Traveling by bus in the United States elicits images of sitting in cramped seats, rank smelling bathroom -- if there is one -- leaking noxious odors from the back while some guy rests his knee in your lap so he can more comfortably clip his toenails. That's if you're lucky enough not to be sitting next to the ever-mumbling crazy who may well be on his way to serial killer fame.
It also takes forever. What would be 10 hours by car, can easily become a 24 hour bus ride that feels like a lifetime. I've done it, but generally for short distances and only when I can't find a somewhat decent flight alternative.
In Argentina buses are an entirely different animal. In Argentina, seats recline far enough for comfortable sleep. There's a porter who runs back and forth serving meals and drinks, an in-trip movie, and buses are significantly less expensive than flying. The average 10-15 hour distance costs, approximately 75-100 dollars. That can take you from Salta to Cordoba, Cordoba to Mendoza, Neuquen to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Salta or Buenos Aires to Iguazu.
After three of these such rides in the past couple weeks, I can personally attest to the fact that they are the perfect way to travel, particularly overnight which has the added benefit of saving you a night's accomodation.
A typical night goes as such: You arrive at the station and get on board. Within the hour, the porter -- always unbelievably friendly and patient -- comes to take your drink order. This never fails to surprise me. Then dinner is served.
I'll admit, it's generally a strange mix of foods for my still-very-American-bred tastes, usually packed with breads, crackers, cookies and other various carbohydrate options.
Here you'll see our dinner between Cordoba and Neuquen. Bread roll, half sandwich on white bread, half sandwich on brown bread, pionono -- rolled sandwich on yellowish bread -- and a little packet of bread sticks. On the top left you'll find your desert, sweet jam with quesillo, a raw cheese. Try it! It's not at all bad. Dinners also often include a hot dish ranging from roasted chicken with potatoes to lasagna.
Dinner can occupy you for an hour or so until it's lights out, movie on,and you're finally lulled to sleep by the gentle roaring of the motor. Oh, depending on your ticket type, you might offered a nightcap of whiskey that comes on the rocks in a glass tumbler.
Most times, I wake up just as we're pulling into the next town.