Mistakes I Made while Circumnavigating Argentina on the Bus

After spending some time in Chiloe, with a lovely family we found on AirBnB, we found out that we could actually fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas, for not that much money at all (68,000 Chilean Pesos). We had very much romanticized taking a bus down Route 40 in Argentina, so we decided to push this decision off for a bit. We headed via Bus from Ancud (to Puerto Montt) and then onto Bariloche. After a few lovely days in Bariloche (highlight was definitely a hike in Llao Llao Municipal park) we had a decision to make. Should we back track to Puerto Montt, and then fly to Southern Patagonia, or should we follow our original plan.

Romance for the win! We decide to take the bus down (sometimes) scenic Route 40.  We made this decision on a Wednesday.

Our plan had been to take the bus from Bariloche – El Chalten – El Calafate because this makes sense. It’s in a line.

For some reason, we weren’t able to book a ticket to El Chalten, only El Calafate. I was so naive. I assumed this was because it was some kind of express bus that didn’t make any stops.

I wish.

If we were willing to leave the following day we could have ended up right in El Chalten, but we would have had to pay for another nights accommodation in Bariloche. So we booked it.

Price of ticket from Bariloche to El Calafate – 1480 Argentinean Pesos. We went with Taqsa. There is another option, which is Chalten travel. They make the 28 hour trip driving only during the day, with a forced stop overnight halfway. As an added bonus you get to travel in a mini van with no bathroom.

9 AM – Leave Bariloche. We have secured second level seats. Unfortunately they are immediately in front of a loudly talking Argentinean family. Also a man who clears his throat constantly. We decide to move up a row into some empty seats. Remember we are still under the assumption that this is an express bus that makes no stops – so no one  else should be getting on the bus.

Breakfast is served – muffins with a crispy sugary coating!

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10 AM – View out of window.

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11.30 AM – Arrive in El Bolson, stop and some more people get on. We are in their seats, but they agree to sit in ours.

12pm – Lunch is served. I think it is lunch anyway. Who knows. It’s a tray of food, and then as an afterthought some pasta. Orange drink is an option as well.

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1pm – Yes! Movie time! Finally some entertainment. Our host is a young man in his 20s and we are allowed some insight into his movie preference, as he plugs what is presumably his own USB stick into the system. A list of movies appears. Most of them have dvd.rip in the title. Amazing. First movie – Best Laid Plans.

2 pm – Brief stop in Esquel. Some people get off, new people get on. We are in their seats. They agree to sit in ours. View out the window.

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2.30 pm – after 1.5 hours of graphic fighting and sex the movie ends at the midpoint.

Rest of the day – Texas Killing Fields, Catch 44, Contraband. Another movie started, but ended halfway through as well. There was some groaning throughout the bus.

7.30 pm – Right around here is where things start to go sideways as we exit Route 40 and instead take Route 26 over to the coast. We won’t notice this until we actually reach the coast though. Our bad.

View from the window.

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8 pm ish – Everyone starts to setting in to bed. Yes its early, but we have nothing else to do. The seats aren’t exactly bed-worthy, and we don’t get any blankets – this isn’t Chile…

View of someone else in the “bed”. Taken without their permission. Just for display purposes.

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10.30 pm – We stop in Comodora Rivadavia (never heard of it before) and the bus fills up again. We are (surpise!) in someone’s seats! They agree to sit in ours. The lights all come on and supper is served! Amazing. Some kind of meat dish. Someone asks if there is a vegetarian option and the host blinks a few times. No, there isn’t a vegetarian option on this bus. Sorry.

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10 am – We stop in Rio Gallegos. Some people are confused and think we have arrived in El Calafate. No. Definitely not. I understand how they are confused, Rio Gallegos is not anywhere near El Calafate and is definitely not on the way. This is when some of the others on the bus discover that they didn’t take Route 40 either! We are all shooed off the bus, and can use the bathroom to brush our teeth. When we emerge the bus is gone. Everyone is hovering around the spot the bus should be, so at least it’s not as if I’ve been left behind.

View out the window:

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1pm – There is a police station we must go through before entering El Calafate. Why on earth – we are still in Argentina, there is no border. The only hispanic looking person is taken off the bus. A dog comes on and smells all of us. I always panic a bit when this happens, because dogs (all animals) love me and always seem to stop at me. Luckily he moves on. After all of our luggage is taken off the bus and sniffed by the dog we are free to move on. Time wasted – one hour. In site of El Calafate.

2pm – Arrival. 29 hours of fun on the Taqsa bus.

View out the window:

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Money saved – zero. Scenery viewed – not much, although those seated on the right hand site of the bus had a decent view of the mountains for part of the time. In summary – there’s not a lot of reasons to take the bus from Bariloche to El Calafate.

 

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