Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Second Peril of Argentina: Transportation

In Buenos Aires, the bus system operates under the philosophy of “eh, you wouldn’t understand; just take a cab.”  Lonely Planet washes its hands of explication, and even if you know your bus stop, number, and route, there’s a 15% chance it will take you to your destination, and an 85% chance it will take you to La Boca where you will be stabbed.

If you’re lucky enough to travel by private bus, after a 15-minute welcome video which explains the concept and execution of seatbelts for those who have never seen seat nor belt, they play New Year’s Eve and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 until walking or death seems preferable.

To avoid buses entirely, when I daytripped to Colonia, Uruguay, I traveled by boat.  Now, I’ve ridden boats before.  I sailed through icebergs in Alaska, back when there were icebergs, and I’ve visited Staten Island four times, which makes me either rugged or insane.  However, the Colonia Express was different.  It was...bouncy.

The Three Perils of Argentina

a decade ago, with my Cub Scout training not yet forgotten, I was a prepared traveler.  Before backpacking through Italy, I took a year of Italian, seven of Latin, and could easily differentiate between composers and pastas, Pu- and fettuccini.  However, as I’ve approached thirty, my preparations have dilapidated in direct proportion to my hairline.  Where once I spent weeks poring over Lonely Planet and crafting every aspect of my trip, now I think of a place from a musical, buy a plane ticket, and hope it all works out.

Which brings me to Argentina.

As I boarded the plane to Buenos Aires, my understanding of Argentine history was as follows: indigenous people (Incans?) lived there until conquistadors did their thing; said thing included churches, tango huts, and the Ezeiza International Airport; eventually, Patti LuPone was elected first lady, which really pissed off Mandy Patinkin, until she was replaced by Madonna in a midterm election.  There’s also steak.

Clearly, this history is incomplete—Elaine Page predated Patti LuPone—but I figured I would learn more along the way.  And learn I did, though my education covered a topic far more pernicious than history:

The Three Perils of Argentina.