Friday, June 12, 2009

Public Transportation: intercity buses in Argentina and Chile

One thing that fascinates me while traveling is public transportation. In fact, it really interests me while at home, too. Exhibit A in this case would be the small short story collection I wrote about bus rides in Jerusalem (very originally named "buses"). But I digress. From time to time I will write a bit about the subject: what you use to travel in different places, how it works, who you meet, etc. So first of in this series are the intercity buses in Argentina (and Chile, which are very similar), that are, in my own humble opinion, shaped by visiting about 3% of the world (that number is completely and entirely made up...) the best in the world.

Ushuaia, end of Jan. 2008

Ushuaia is a very nice city: built on the slopes of beautiful snow-peaked mountains (snow-peaked in summer, snow-filled in winter) that descend into the Beagle Channel, with wooden, colourful, steep-roofed houses, The whole city sits on the land diagonally, with the main streets running straight across the slope and the connecting streets going up (or down… a glass half full/empty thing, I guess) in very steep angles. But a tourist that comes to Ushuaia, sleeps in a hostel (or a hotel… gotta remember that not everybody travels the way I do) in the city center and doesn’t wander off of the main drag, will barely notice the 30+ degree angles the connecting streets take from it.

Buenos Aires, 21-24.1.08

My plan to go on a long backpacking trip in South America surprised me, in a way. Seven months before I arrived in Buenos Aires, in the end of January 2008 (for the first time since living there from ’89 to’95), I was thinking I don’t want to do it. The “big trip” has become a standard of the post-army Israeli, a rite of passage, almost on par with the army and university as life-stages which most Israelis go through. I used to think that I had been out of the country enough, that it was wasteful in money and time, that I didn’t need it or it didn’t attract me, that I preferred starting school and gaining knowledge (what I thought really attracted me… and I might have been right). Aside from that, it is quite obvious to me that not going on a trip was a way of being different, an attempt at being anti-mainstream, a sentiment that’s been part of me for as long as I remember myself, whether it was in movie and music choices, opinions, behaviour, etc.