I am sat with a very cold bottle of Andes beer in a retro hotel kitchen feeling a bit sorry for myself. At this very moment I should be tucked up instead under a very posh blanket, sipping red Malbec on the overnight luxury express from Mendoza to Cordoba. Obviously, you will conclude from this that I have managed to miss my bus...
Big deal you might say, but by missing the Cordoba bus by 10 minutes - it left exactly as scheduled at 10:30pm - it means that I will not be able to get to Cordoba in time for the Brasil v Ecuador match tomorrow (the 13th). Just to rub salt in the wounds I have lost the 70 euros it cost for the bus ticket, I have spent a small fortune in taxi fares chasing buses and trying to find hotel rooms and, until 30 minutes ago, it was looking like I really really might have nowhere to sleep tonight.
You see there were 35,000 Chileans in town for tonight's 1-0 victory over Peru, and a big proportion of them are spending the night in Mendoza. Rooms have been booked up for months. I know, because I booked my room here for the previous four nights, two months ago, when many hotels were already fully booked.
It was all going so well...the match between Chile and Peru was great value and with an atmosphere to match ( report to follow). With the game kicking off at 7:15 I reckoned I should have enough time - even allowing for disasters - to make it to the coach station for my 10:30 bus. With the game finishing at 9pm, I was the first on the press bus at 9:10. The terminal is only about 20 minutes away so I had bags of time. However, two press conferences and a very unhelpful jobsworth driver later, time was beginning to run out. I couldn't walk because I had my rucksack with me and the central park has a reputation for being very dodgy at night. It was also impossible to get a taxi because of the sheer demand relative to supply. Basically, I was stuck and dependent upon the bus filling up and leaving in enough time.
There are several press buses but the driver wouldn't leave until the very final seat was taken and he had finished his 25th cigarette. He also refused to drop any of the journalists anywhere aside from his final destination.
I jumped out of the bus as soon as we hit the centre of town. Ten minutes of pointless sprinting down the street and wild gesticulations at passing taxis later I managed to flag one down. The driver was a star, doing a Hollywood style full speed dodge in and out of the traffic to try and get me to the station on time. He did pretty well. I got there at 10:40...
...but this is Argentina, a place of great contradictions. It might have taken me one hour to change a single US 100 dollar note today because of 'broken bank systems', very odd banking rules and the absurdly long daily queues at banks here, but the buses always run on time.
I offered several drivers cash to chase the Cordoba bus but three told me their taxis weren't fast enough to catch the Andesmar bus! Swearing like a sailor in the central bus station wasn't really helping either; in fact it was in danger of making me some new unwanted friends.
So, i get another taxi back to the hotel I stayed at before (which I knew was full, but would at least server as temporary sanctuary). What happens next? My taxi breaks down. Yeah, really. You can't make it up, can you? More swearing like a Ukrainian sailor, although at a much quieter tone this time, and i have to walk the last 15 minutes. trying to keep my options open, I ask at every hotel en route: "Full", "Full", "Complit".
As it turns out, my friends at the one-star City Hotel do everything they can to help, even to the point of letting me have the room of some Chileans who remain a no-show (probably still in the pub).
But after the 70 euro wasted bus ticket and two taxi fares - not to mention the damage of missing the Brasil match - I now have the addition of having to pay for a 2-person room (i.e. twice as much as my previous single) here in Mendoza tonight, and will also have to pay for a room I will never use in Cordoba tomorrow.
...time for another beer me thinjks...