Nora Callahan is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An International Affairs and Math major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
In this week's post, Nora navigates a 16-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Northern Patagonia, a boat ride to Uruguay, and a trip to Iguazu Falls.
Buenos Aires is South America’s second largest metropolitan area on the coast of one of the 20th century’s most prosperous countries, but all the other attractions, and, really, all the other places, are really far away. There’s a lot of other areas in the country to visit if you’re staying in Buenos Aires for a while. I was able to make it to three in my short six weeks and I’ll let you know where, how I got from point (B)A to point B (that’s a little city name initials joke by the girl from DC), and how it is navigating domestic travel in Argentina.
At the transit museum in Uruguay with Megan!
Our first Friday happened to be May 25th, a national holiday in Argentina celebrating the May Revolution, so, seizing the day off from classes, I decided to pack my bags that Thursday morning and head straight from class to a get on a 16-hour bus ride out of the city with a friend I’d just met four days prior at orientation. Where were we headed? Bariloche, a nice little mountainous town in Northern Patagonia. But, back up—how did we get there?
At the Colonia sign with my homestay family.
The day before we left we were considering our travel options. We only had two full days, and it was pretty far away. We almost sprung for plane tickets when my travel companion, Megan’s host mother got on the phone with the bus company—armed with attitude and stubbornness and a surprising level of familiarity with the bus company phone operators—and an hour later we had two cut-rate tickets reserved for a bus the next day. The bus we took left from the big bus station in Retiro. It was sort of like Port Authority but it felt bigger and less chaotic, almost like an airport but open air and mostly concrete. This is not where the air travel comparisons stop. These overnight buses are a thing that, to my knowledge, does not exist in the US. The seats kind of turn into beds making it comfier than a plane ride. A nicely dressed person comes around with drinks and little boxes of food, and there are blankets.
A view of Bariloche in Patagonia.
We got to watch the sun set out the window on the right side of the bus as we headed south and sun rise in the morning out the other window as La Pampas (the plains) slipped by us. Air travel is quick and convenient and offers really fun aerial views sometimes, but there’s something about looking up out the window of a bus or train as you cover all the ground between the place you left and the place you arrive.
Riding up Cerro Catedral in Bariloche.
Bariloche, a much slower paced place than Buenos Aires year-round, was even quieter than normal as we were visiting during the off-season. We rode up to Cerro Catedral, really scary if you’re afraid of heights like me, but so amazing. Our last day we hailed a cab to Colonia Suiza, because chocolate. Luckily, we got a super nice cab driver who was basically a tour guide taking us out of his way to pretty lookout spots and pointing out landmarks, telling us about different trees, and recommending food before the ride home. We weren’t even overcharged in the end.
Sunrise at Nahuel Huapi National Park.
We also did a bunch of hiking in the national park, Nahuel Huapi. There were barely any other people on the trails and mountains in every direction. People there had more time to stop and chat. It was a welcome break from the hustle and bustle.
Colonia Suiza in Bariloche.
On our second trip, we took a big boat directly across the Rio de la Plata, the widest river in the world of course, to Colonia Sacramento in Uruguay with my amazing Uruguayan host mother and family. Colonia was quaint like Bariloche. It had beaches and was all about its crossroads of English, Spanish, and Portuguese influence. And it’s completely true, they drink a lot of mate in Argentina; but they drink way more in Uruguay.
At the top of Iguazu Falls.
We took our last trip at the end of the six weeks up to Iquazu in Misiones, the longest continuous waterfall with an Argentine side and a Brazilian side, right up close to Paraguay. This time we took a plane to a tiny airport with peeling paint over the entrance and only two gates. We spent less than 24 hours in the northern province and even rationed our plane food rather than buying a meal, save for a celebratory Freddo’s ice cream on our way back from the falls and toward the airport again. Iguazu was mind-blowing. At the main lookout point, Garganta del Diablo, you can feel the mist coming off the waterfall like rain and there are waterfalls in every direction.
The water and rising vapor flowing everywhere at Iguazu Falls.
If you look down through the fog of rising water vapor you can barely see the violent water way below flowing in all directions, but your eyes are confused about the distance because of the sheer amount of water in the air, falling, in every direction. It was amazing and it makes me want to explore the natural wonders of our own country further, before I inevitably travel back to Latin America the first change I get.
Nora's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.