Be careful where you step; there is a snake about

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The time had come to check out. As you may have gathered I did not like my dwellings and this environment. Yet again I just had fruit for breakfast as I was truely tired of everything else. Once upstairs I quickly packed and tried to get out of there. Saying my goodbyes to Otavio and the two Australian guys I headed to the door. As one of the Australian sisters said goodbye, I replied the same to her and her 'loudmouth' sibling. The Dutch travellers were downstairs at this time.

At reception I settled my bill but they asked me to bring the sheets and pillowcase to them. Anxious, I had just wished they had displayed this request. With the ‘loudmouth’ sister now next to me and hearing this, she bellowed "bring mine down for me." I rejoiced at saying no to this demand. Once I got the items, I dumped them in a hamper by reception and then grabbed my bags heading to the door. The doorman stopped me as he must have thought I had not paid. Thankfully the receptionist said otherwise and with that, I was free.

I headed to Estoril where I would leave both my bags. (The idea was to leave my main bag there until my return on the second of January). Again another gesture from the hostel I was thankful for. I undertook a light lunch as I did not want to be too ‘full’ on the journey.

After lunch I returned to Estoril, grabbed my backpack and headed to the Retiro bus station. Being early I strolled through the Florida shopping district and stopped at the Marmol Plaques (a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Malvinas war.) Here I read the names who had fallen and took a moment to reflect.

At the bus station, which was deceptively big, I was baffled on where to go. At the Information booth, directions were received. I asked a group of girls where was the platform for Iguazu but did so in English. They looked shocked and said “como?” (excuse me). I tried some Spanish phrases but unfortunately none helped the situation. They did point me in the direction of the Information booth.  Sheepishly I had to return to the booth and ask the same guy again. Fortunately I understood a bit more and got to the relevant platform. I waited tepidly for the mid-afternoon bus to arrive.

The bus arrived on time and I hoped the journey would run smoothly. Displaying my ticket, the inspector gestured upstairs. As previously requested my seat was at the back of the bus and I waited to see what was in store for me. The staff at Tigre Iguazu was good and dispensed tea and coffee immediately. Parched, I was very happy they did.

Not too much to report on this journey but I wished I had an mp3 player with me. With the film in Spanish I grew bored and texted a friend asking for the Tottenham result. Finding out they had won I resumed looking through the window. Dinner was served and there were two options: steak or pasta. As I was still enjoying Argentinan steak, I ordered it and got a glass of Sprite to wash it down with. It was very good; a lot tastier than I expected.

Later on, I was alarmed to see a cockroach on the windowsill next to me. My skin ‘crawled’ at this sight. I made sure the curtain was closed as it was the only barrier between us. Thereafter it was a struggle to sleep.

I was in Iguazu a lot earlier than expected, notably at 7:30 a.m. As there were no other backpackers on board, I was happy to have chosen a hostel just opposite the bus station. Looking back I wished I had chosen another. At reception my ‘broken’ Spanish was of use. It was not needed as the receptionist spoke English. She was very attractive but being very tired I wanted to lay down and sleep. With check-in being at 12 p.m. I wondered how quickly the time would go. Fortunately I did not find out as at 8 a.m. I was allowed into a room. As my head hit the pillow sleep drifted in.

Around noon, lethargically I arose. A quick shave with my electric razor, a shower was undertaken and then dressing up to face the day. Shortly I would meet the worst character on my trip. She looked to be in her early twenties and also looked French. Being friendly, I decided to say hello but got no reply. Next I said the same in Spanish. She stared blankly during the exchange and after that I gave up.

My other roommate was Jerome (French). I greeted him with words in Spanish. Maybe my pronunciation was ‘off’ as he replied “as this isn’t your first language, shall we speak in English?” I laughed as it would make things easier. We had a brief conversation and commented on our other roommate being silent. At the same time she would be looking at us and I wondered if it was cruel to speak of her. Strangely she would leave the room on numerous occasions to receive calls but I never heard her speak.

After a quick bite for lunch I had a walk to see my new surrounding. A very quiet set of neighbourhood streets greeted me. It did not take me too long to realise that Fort de Iguazu (Iguazu Falls), was the only thing to see here. I decided to relax around the pool but not having swimming trunks, a ‘dip’ was out of the question. Here I met Martin and Katja (German) and Giles (English). After a while I realised Giles was the fellow from Milhouse Hostel. He commented on me wearing a Tottenham shirt. It was during this time I met Martin’s parents. He had undertaken a University placement in Mendoza and his family came out to visit him. It was a surprise and I was in awe of his situation.

In the evening after purchasing an entrance ticket for Fort de Iguazu the next day, I met Tano (Italian). We ended up talking about how humid it was and deciding to meet to do the trip together. Jerome was at another table but needed to unwind. He was also going to do the trip tomorrow, so I figured we could talk more then. Waiting for a few people for dinner, I returned to my room and struggled to open my locker due to complete darkness (power outage). I put my camera and entrance ticket in my bag as the silent traveller used the torch function on a phone to help me see what I was doing. I said “thank you” and locked my locker.

When Giles and an Australian traveller joined me and Tano we headed out for dinner. Here I broke the habit of ordering steak and grabbed an Italian sandwich instead. Later on we headed to a bar for a few drinks where I had a frozen Daiquiri. After a few drinks, the plan was to head to a nightclub. Everyone bar myself was up for it. Mindful that it was 3:30 a.m. and I needed to be up in five hours, I wished them farewell. Within a few minutes I was back at the hostel and aware of waking everyone up, I ‘tip-toed’ into the room. As the power was still out I used the torch function on my phone to see where I was, whilst having a wash in the bathroom. Into bedroom wear I put my phone on the bunk above as I crept into bed.

At approximately 6 a.m. I was woken up by Jerome, first by noise from him getting up and then saying “no, no, it’s gone.” His tapping on my bed post got me to face him. “Mate…. you need to check this. Your stuff has gone.” Getting up I went to my locker. It was partially open. My fleece was there but my bag was gone. In shock I crouched down and looked again. Putting on shorts and getting into flip flops I raced to reception. Just my luck as the night receptionist did not speak English. Somehow understanding the day receptionist would start at 8 a.m. we headed back to the room.

Still in shock I looked in the locker and pulled my fleece out. I felt a slight bulge. It was my passport and three of the breakfast vouchers. Looking back it is through good luck and ‘compassion’ from the thief, my passport was there. A second piece of fortune was that I resisted the urge to put my bank cards in my bag the day before. After getting dressed I surveyed the room. My electric shaver was gone too. In fact all I had left were a pair of jeans, a polo shirt, shoes, a travel book, toiletries and sunglasses.

As 8 a.m. was nearly upon us, we returned to reception. Half thinking somehow my stuff could be retrieved and half thinking it was gone, I waited for the English speaking receptionist. It was the lady who checked me in a day ago. When we told her of our ordeal, she unfortunately told us that there were no cameras for surveillance. She added that it would be very hard to track the thief as she could have headed to Paraguay or Brazil. All she could offer us was to accompany us to make a Police statement. Agreeing to do that, I cancelled my Iguazu entrance ticket.

With nothing to do I went to breakfast. As I handed over the voucher, I received cornflakes, orange juice (diluted), dolce de leche, jam, butter, bread and fruit. Coffee and hot chocolate were available but feeling drained I was not fussed with them. I stared blankly at a window until Tano sat opposite me. Disheartened, I said “I would not be able to join you today” and told him what had occurred. He reassured me but my mind was elsewhere.

Just after 10 a.m. along with the receptionist and Jerome, we headed to the Police Station. It was about a ten minute walk and we waited around thirty minutes to be seen. Seated, looking at a blank wall I questioned why had this happened? When we were seen the Officers asked for a description and what had been stolen. I listed everything and they enquired whether I needed an Insurance note. I took one but did not use it in the end.

It alarmed me that the Officers were lackadaisical. On the note they stated a Panasonic camera was stolen. There was no description of the model number, or any of the items and money I had lost. Jerome had lost more with house keys, office documents, money and clothers. I remember thanking the receptionist as if she was not there, we would not have been able to do a thing.

Back at the hostel I met with the manager. He asked me to compile a list of stolen items whilst assuring me I could be entitled to compensation. In my mind I thought ‘fat chance’ but he seemed genuine. After the list was finished he said I could get $AR 1500 pesos (250) but he needed to speak to his boss. I gave my email address in faith but reiterated “I would not expect anything.” He did make one ‘concrete’ intention; my three day stay was free.

I asked the receptionist to change rooms and she agreed. Along with Jerome, we picked up our few remaining items and went to a room opposite from the original. A funny anecdote was that the room was for six people but there were only two lockers and both were occupied. Standing there with next to nothing remaining I shrugged my shoulders. Jerome needed to see Fort de Iguazu today as he needed to travel the next day. As it was noon and I was exhausted, I declined. All that was left in this situation was to go to sleep and for a few hours I did.

With Jerome at Fort de Iguazu as with most of the inhabitants, I had nothing to do. At reception I browsed the Internet and emailed a few people of my predicament. Here and now was just letting of ‘steam’. An interesting tale was given to me by the receptionist. The thief had left at 3 a.m. carrying two bags and was spotted by the night receptionist. Dumbfounded I wondered why he did not stop her.

Having spent the afternoon in the garden reading and getting bitten by mosquitoes (no repellent), I decided to go out for dinner. Accompanying me was a group of travellers. I can only recall a female Welsh traveller and a male Argentinian traveller, although Tano was probably with us. Whilst I consumed steak, chips and red wine, I cannot recall any of the conversations. With all my energy being used up mentally, I can be excused here. The only good point was the meal. With trepidation I hoped time would pass rapidly before I could return to Buenos Aires.
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