Wayward Travels

Saturday, July 08, 2006


So I DID meet an orthodontist! Well, a student of orthodontology. I went to the bus terminal today to buy my ticket to Iguazú (only to find that I could only purchase a ticket to Posadas, at which point I will have to find another bus to go the final 5 hours to Iguazú) and as I waited at a bus stop to take a city colectivo (public bus), I struck up a conversation with a friendly fellow who asked me if I was here for the orthodontists´conference. We had a nice little chat (in Spanish), and this is the sort of random, friendly interaction that I love so much when travelling.
Speaking of buses, I would like to dedicate just a few words to my bus ride from Córdoba to Rosario last night: No fun. At all. Some of you (dad) may still have the impression (as did I, naïvely) that all long-distance buses are the delightful coche cama that I described earlier. No. Not at all. The midnight bus I took (I almost didn´t take it at all, since it came to a different platform than I was told, in a VERY crowded bus terminal) was a cramped affair with compact little chairs in which I got no sleep at all and--had I the energy to do so--I almost became very upset. True, it was a decent bus in the scheme of things...but I would have prefered the Guatemalan chickenbus to that vehicle--for at least the chickenbus makes no false claims about what a great ride one can expect.
I finally arrived around 6 am, tired and bleary-eyed and sore, and took a cab to the hostel, where I was inform that they had no reservation with my name and, lamentably, were completely full. Still not really having the energy to get upset about how things were progressing, I pushed them further, insisting I had a reservation, made by Claudia of Córdoba Backpackers. We had a bit of a back-and-forth about this ("I´m sorry, it´s not here." "It must be. I have a reservation." "All are beds are occupied.") until I was told, "Oh look. Here is your reservation, made yesterday by a Claudia of Córdoba Backpackers." I refrained from an I-told-you-so because the situation still remained that they had no beds at that moment. I put my back on the ground and slept on the couch in the lobby/tv room/office until one opened up around 11. I also was denied a cup of coffee. I am not pleased.
Still, I managed at long last to get a bed, a shower, and I headed off in the city of Rosario. This turned out to be a giant disappointment because everything was closed (siesta?) and it was grey and rainy. Kicking myself about having made this stop part of my trip at all (based, ignobly on an "it was nice" comment by Ivan from Whales in the Mendoza hostel), I saw the main sight of Rosario, the third largest city in Argentina. Rosario is "La Cuna (cradle) de la Bandera (flag)" and a fellow named Belgrano is the Betsy Ross behind the blue-and-white flag. The giant monument to the flag sits against the Río Paraná and boasts a sort of covered, columned pavilion with an eternal flame to Argentine soldiers, a giant walkway of cascading steps, and a very large tower (which, for one peso, you can ascend on the elevator for views of the city and river).
Other than that, I walked around in the rain, ate lunch (the server refered to me as niña, I tried not to be offended), and walked around some more.
One highlight to the greyness was to be found in "Isla de los Inventos," a sort of hands-on childrens´musuem. Needless to say, I went in and elbowed with the mobs of children and their chaperones to try all the activities. The paper exhibit was my favorite. I got to made recycled paper from waste paper, paint a paper using some technique based on the principle than oil is hydrophobic, bind a book (this part was lame), carve a stamp and use it to create a sort of lithograph (but not quite), and more. There were plenty of other things, and I was pleased to pass a little while there and--what´s more--see that it was sunny by the time I left. The clouds had passed and I was feeling better.
I also saw a fair number of cars parked along the river, each with a guy or two outside dangling a fishing rods over the 5-meter embankment while a woman (wife?) sat in the car sipping mate. Just your average Saturday trip to catch dinner, perhaps.
Speaking of mate, I must note it is the understated but ubiquitous national drink of Argentina (and Uruguay, for that matter). Even though I have purchased a calabaza, bombilla, and yerba, I am a neophyte when it comes to this brew. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_(beverage) for actual information.
Having torn through several books in English (travelling alone is like that), I have purchased a Spanish version of Tolstoy. Before you think I´m reading literature, let me tell you the title: "Cuentos Para Niños." This may be just about my reading level.
So I´ll be in Rosario for a few more days (tomorrow is Independence Day as well as the World Cup Final) and Monday afternoon I head to Iguazú (or, rather, Posadas). I made a very specific point of requesting coche cama. So this way, if I need to be upset about something (like not sleeping), at least I´ll be well-rested enough to do so.


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