Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

50 Hours to Bariloche

Based on advice from other travelers, I had planned my trip about 10 days ahead to make sure I got into Bariloche a day in advance of New Years Eve so I could celebrate there.  And even though I’ve already taken 4  bus rides north from Punta Arenas, it’s another 28 hours by bus to get out of Patagonia into the Lakes District…good god, this trip may require some serious medicating.

December 29, 6:15 pm (El Chaltѐn):  Complete the Fitz Roy trek and celebrate with 3 liters of beer and 10 cigarettes.

December 29, 9:05 pm (El Chaltѐn):  Run back to the hostel to change clothes and pack up The Bag.

December 29, 9:25 pm (El Chaltѐn):  Grab a pizza at a restaurant around the corner from the bus station and have a glass of wine.  Make that two.

December 29, 10:20 pm (El Chaltѐn):  Arrive at the bus station, check my bag, say hello to three friends from the hostel in Puerto Natales who were kind enough to share a joint with me in my darkest hour (i.e. foot with chorizo attachment), pop a couple pills and prepare to sleep off a good 10 hours of this 28 hour trip down famously desolate Route 40.  (ETA: 2:30 am, New Years Eve morning)

December 30, 6:30 am (Nowhere, Patagonia):  I am awakened from my delicious Zanax-induced slumber by the bus rumbling to the side of the road and shutting down.  Odd.  The Bus Dudes climb out and start fumbling around the engine compartment.  Much banging and crashing ensue.  After 15 minutes, some of us begin to stumble out of the bus onto the highway to check out the situation.  The situation is not good.  There seems to be a failure of some sort of tube which has, in turn, caused the bus to overheat.  Bus Dudes pour water into the radiator.  It goes straight through the radiator and onto Route 40.  Oh, fuck.

December 30, 8:45 am (Nowhere, Patagonia):  A repair truck arrives with a replacement tube.  Rescued!!!  After 20 minutes of more banging and crashing, Bus Dudes fire the bus back to life.  Vamos!

December 30, 10:42 am (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  The bus again dies and rumbles to a stop at the side of Route 40.  After an hour, it is clear that the bus is truly fucked, there is no cavalry on the way, and we are going to be here until another bus is sent for us.  Which seems unlikely, since there is no cell phone service in the middle of this wasteland and we are 100 km from a town in either direction.  Bus Dudes send a message to the bus company (Marga) with a car that passes by and we prepare for a few hours more of waiting around.  (We saw a total of about 10 other vehicles the entire time we were stranded on Route 40.)  The good news is that there are bus stations 100 km in both directions and Marga will surely send us a new bus from one of those terminals ASAP, right?



December 30, 12:45 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  It is now stupidly hot and stinky in the bus.  We have emptied out the baggage compartments underneath where everyone is now seeking shade and playing cards.  Jeff and I set up a coffee cup at three paces and start trying to throw pebbles into it.


December 30, 3:10 pm (Nowhere, Patagonia):  A Marga bus heading the opposite direction stops and gives us some food and water.  It is disgusting.  We devour it.  Bus Dudes say our replacement bus will arrive sometime between 10 pm and midnight.    Fucking hell.  But at least we have an answer.


December 30, 4:20 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Smoke break.  A friend with weed is a friend indeed…

December 30, 5 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  The “Jack Johnson Argument.”  Gali and Ruth insist that he’s a wonderful musician, regardless of your particular tastes in music.  My take: Jack Johnson is the romantic comedy of music:  No dudes actually like him, but lots of them will pretend to just because girls like it.  And that makes them assholes.  Jeff stated his opinion with far less subtlety:  “Jack Johnson is absolute crap.  I would rather stick a fork up my ass than have to listen to that shit.”

December 30, 6:30 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Water supplies are running dangerously low.  There are rumors of a stream about 5 km down the road.  The Foot wants no part of this action after being destroyed (again) in El Chaltѐn.  Thankfully, our man Jean-Francois is up for a hike out of extreme boredom and volunteers to fill up everyone’s bottles.  Jeff and I return to the coffee cup game.

December 30, 7:45 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Jeff and I are still throwing pebbles at the coffee cup.  Pretty sure I’m winning, but there’s no way to be sure.



December 30, 9:40 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  I climb into the luggage compartment, dig through my pack and find the emergency tequila.  We pass the bottle.  (It’s beginning to get dark and we can’t see the coffee cup very well anymore, so a new activity was required.)

December 30, 10:42 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Gali interrupts the conversation with, “No!  You guys don’t understand.  We’re going to DIE in the desert!!…And my mom won’t even know what happened to me!!!!!”   This after exactly 12 hours of being stuck in this horrific place…can’t exactly blame her.  And the tequila is gone.  Time for another smoke break to settle the nerves, apparently.

December 30, 11:42 pm (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Jeff and Jean-Francois start digging through the bus food trash box.  (Seriously, is this happening right now?)  The driest chicken sandwiches man has ever known appear magically from the depths of the box and the four of them pull their sleeping mats out and set up a banquet around the trash box.  “Oh fuck!!!  I just found two alfahores!!!”  These people really are losing their minds.  I have to walk away and think about puppy dogs and ice cream to keep from setting this fucking bus on fire.


December 31, 12:42 am (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  Marga sent another repair truck, not another bus as was previously promised.  After 30 minutes of Bus Dudes and Repair Dude with their heads inside the engine, they take a smoke break.  Not good.  Now we are super fucked.  New ETA on our replacement bus is sometime between 6 and 8 am.  On New Years Eve.  With 18-20 hours more driving to come.  These motherfuckers are sending us a bus from El Califate, more than 12 hours away, not from any one of the three terminals that are within 3-4 hours of us.

We light a fire in the middle of Route 40.


December 31, 7:50 am (Beyond Nowhere, Patagonia):  After a lovely night’s rest in the bus, a new bus rumbles to a stop behind us.  I have to touch the motherfucker to be sure I’m not dreaming.  Bus Dudes rush us out of the old bus, we jam our bags under the new one, and we are on our way in 15 minutes.  After 22 hours of being stuck in the same spot.  Unreal.

I did notice a mechanic underneath our new bus with a set of wrenches banging on something as we transferred our bags.  I give this one about 1.5 hours before it dies too…

And so much for all my advance planning to make it to Bariloche for New Years Eve.  By my calculations (assuming no more Fucked Bus Syndrome), we should arrive about 7 am on New Years Day.  Should be a real rager going on right about then…

December 31, 11 am (Perito Moreno, Argentina):  We arrive in Perito Moreno for a brief stop and a refuel.  (Why the FUCK didn’t Marga just send us a new bus from Perito Moreno?)  I buy juice, water, and chocolate.  Should be plenty for the 12 hours remaining…

December 31, 1:35 pm (A Brand New Hell, Patagonia):  New Bus overheats and rumbles to a stop at the side of Route 40.  Bus Dudes fill the radiator with muck from a mudhole on the side of the road.  (Seems like a solid plan to me.)  As they hustle us all back on board to take off, they discover a flat tire.  Maybe Gali was right…


December 31, 3:30 pm (Somewhere On Fucking Route 40):  My brain is melting from the heat and stench of these people.  I hate them all.  I take three Zanax.

December 31, 10:35 pm (El Bolson, Argentina):  We arrive in the first town we have seen in nearly 12 hours.  Several people bail out while the opportunity presents itself.  But there are only two hours (in theory) left to make it to Bariloche.  At this point, the story is so horrific, I have to stay to see how it ends.  I run (sort of…goddamn foot…) to a convenience store around the corner and pick up a couple of big beers to celebrate 2011 on the Best Bus Ever.  Bus Dudes grab the beers from me.  “No alchohol en el transport publico!”  Oh, now you really are going to die, motherfuckers.

December 31, 11:59 pm (Still On Goddamn Route 40):  Fortunately, Jeff, Gali and Ruth had saved a box of wine, so the four of us toast the New Year (quietly so Cocksucker Bus Dudes don’t take away our booze).

January 1, 12:20 am (San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina):  We pull into the bus terminal in Bariloche.  After almost exactly 50 hours, 26 of them driving, and another 24 sitting on the side of Route 40.

The Bus Dudes return my 2 liters of Stella.  Not only does Señor Policeman at the bus station give hearty approval to us drinking our beer on the spot, he brings us out a bottle of champagne as well.  And then his wife brings us out some cake.  Everybody loves a happy ending…


4 Responses to “50 Hours to Bariloche”

  1. Martina says:

    Well documented, Casey!

  2. Mr C says:

    "Oh, now you really are going to die, motherfuckers." LOOOLLLLLL
    Love it! Great post Mr Penguin!

  3. Anonymous says:

    A New Year's Eve to remember. – JimK

  4. Anonymous says:

    absolutly fucked up greatness. what a ride!! and, jack johnson is a cock-sucker douch-nozzle.
    -EricH (the guy)

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