Thursday, 10 May 2007

Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses

My first long bus journey in Argentina, from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires, was a revelation, especially after seeing some of the local buses, and after having travelled through much of Brazil by bus. Brazilian buses are a plain old long distance coach ride - four seats across, a toilet, stops every few hours, and things stolen (but only with São Geraldo). I've also had plenty of experience of Bolivian buses which is (and perhaps will be) a tale in every journey.

The first shock is the size - double deckers! With only 3 seats across! Despite booking last minute tickets, we bagged the pair of seats at the front upstairs. Fantastic. Settle down, spread out, enjoy the view with your feet up, watch a couple of dodgy films, ah, very civilised. As well as the films, they provide coffee, cold & hot water, sweets, blankets and a pillow. At the pit-stop, there was a three-course meal and 'champagne' laid on, all ready immediately we sat down. The best surprise was yet to come though. A tray of glasses with ice and a bottle of 'whisky' appeared in front of my face. A nice nightcap to help you nod off to sleep delivered to your doorstep, these people know how to treat their passengers! They even had a dog coming on board to pet for those who needed to de-stress. Admittedly, petting a sniffer dog isn't always the best idea. A friend of mine did it once at an Italian airport and before he knew it, he was being frogmarched away for a strip-search and interrogation. He was just being friendly and thought that the dog was doing the same as it sniffed him. Our dog seemed friendly, unlike the moody police who followed close behind him, checking documents. An old woman in the seat behind us awoke with a start when the dog put his nose next to hers and hoovered around her face. She only complained about it for a few hours. I wasn't complaining at all. I'd never been treated so well. There were no pot-holes for the whole journey to bounce you awake every few minutes, and to slow you down for hours. We were about to arrive an hour and a half early! This couldn't possibly be happening. I started to panic. I didn't know what to do with myself. I'd never had an early arrival in South America before. We'd only just finished the breakfast that was served up to us on little trays with arches to fit nicely over your thighs (as long as those thighs aren't the size of a hippos). Then we could settle back and watch the cityscape appear right before our eyes. In widescreen.

Brazil and Argentina are very competitive, both vying to be the number one nation of their continent. They compete at football, at financial growth, beef, anything short of war. But as far as the buses go, Brazil - your boys took a hell of a beating! Travelling around Argentina was going to be a doddle if all the journeys were like this. Wasn't it?

Brazil 0-1 Argentina

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