One hopes, when he books a sixteen-hour bus that is to traverse an entire country, that stops will be few, and comfort will be suitable. Thankfully, the lowest-rated and cheapest option for buses taking this route from Salta to Buenos Aires, Argentina was actually comfortable enough for me to fall asleep for a few hours, curled across two seats and my legs jutting out like a homeless Olympic diver. What I did not expect was that this trip would take so many stops, and the bus driver would turn on the light at each one.
In the north of Argentina, to combat drug trafficking from the coca-states of Peru and Bolivia, the Gendarmeria Nacional of Argentina have set up several stops from Salta to Buenos Aires to check vehicles and passengers for cocaine. Over the course of the night, we were stopped three times in total. The first time we were checked, I handed over my passport and we went on our way. The second time, a Chinese family was taken off the bus, and all of their luggage was fully inspected before they were let back on the bus. This interested me greatly, as I wondered if Chinese families were being used to smuggle cocaine across international borders. Stranger things have been known to happen. As a tourist with a conspicuous array of visas and stamps in my passport, I expected to be one of the more suspicious passengers on board. However, I pass through the first two checkpoints unscathed, the first guard making flirtatious banter with me about how cool the Cyrillic letters looked in my Russian visa. At the third and final checkpoint, my bag is checked and the guard inquires at the four strips of beef jerky I have left in my backpack. I am starting to think that no one in South America has heard of the stuff, and I think they are better off. Maybe because fresh beef is so ubiquitous they have no desire for overly-processed tubes of what is almost certainly just cow innards and not actually “beef.” The guard also asks about my 90-day supply of pills, and laughs at the pill bottle I have filled with various Euro coins and bills to spend when I arrive in Portugal. While she checks the other riders’ bags, the second guard harasses the Chinese family by shaking their seats until one of them wake up and gives him her passport, and inspects my copy of Don Quixote. The only thing that falls from between its pages is the receipt for the City of Copacabana tax shakedown I had been using as a bookmark. Thankfully, from then on we only make stops at bus stations, and I slip into and out of unconsciousness. As the Argentine countryside transforms into the metropolis of Buenos Aires.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.