Friday, 8 May 2015

Journey to the End of the World – Ushuaia

The bus ride from Puerto Madryn to Rio Gallegos cost me ARG 1008 and by now I notice that money is flying pretty fast in Argentina if you do not travel slowly. Without the blue dollar exchange rate I would be screaming broke by now.

Patagonia  Barren Landscape
18 hours on a semi-cama bus which was a lousy bus with bare minimum food. Landscape out the window looks like a flat plane deserted of any life save a few grass patch here and there. Patagonia was not very pretty and the 30% that was pretty, was crowded with tourist.
At one point of the bus ride we (the passengers of the bus) nearly died of thirst due to lack of water. We were driving for hours and all the water bottle had ran out and looking out the window you know there will be a long way before any civilization that gives you water. People was asking strangers if they could spare water. That was how bad it was. Finally a stop and all of us rush out to buy bottled water and I stocked up another bottle just in case.
Bus from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia
I also almost froze to death since I forgetfully checked in my jacket and warmer cloths underneath the bus. The bus had heating but I curse the driver who shut it off 4 am in the morning and cause me to wake up due to the pain. So cold that my skin hurts.
Finally Rio Gallegos stop 18 hours later and I contemplated what I should do. Find a hostel in town for a night to break the journey or ….. I decided to check the bus timing and price to Ushuaia since I was at the bus station anyway. It was 9 am in the morning and the sign on the counter reads bus to Ushuaia 830am. I asked the guy at the first counter how much was the ticket and he decided to rush me to the bus outside, chuck my bag pack into the undercarriage and collect ARG 680. I did not even receive a ticket for the bus ride from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia. Apparently the bus was delayed and did not depart at 830 am and had exactly one seat left and I was herded like a lamb.

Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia
The journey from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia took 12 hours by bus and boat and that’s if you are lucky. That is the shortest duration without delays but usually it always goes wrong. I found out first hand on the return journey a week later that it is quite common for the ferry crossing to be delayed for 6 to 12 hours if bad weather kicks in. My advice …. Plan to be delayed and you’ll be fine.

Border Crossing From Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia à  Argentina – Chile – Argentina
The bus ticket takes us through two border crossings. From Argentina into Chile and then out again into Argentina. I guess it’s like Alaska in the states …. Unless you fly then you have to cross Canada to get into Alaska.

First border crossing was from Argentina into Chile. During the bus ride, immigration forms was handed out by a bus attendant and he spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese, fluently. He had a flare of performance entertaining us with his jokes and sarcasm while guiding us along the forms. We were warn to discard all fruits, food, meat, juice and particularly illegal stuff such as coca leaf and Marijuana.

The Mutt Scanner
Arrive at the border and down the bus we went into the Chile customs first with only our hand carry baggage. We were all lined up in a single file and were told to place out bags at our feet. The hi-tech bag scanner was not even on and once we were properly ready for the grill, out came the dog. One cute little mutt and I think that was even tougher to escape than the scanner. If the dog barks you are screwed even if you don’t have anything on you.

Please don’t bark.
Sniff Sniff Sniff, all the bags he walk by sniffing one after another for two rounds and a few bags where he linger longer than usual was taken and placed at the counter for further inspection later on. The rest of us was allowed to leave but those whose bag was suspicious was held back. Apparently someone forgot to discard all their food. Outside the undercarriage luggage was undergoing the same mutt routine.

Ferry Crossing
We then headed to immigration where Argentina officer and Chile officer sit next to next processing the passports. Stamp out of Argentina and stamp into Chile. Chile side gave an additional slip of paper with a stamp at the back which was to be kept till exit of Chile.
About an hour bus ride later from the border we came to the ferry crossing. Everyone off the bus, walked onto the ferry while the bus rolled up alongside slowly. 45 minutes of free crossing and we were on our way again driving through Chile

3 hours later the next border crossing from Chile back into Argentina and this time no customs just immigration. Same ordeal and back into Argentina. Loads of stamps collected into the passport now. 7 hours later we arrived at Ushuaia. I somehow survived 30 hours from Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia.
The end of the world ….. Cold ….


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