I really thought my days of hard travel were over. For years I have said that I was too old to do the hostel thing, too comfortable to take the long bus over a short flight and too picky to sleep just anywhere. I think this trip has proved that none of these are the case. As I look back on the last 2.5 months, I can see how this trip has reinstated the backpacker in all of us. So, before we find ourselves in the comfort of a luxurious penthouse in Ipanima for two weeks I want to write about some of the less than glamorous times.
First, I must start out by saying that I have known Autsy for almost 10 years now. We lived together for the first two years of college and have remained close ever since. If there is one thing I know about this girl it is that she likes to be clean. She requires an intricate regime before entering her bed, feet are not allowed anywhere near her pillow of course, she has a whole entourage of showering soaps, and is just generally happier when she is clean and fresh.
That being said, this trip has proven that she can roll with the dirtiest. Since meeting up with us, we have realized that all of us can tolerate the feeling of having extra layers of dirt from all different sources on our bodies at the same time. When we were in Puerto Piramides, the hostel didn’t have running water, well they did, from 7pm until 9pm and you were allowed a 3 minute shower, but we realized that it wasn’t even necessary. We would wake up in the morning, drive around on the dirt roads for about 5 hours until the car was completely covered inside and out with dust. We breathed dust, there was dust in our hair, on our skin, and in our clothes and the whole time no one complained. We just lived in it because it was what we had to do.
Autsy, with all of her cleanliness at home, has accepted it more than anyone. She has fewer clothes than either Mike or I, which is a big deal because I am a pack Nazi (I wouldn’t even let my mom take more than a school sized backpack when we went to Europe for the first time). Autsy is currently traveling with 2 dresses, a pair of stretch pants, some athletic shorts and a sweatshirt. Her “Bus Dress” is nasty, as it has been her only outfit for the long bus rides since we left BA and her other dress is a white sun dress that is slowly browning on the edges. But still, she never complains.
We have taken so many 8+ hour bus rides, I can’t help but think the plane ride home will be a piece of cake. Our new friends Nathan and Annette are planning to go on a 10 day silent retreat. Part of what you learn is that there are things in life that you can’t control. We often deal so little with discomfort in our day to day lives that it is difficult to deal with when you are faced with it. The meditation is meant to force people to deal with it and accept their situations. For me, the bus rides have done this, and we saved money on the course. We have taken in this order, an 8 hour, 16 hour, 2 x 10 hour, 2 x 16 hour, 18 hour, 14 hour, 16 hour, 5 hour, 4 hour, 7 hour, 9 hour, Thursday we take a 20 hour, and we will willingly end up riding for 40 hours between Rio and BA. It has been uncomfortable. It has been long. You get dirty and it smells bad sometimes and you can’t move much. There is nothing to do, except sit and look out the window or listen to music (which I don’t have), or watch the aweful movies, but we always survive. Yeah, it is a little bit horrible, but you realize how fleeting it is and you start to accept it.
On our most recent bus ride, we had to sit in the back near the bathroom. Autsy had the seat with a view into the bathroom when the door was open, while Mike and I sat behind the door when it was open. At one point a man went in to the bathroom and sat down to do you know what. The door did not have a strong latch and at one point it flew open, exposing him to the whole bus. Front and center sat Autsy. I couldn’t see her face because she refused to turn around and face the man head on, but for those 15 seconds or so when the door swung open and neither the man nor I nor Autsy could reach the door to shut it were some of the most entertaining moments for me. I could tell that everyone should have been extremely uncomfortable. I mean, how often do you see or are seen by a complete stranger while sitting on the toilet of a bus bathroom, but Autsy has been away from “normal” standards for a long time and as much as she wanted to be shocked and grossed out, I don’t think she could be. It is not abnormal anymore, these situations are almost expected. And when the girl in front of her puked all over the floor, almost on her foot, she just rolled with it because when you are out here for long periods of time with complete strangers existing in the same space as you, this stuff just happens.
**PG 13 paragraph**
Our time at Iguazu falls, well the time when we weren’t hanging around in terrential downpours with no protection, was spent at a highly recommended hostel that is one of the most popular in South America. It is beautifully built and has great common spaces, including a very nice pool. The problem, as with moth other highly recommended hostels is that it is also a place where many 18-24 year olds go when they are in heat. The first night was great, the three of us had our own room, the second night we passed out from exhaustion, but the third night was right out of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets to ride first class and meets the hot model while Elaine has to ride coach next to the guy who snores. Mike, being the luckiest one in our group, got into a 4 person dorm, while Autsy and I found ourselves in an 8 person dorm that was located in the hallway to the other dorm rooms. It was loud and hot and even though some people are courtious, some of the others are not. Mike felt sick (probably from the hostel buffet that was covered in flies, which we all chose to eat anyway) so he went to his room. His roommates took care of him and gave him medicine, while Autsy and I stayed up with the mating teens and drank a few Caprianhis before heading to bed. It was the hottest of the nights and we were in close quarters with everyone else in the room. I managed to sleep despite the heat (I really can sleep wherever, it is a skill), but Autsy was still awake when the couple in the upper bunk across from me (and no, there isn’t supposed to be a couple sleeping in one single bunk bed) started having sex. Yes she could hear everything. Yes, there was skin to skin. And yes, it happened twice. The second time, the girl (not) sleeping under them flipped on the light, so they stopped. The next morning there wasn’t even much fuss. None of us had slept for much of the night and we all had a 16 hour bus ride ahead of us, but we all hopped on and enjoyed the view from the front.
The thing about all of this is that it makes our lives back at home seem so luxurious. I mean we aren’t living poorly here. We are having great times, but we are living much differently. I’ll leave you with the things that I think are the most luxurious on this trip.
1. The first shower after a week in the dust
2. The first bed sleep after an overnight bus
3. Spicy foods (Neogri, Sudestada)
4. A nice bathroom with all of the following: toilet paper, soap, water, paper towels
5. Tom and Maya — everything about them and their lifestyle is luxurious, slow coffees, good medialunas, amazing house, good work space, knowledge of all the good places to eat