20 Hours Bus, 2 Border Crossings,1 Ferry

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Sunday, December 5, 2010

"You must have been there when the riots were happening! Did you fly out before they closed the airport?"

We were persevering with a 12 hour bus trip from Ushuaia to Rio Gallegos and chatting with fellow passengers as we do, and while discussing that in the early part of our adventure, we were in Rio, the above comment was made. Not knowing what he was talking about we “googled” at our next stop and came up with the headlines:

“Violence Rocks Rio De Janeiro 21 people killed”, "Brazilian Government looks for solutions to drug gang riots”.

Fortunately when the riots began we were happily sunning ourselves on Copacabana Beach, but a couple of days earlier we had been staying in Santa Teresa, a stone's throw from the favellas where some of the rioting took place. We were blissfully unaware when we flew out of Rio that any drama was unfolding or that the airport was about close and cause chaos. Timing is so important when travelling!

Anyhow back to our “groundhog” day of buses which was now less draining after hearing of our near miss in Rio with riots.  Leaving Ushuaia was quite spectacular with mountains glowing in the early dawn light. Soon though, the terrain flattened out into the unspectacular Patagonian Steppe country and before long we had hit dirt and muddy roads which slowed the bus down. The trip was complicated by the fact that Ushuaia is on the Argentinean side of Isla Grande in the Terra De Fuego region which is half shared with Chile (at the very bottom tip of South America).  The problem this creates is that the ocean is very wide on the Argentinean side and so the one and only ferry crossing is on the Chile side, necessitating the bus and its passengers to enter Chile and then depart again. Yes you guessed it, in this crazy world, this necessitated two border crossings involving immigration checks, passport stamping and custom searches four times! 12 hours of time to do around 600 Km and this was only the first bus trip for this day.

The only bonus appeared to be the ferry ride which broke our journey, and being amazed at how many varying size vehicles were “jigsawed” on to the vessel. Prior to our bus being loaded we were able to get off and board the ferry on foot. Being able to stand on the bridge, enjoying the very cold fresh air, to watch the crossing proved to be an unexpected bonus. While taking in the view we spotted a couple of what we thought were quite large fish and then suddenly the water exploded into action with a pod of tiny black and white dolphins putting on an amazing acrobatic show. We were stunned with pleasure and disappointment by how brief a moment they performed for us, and that we had no time to get the cameras out.

On arrival in Rio Gallegos we had a four hour wait for our next bus in a rather untidy, unkempt, bus station before boarding to travel onwards to El Calafate.
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