Tuesday 20 April 2010

The thief of time

In two weeks time I leave Buenos Aires. Thereafter I will be 'travelling' in the true sense of the word. To tell you the truth, that's a tiny bit daunting. I decide to embark on a little training mission and head back to Uruguay. This is a test for me - I have a number of self-erected obstacles to overcome.

First obstacle: procrastination. I am lying in bed toying with just one more chapter of my book, when it occurs to me that I don't even know when the boat leaves. Maybe this is the excuse I need to postpone until tomorrow and idle around here for another twenty-four hours. I shake the covers off. 12:30 arrives 13:45. Need another excuse.

Second obstacle: planning. I need to know where I'm going, when and how. Always. It's a question of control. Actually, that's a lie. It's fear. I'm afraid. Afraid of being stranded, skint, roofless or all three. I try and run the clock down further with an extensive search for Uruguayan bus timetables on google, to no avail.

Third obstacle: further procrastination. Right up until the last minute, I am capable of seemingly unachievable heights of ponderous delay. Today, this takes the form of washing-up, backing-up, and pressing-up.

All that out of the way, at 11:10 I decide I have to go. I hail a cab that takes the best part of forty-five minutes to negotiate the pollutant stalemate that is Buenos Aires traffic. (Actually, traffic is a technically incorrect description, since it implies some degree of movement). I'm there half an hour before the boat leaves. Long enough to buy a ticket, negotiate my way through customs and immigration and still be in time for a window seat. Not that there's anything to see bar a murky smog and a stale brown river.

In Colonia del Sacramento I walk to the bus terminal, but I've missed the last one for Mercedes. I settle for Carmelo instead, it's on the way and I can connect tomorrow. I spend the last of the Pesos Uruguayos from my previous trip on a third rate sandwich and some agua sin gas.

The bus is laden with school kids who hop on and off at the many stops. In addition, it masquerades as an extension of the Uruguayan Postal Service, delivering parcels to a number of different business en route. Out of the window, I could easily be back in England. Lush green fields, little copses, horses, cattle. My mind drifts a little and I think of a drive along the A272 in the old Corrado. It was what, ten weeks ago? What the hell happened to all the time in between?

Proud of my spontaneous 'travelling' adventure, I decide to reward myself by immediately checking into a hotel to throw down some roots for the night. Last time I did this, in Humahuaca, my policy of choosing the first place I found reaped rich dividends. Not so here. The fact that it's called the Hotel Centro should have set a couple of bells ringing. Centro is definitely the only thing it has going for it. I feel like I am back under house arrest, and the room is as damp as the place in Tangier on my first night in Morocco. Oh well, 500 pesos, I can't complain. Which reminds me. I need some cash.

Inexplicably, the ATMs in town are giving my card collection the brush off. I try a couple of exchange places but they laugh in my Visa wielding face. It is a classic schoolboy error and proof of my utter unsuitability to this 'travelling' lark. Suddenly I am confronted by two of my three great fears: I am stranded and skint. And the roof I'm under is a pretty flimsy one.

Should have stayed in bed and finished that bloody book.

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