy cold spell that had settled over the country which I was not particularly interested in sitting through for the next 8 hours.

So, there I was, outside the Montevideo airport, asking for directions to Tres Cruces, when I was told by some men to join them on the next bus that they said was headed toward Tres Cruces. I double-checked this info with the airport information desk, and then decided to take the bus.

As the bus pulled away from the airport, I grew worried when I saw that one of the men had a gun. And as I looked around, I realized that most everyone on the bus carried a gun. Now, although I´m a seasoned traveler, this sort of thing can cause concern. But I quickly learned that these were all off-duty airport security officers, and they turned out to be incredibly kind and generous, sharing Mate (a local tea that Uruguayians and Argentines are obsessed with), givng me weather reports from their iPhones, advice on where to go, what to eat, etc,. I soon realized that this was perhaps the safest, most affiable bus in the entire country.

One of the men - Carlaim, a man so short he could have nearly been a dwarf - even took it upon himself to accompany me to the bus station to make sure I found everything ok. When we got there, he convinced the ticket office to upgrade me to the bus that was leaving right then for the ferry, instead of waiting the 8 hours. Nothing was expected from his generosity. It was just the way of the people there, as I was explained.

I arrived in Colonia and set to boarding the ferry, only to find out I had somehow lost my immigration card. Chalk it up to getting almost no sleep for a day and a half, or whatever, but this was a problem. You don´t easily leave a country without that card. So, as the rest of the passengers filed onto the ferry, I was left alone in the customs hall, frantically searching my things for this damn card. As it always happens, I found it in the last place I expected to find it, and as the custom officials chuckled, I was allowed to leave Uruguay.

The ferry was fast and direct, landing in Buenos Aires in early afternoon. Yet since I had arrived several hours before I was expected by my host, I had to wait a little while in the port - which is no bad thing with all the delicious cakes, cookies, and cappicinos all around me in the luxerious port.

This festival of food was broken, however, when upon a bathroom break I realized I was having an allergic reaction to the insect bites. And not just my arm was red and itching, but the skin under my left eye was all swollen and red. It is quite a way to make a first impression on your host, let me tell you.

But Portenos(this is what people from Buenos Aires call themselves) are rather unflappable, and my host, Melina, was no exception. And soon, half red-faced and all, I was welcomed to Buenos Aires, and thus my adventure has begun.

- C


  • At 12:16 PM , Anonymous Dale Carothers said...

    Aren't you supposed to get sick on your trip and not before? You are doing it all wrong. Maybe you'll get bitten by a jungle bug whose venom will cure the orignal American insect venom. I suggest walking the jungles in your underpants and shaking the trees to maximize your chances. Maybe, if you're lucky, the two venoms will combine and you'll become some kind of transcontinental Spider-Man, with different powers in each country. Will you need two costumes for that? I guess it depends on how similar the two insects are.

  • At 12:18 PM , Blogger chamberlain said...

    Those New York spiders are a bitch...

  • At 12:26 PM , Blogger Jessemyn said...

    Hey what r u doing blaming my basement? But gotta say that Joe has the same thing going on all over his chest. Huh

  • At 3:43 PM , Blogger Caleb Jordan Schulz said...

    Hey Jes -

    Take Joe to the doctor and see what it is. Really hard to get a straight answer down here on insects they might never have heard of before.

    Tried Benadryl - did nothing...

    DC - I agree. Now I need to find a jungle....

  • At 4:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sounds like an adventure waiting to happen! Miss you!

    BTW: *luxurious (just to annoy you) :P


  • At 9:14 PM , Blogger Caleb Jordan Schulz said...

    Yeah...I saw a couple spelling errors after I posted. I used a wonky Latin American keyboard for this post, and I couldn´t rely on the red squiggly lines to remind me when I had mispelled.

    Lots of cool characters on this keyboard though, like ªº¬¿ç¡...


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