Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a (sweat) bomb on the bus.

After two wonderful weeks in Salta, we were headed to Buenos Aires.  Back to the big city.  We looked forward to having our own apartment.  A week with each of our parents (a good motto for those weeks might be, "will tour-guide for food.  For delicious, expensive, restaurant food").  And all the other finer things of city life.  But before any of this could happen, we had to travel the 1500 kilometers (932 miles) between Salta and Beunos Aires.  By bus.

But don't worry, we learned our lesson during our last 18 hour bus ride and this time bought first class, Suite Premium tickets.  This meant that there was more space between seats, they reclined and extended up to 180º  (actually, more like 175º, but who's counting) achieving a fully horizontal position, and did not include any small children on the bus.  I was pretty excited for the ride.  Jesse was also.  The day went as follows:

8 AM:  Breakfast
9 AM:  Meet Fransisco of Mountain Bike Salta
9:30 AM - 12:30 PM: Mountain bike in the hot Salta weather.  Jesse wisely uses this time to take care of various administrative tasks that I have now successfully shirked.
1:30 PM: Get dropped off at our hotel
1:30 PM - 2 PM: Am told by our small hotel that they cannot accommodate my request to shower in any of the rooms, despite the fact that they were being turned over for new guests and had not yet been cleaned, and that I would shower in it before they cleaned it for the guests who will be checking in.  After some slight argument I was unexpectedly offered the option of using one of the other guest's bathrooms who was out touring Salta for the day!  And those guests were not even checking out that night, so the bathroom had all of their toiletries and personal items!
2 PM - 2:05 PM: Do the best shower I can in the sink of the other guest's bathroom.  Try not to get their makeup and other toiletries wet.  Hope that hotels don't regularly let sweaty people "bathe" in my room.  Change out of my sweaty clothes and into clean ones.  This is not very effective as the clean clothes become immediately sweaty as I am still hot and still sweaty.  Recall, I had not been given the opportunity to shower.
2:10 PM:  Head back to Dona Salta (Córdoba 46) for one last taste of some of the best empandas we've had on the trip (dried salted beef - I know it sounds weird, but they are soooooooooo good).  Order 7 empanadas for the road.

The to-go container is not as nice as this traditional wooden board, but the empanadas were just as good.
2:11 PM -2:15 PM: Head to the Dona Salta bathroom for a second "shower" in their sink while our empanadas cook.
2:20 PM: Hop in a cab for the bus station.  I am simultaneously thrilled and upset that I have a giant bag of hot empanadas on my lap - given that I am a) hungry, and b) hot and sweaty.
2:35 PM:  Get to the bus station to learn that our bus is delayed by one hour.
2:40-3:30 PM I find a giant fan and sit directly in front of it.  By now I have adequately cooled down.  I also think I do not smell, the fact that no one stands behind me in the fan's cool air suggests otherwise.
3:45 PM:  Our bus arrives.  Let the good times roll.

Suite Premium Flecha Bus.  Notice the older, more distinguished crowd surrounding it.
Just the type of crowd I hope to see around my means of transport.

3:50 PM:  Head upstairs to our front-row, suite premium seats.  They look plush.  They were plush.

4:00 PM:  Hit the road.  5 kilometers down, 1495 to go.
One third of one percent of the trip done and Jesse has already finished one book.
She would have finished more if not for Dave's constant poking, prodding, and other childish behavior.
4:20 PM:  We realize we have a long ride ahead us.
A really long ride.
4:30 PM:  The end of all peace and quiet.  Flecha Bus queues up a straight-to-DVD movie marathon.  Loudly. 
4:35 PM - 7:00 PM:  Begin watching Husband for Hire.  Die a little inside that I will never get that time back (even though the time would be spent staring out the window, playing video games (people, buy Angry Birds, buy it now), or just hassling Jesse.

A Latina woman must find a suitable Latino man or risk losing her inheritance. In desperation she hires a man from a group of immigrant laborers, but he turns out to be Caucasian. She must turn him into a convincing suitor while fending off her sister's machinations, her father's suspicions, and the man's girlfriend.Amidst it all, [DSM: wait for it, wait for it] they start falling for each other.  [DSM:OMG, who would have thought!?!]
After Husband for Hire it was snack time!  Lets see what we got:
The starting line (from the upper left corner and moving clockwise)
1)  cereal bar that tasted like bits of cardboard held together by glue;
2) a promising "mini-chocolate dulce de leche ("DDL") cookie that also tasted like cardboard with DDL between the "cookies";
3) Sin sal crackers - dry, white, and, not surprisingly, cardboardish crackers, and for those of you who speak Spanish, you know these are  proudly labeled as "Without Salt", ugggggh;
4) next on the line-up, sweet biscuits with oat & raisins.  These were the best of the bunch, but hardly anything to write home about (or blog about?), and finally,
5) some extra strawberry jam and DDL.
My question to Flecha Bus:  This is Suite Premium!  What about a bag of Lays?  Is an Oreo too expensive?  

I also watched Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, which was actually not bad. 

7:00 PM - 7:45 PM: Enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  I offer you extra-large scenery pics.
The Andes mountains.  They are really nice.  But only for so long.

Scenic farm land.  Also very nice.  Also for only so long.

See, they get boring.

8:00 PM - 10:00 PM:  Read?  [Note from Jesse:  More like, "Hassle Jesse while she reads"]
10:00 PM: We stop in an unknown city to pick up new passengers.  I go out and purchase some proper snacks.  Lay's chips, Oreos, and a Heineken.  Despite Jesse's assurances that she does not want anything to eat or drink she happily shares in my newfound bounty.
10:15 PM:  But wait, my purchases were premature!  Our Flecha Bus Attendant came upstairs to tell us that dinner was served!  Because I read the Flecha Bus promotional materials I knew each bus was "staffed by a group of careful law enforcement auxiliary [to make] your trip more enjoyable."  The problem with Flecha Bus's decision to hire auxiliary law enforcement personnel is that they do not appear to be trained in selecting on-road movies, or preparing on-road food, their main function on these buses.  The dinner was, well, lacking.
The Starters
  1. An empanda (ham & cheese, obvi),
  2. cold rice pilaf (a surprising , and rather poor, choice), 
  3. fruit cup, and 
  4. the carbs - melba toast and a stale roll, along with of course, a few packets of mayo.

Jesse concludes that whatever auxiliary law enforcement training our Flecha Bus attendant might have had it did not include anything on long-grain white rice, onion, celery, stock, seasoned salt, pepper, cayenne, or the other delicious ingredients found in rice pilaf
Oh, but wait.  There is more.  Lets move on to the main course:

Wow.  What can I say?  Somebody call the police?
This delicious hot dinner included:
  1. Top layer: thick cut ham, charred by the scalding hot tin plate the dish was served in
  2. Middle layer: a breaded and fried piece of "meat".  It was both tough, chewy, and flavorless, a tough combination to achieve in a fried dish,
  3. Bottom layer: a cheesey, mashed potato dish.  This was the dinner's saving grace.  It was pretty good.

Jesse, always skeptical of 1) food in transit (for the twin reasons of flavor and bathroom situations), and 2) slices of ham was not going near this dinner.  That is, until she learned of the cheesy mash lying beneath the surface.  Who knew that its draw would be so great as to compel her to dig through not one, but two layers of food she finds totally repulsive.
12:30 PM:  The movies stop playing.  We have completed our Breaking Bad (season 1) marathon.  It's time for bed.

Full flatness.  Awesome. 
Its more comfortable than the beds at a few of our hostels.
9:00 AM (following day):  Wake up to the smell of a Flecha Bus breakfast.  Medialunas and coffee - not so bad.  

9:15 AM:  More movies.  This time its a French movie (played in french) with Spanish subtitles.  It looks to be from the late 70's early 80's.  It looks bad.  We only have a few more hours to go.

11:30 AM:  We made great time and arrive early.  Woo hoo!  Buenos Aires here we come!


  1. I love your new banner! jesse was that the best moment of your life? sure looks like it

  2. your food on the bus ride back to BA sounds yucky. A good way to lose a few pounds!

  3. I love the new header too! J, your joy reminds me of that pic of you as a baby with your dad and the piece of cheese.

  4. I think I just min-uked looking at the pics of that meal. I applaud you for actually eating any part of that. But I don't feel good about it.

  5. Zo, Sam - I DO look incredibly happy! I think i was screaming, that horse was going so fast.

    Andy - imagine what it was like looking at that meal in person.


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