The bus is late. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is.
As a clunky green giant pulls up, looking a bit like a dilapidated, heavily curtained refrigerator from the 70’s, the contrast between my ride and the other, sparkly, shiny, clean, and friendly Argentine buses is clear.
Only 4 hours in, another passenger asks when we’ll be stopping for dinner.
“Tomorrow,” says the bus driver. Oh god.
There’s a bathroom on board with a sign that ominously warns that one may urinate, but any more extreme efforts would be for naught. Taking a look inside I can see why. The wall is missing and the toilet is already clogged.
And there’s no running water.
We pull over at a gas station to refuel and I run to the convenience store with half of the other passengers, hoping for a bathroom and some food.
We’re disappointed, walking back to the bus with a rag-tag collection of day-old medialunas and questionable-looking spinach quinches. The last lingerers of the group run to catch the bus, but I’m pretty sure two people were left behind, their shouts unheard by the driver as we pull out, their empty seats a warning to the rest of us.
There’s a cloud in the sky that looks a whole lot like a shark, with a tiny little cloud out in front that looks a whole lot like me. Nice work clouds. I need one more thing to worry about right now. Real nice.
It’s getting colder and there are mountains in the distance, half-concealed by clouds. We drive through a small town, the first we’ve seen in a while, and all the power lines are covered in moss and verdigris, hidden not by clouds but inattention.
Like in every other town I’ve been to in Argentina, there are stray dogs of all shapes and size running around here. There’s a pair of dogs that pony up to the side of the bus while we wait for a horse to get out of the middle of the road. One of the dogs looks up at me helplessly as the other starts to urinate on its leg.
I understand buddy, I think discontentedly. I know exactly how you feel right now.
I’m waiting for the bus driver to come back to my seat and slap me in the face, the only thing I can think of that would really ice this cake of horribleness that’s been baking for the past 16 hours. I had to check my computer’s clock to see the time: as I was checking it, my watch died.
Just 56 hours to go before I arrive in Lima.
Update: November 26, 2016
This was the first of three posts that I wrote, typing away on my little netbook, while on the road from Argentina to Peru.
It was a horrible experience, but an excellent test of a mentality that I’ve built up over the years, and which was very new at the time: the ability to see oneself as a character in a story, and as a result, being able to see adversity and craziness as a hilarious plot point, rather than something horrible that needs to be addressed.
There’s a bit of Stoicism in this approach, too. You accept what’s happening and adjust how you respond to it. You attempt to find the humor in the situation, rather than fixating on how uncomfortable and bored you are.
This is a mindset that’s served me very well over the years.