Having previously given up on trying to get to the Brasil match on time in Cordoba, I decide to give myself a kick up the arse and get up at the crack of dawn so I can get down the bus station before sunrise. It is around 10-12 hours from Mendoza to Cordoba and I reckon if I can pick up an early morning express I can possibly get to Cordoba before the Brasil match kicks off at 9.45pm
I was going to write part of this blog in praise of the City Hotel which was my home for 5 nights, one of them at rather short notice, so now is the perfect time to do that. Of all the people I have so far met in Argentina, Frances, the manager, stands out as one of the nicest people I have met here. He is kind and thoughtful and this is reflected in how he runs his hotel. It might only have one star on the front door but, once you are inside, the treatment and service is more five-star. I was feeling very run down and ill when I arrived in Mendoza but my stay at the (warm) City Hotel helped sort me out. The reason I mention Frances now is because upon checking out before getting a taxi to the bus station, he insists that I only pay the one person rate for my emergency double. He knows about me missing my bus the previous night and just doesn’t think it is fair that I should be straddled with paying for a double. I insist that I pay the full 200 but he is having none of it. If you ever stay in Mendoza and you are travelling on a budget then your first port of call should be the City Hotel on General Paz street. It is a simple old school hotel run with old school principles. And you will quickly feel like you are at home in the very pleasant city of Mendoza.
60 pesos better off from the previous night’s debacle the good news is that a bus leaves before sunrise and is scheduled to arrive in Cordoba around 7.30pm. Once on board I catch up with a couple of hours sleep then contact my friends in Cordoba to see if they can help me organise a last minute ticket for Brasil v Ecuador. The thing is that all journalists are expected to ask for any ticket in person at each respective press centre the day before a match or, if it really has to be, on the day of the match by late morning. Even if I arrive on time in Cordoba the press centre will already be closed for the day and the last bus en route to the Mario Kempes stadium.
German Andy phones to say he isn’t in Cordoba and is on his way to Misiones for a couple of days of sun and rest. “Try ringing the press centre. Tell them what has happened and I am sure they will reserve you a ticket,” I wish Andy all the best until we meet in Buenos Aires next week. Nurnberg Charles has apparently gone north west to catch a game in Salta.
Leamington Spa, a decent English lad, who is working for a Abu Dhabi-based channel, tells me he is on his way to the press centre to see if he can sort out a ticket on my behalf. I refer to him as Leamington Spa because, despite spending a day or two in the company of him and his lady, I don’t actually remember us telling each other our names. I just know he is from Leamington Spa and as English blokes often do, we have been calling each other ‘mate’ ever since we met. The mate references must sound very bizarre sometimes to non-British people.
After hours of no phone coverage as we really do appear to be in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Leamington Spa is back to me by sms with a short and simple message: ‘Got it!’
What a result! All I have to do next is get to Cordoba in enough time to dump my bag at my hostel and get a taxi to the stadium…but after the previous night’s screw up, I’m not counting my chickens (which is as well given that the bus had been driving through farmland for half a day)
Looking out of the window on the road through the San Luis province I see one-kilometre long fuel-shortage queues,and countless real gaucho towns; simple communities that could no longer exist if the agriculture industry died here. They all look more than a little worn around the edges, with the word 'simple' really describing life here. The dust bowl of a landscape is largely flat and monotonous, not helped by a very British style grey gloom.
…with it long since dark, we arrive in Cordoba at 7:30pm and I begin my mad dash…
It is not easy to pull yourself away from the majesty and splendour of Iguazu Falls, undoubtedly the world’s most amazing waterfalls, but I need to get myself down to Santa Fe for Argentina’s second match against Columbia. I had intended to arrive in Santa Fe on match day (July 6) but word is that accommodation is thin on the ground in the city.
The overnight bus from Iguazu to Santa Fe costs a whopping 444 peso (75 euro), but there are plenty of interesting sights in Misiones to make the initial hours pass quickly before it gets dark. We follow the Paraguayan border for 5 hours, crossing more than a dozen river tributaries, an omnipresent forest and passing countless estancias, smoke lazily rising from their chimneys. The soil is blood red in this part of the world and in parts the landscape isn’t quite sure if it should be tropical jungle or subtropical forest. Limping dogs – lame from chasing passing vehicles – are part of the furniture in Misiones, as are the countless timber yards, decaying road side petrol stations and the thin, frail tin structures that pass as bus stops. Misiones is also home to small communities with big ambitions that have wonderful names like El Dorado and Puerto Rico.
At Posadas, an agricultural centre that feels like another country other than Argentina, we change buses on to the overnight service to Santa Fe. It might be pricey but the ticket includes a seat that reclines into an airline business-class style bed, a hot meal, a couple of glasses of wine and, to finish, for maybe the only time in my life, a glass of champagne on an overnight bus. The combination of the above acts like a cocktail of sleeping tablets and I’ve no sooner started to nod off to sleep when it is already 7am and we have arrived in the pitch dark in Santa Fe.
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.