We have spent the past three months traveling all over Argentina and parts of Chile, taking numerous bus rides of varying lengths to get from one place to the next. One of our first bus trips, and the longest to date, was an arduous and challenging 24-hour journey in Patagonia from El Calafate to Puerto Madryn. We’ve been filled with some amount of trepidation on every ride since then, but luckily we only hit rock bottom that one time.
Our plan was to travel north from Mendoza to Salta, a distance of over 750 miles. Our choice was to either make the journey in one trip, a mere 18-hour bus ride, or break up the trip by staying in another town at the halfway point. We literally changed our minds several times a day because both options had plenty of pros and cons.
In the end we decided that we’d just suck up the long bus ride and do it all in one trip. The notion of going halfway and having to stay overnight in a place that had little interest to us felt less than ideal. Plus we were excited to reach Salta and didn’t want to delay our arrival.
First Class, Please
We had a stroke of good luck at the ticket office because we were able to book our first class cama seats (roomy seats that recline) on the upper level in the very front of the bus. We were promised movies, food service and an attendant to see to our every need. Well, we’d heard those promises when we used Andesmar for our 24-hour trip across Patagonia, so we certainly didn’t get our hopes up.
All Aboard: 8:00 PM
We were skeptical when we saw our bus arrive even though it looked shiny and new. We held our breath as we climbed up to our seats and then, only then, did we do a happy dance. Our bus was the bomb!
It was clean and spacious and we had a ton of leg room. We even had a place, within reach, for our ever-important food bag. We cautiously tested our seats and were pleased as punch when they reclined way back.
The icing on our bus cake was the dashing man who took care of our every need. He practically whistled while he worked and had a smile for everyone. His kindness and sense of professionalism put our lingering worries at ease. It was going to be alright.
We were pleasantly surprised when we were actually served a two-course dinner. We were even offered an option of orange Fresca or wine. Yes, wine! I guess Mendoza’s law about providing wine with food was still in effect, and we were impressed. However, it was a strategic move on our part when we said, “thanks, but no thanks”. The more you drink the more you need to visit the powder room, which is something we try to avoid on buses.
We couldn’t believe what a difference this bus journey was for us. The temperature was mild, we watched several movies and the bathroom was passable. I had a good night’s sleep and even Harry slept a few hours. We were both fairly comfortable and had enough room to shift around in our big seats. My biggest complaint was that, once again, we weren’t allowed off the bus when it stopped to pick up/drop off passengers. It’s an unsettling feeling to be trapped for such a long time, even if our attendant was super cute. I would gladly add an hour onto the total travel time if it meant being able to get off the bus a few times to run around.
I slept through breakfast of coffee and a pastry, which Harry enjoyed while listening to the bus radio play American love songs from the ’70’s and 80’s. I woke up to Roberta Flack singing, “Killing me softly” with many more classic hits to follow. Elton John, Whitesnake, Richard Marx and Journey were some of the featured artists everyone on the bus were forced to listen to beginning promptly at 7:00 am. What a great way to start the day after being on the bus for 12 hours, with only six more hours to go.
Overnight we drove out of the desert and into the greenest landscape we’d seen since being in South America. It was visually so refreshing to see cows grazing in lush pastures and crops growing at the base of the mountains.
We arrived in Salta at 2:00 PM, right on time, 18 hours after we left Mendoza. We were ecstatic to finally get off the bus! Even though we made it relatively unscathed, Harry declared this to be his last bus journey over 10 hours. We’ll see about that….