Sierra de la Ventana Train StationTuesday 7 May to Wednesday 8 May
Where I should have arrived in by train
It's worth adding the rider here that I felt compelled to travel to my next destination by train, as the long distance bus drivers were striking and no services were running. Having reached my limit with BA I took the advice of my last hostel to go by train. Apparently it's a lovely way to see the scenery and a great alternative! I'm unable to confirm if the statement about the scenery is in fact true, but can say I didn't find it a great alternative...
So, at 7pm on Tuesday night I boarded my first class coach on the train to Sierra de la Ventana. Mmmmm...I thought perhaps I had got on at the wrong door, but soon realised no this is First Class trains, Argentina styleeee - a very old carriage, drafty and grimy windows, and a lot of creaking once you start moving. Luckily the seat was fairly comfortable, if somewhat battered, so I settled in fairly happily for the journey ahead.
Promptly at 7:45pm we left the station. Good start!
I had a very lovely man named Raul sat next to me. He was travelling back
Down the Tracks
Oh how lovely it would have been to view the scenery from the train
to Bahia Blance with his sister and niece after visiting another of his sister's in BA, who was sadly unwell. He knew no English, so I got to put my Spanish to the test. Despite a fair amount of confusion on both sides I managed to tell him something about my travel plans and discovered he was a nurse in accident and emergency.
It turned out Raul was to be my saviour. Having also been told by the hostel in BA that there was a dinner coach on the train it turned out not to be the case. Instead, a man dressed in black trousers, a white shirt and black waistcoat intermittently walked through the train carrying a small tray of either coffee, soft drinks or slightly dodgy looking sandwiches. Raul was very kind and gave me a cheese bread roll and a small chocolate cake from their stash, which was to keep me going through what turned out to be the longest night of my life.
Around 11:30pm we began to doze. By this time I was already starting to feel the cold. We had a few station stops up to 2am. Then, about 15 minutes out
Tourist Info Office
Not a bad setting for your office, hey?!
from the last station we came to a halt.
After about half an hour of no movement I began to start having my suspicions that something might be wrong - and so it turned out. The train was officially kaput! Then the wind started to pick up, which meant it got even colder and we began rocking pretty hard from side to side. I started having ridiculous thoughts of us being blown off the track and rolling god knows where, since it was pitch black outside and I was sleep drunk.
We all continued to try and get some shut eye, but I wasn't having much luck. Raul, however, was snoring away like a bulldozer beside me. I realised that getting warm was my path to dreamland so stood on my seat to extract some clothes from my backpack. The two coats I then covered myself with made no bloody difference, so I sat staring longingly at my sleeping bag.
Now, what is it about us British?! Most other people would decide that waking up your neighbour is preferential to your legs freezing up with cold. I on the other hand, sat for about another 90 minutes
to 2 hours praying for Raul to wake up so I could get my bag down.
Eventually he did and I crawled into my sleeping bag, transforming into a green glow worm, much to the amusement of Raul. It was absolute bliss! I was warm within about 10 minutes and fell pretty much straight to sleep.
I was faintly aware of the train being pulled back into the last station we left where they continued to try and fix it. Then at 7am the train staff announced they had given up and buses would be arriving soon to take us to our destinations.
They talk so fast in Argentina that I couldn't really understand exactly what was going on and no-one spoke English. However, I decided to go on instinct and found my bus when they arrived at 7:30am. Thankfully this was both warm and fairly comfy.
We arrived into Sierra de la Ventana to beautiful sunshine at 11:30am (only 3 hours late), though without my camping mattress, which I guess must have fallen out on the train.
Having not had a response to my email from the hostel in Sierra I got directions from tourist information and set off on the 20 minute walk, loaded down with Little and Large and side stepping barking dogs. I found the hostel open but no-one home. After 15 minutes of twiddling thumbs I decided to make use of the facilities, dumped my backpack and went in search of people.
In the neighbouring cabaña there were two guys returning from a bike ride, so I asked them if they knew where I could find the owners. One very kindly accompanied me on a half hour walk to the other side of town, only for me to find out I couldn't stay there. After another trip to the tourist office I managed to find a basic budget hotel to stay in and headed back to the hostel to collect my backpack.
Ruben, who had been a total star trying to help me with all this, very kindly invited me to have lunch with him and his friends. So I sat down to pizza, left over rabbit stew and a lovely apple torte with him, another Ruben, Diego and Lito.
With my limited Spanish I managed to establish that three of them were related and all but Lito lived in Buenos Aries. They had been coming to Sierra for many years - Lito for 65!!! They came for vacation and also to hunt rabbit and partridge. Ruben,who had walked me round, worked as an economist.
After lunch Lito got his car and I was very kindly given a lift down to my hotel by Diego to save me another walk.
I couldn't get over how helpful and welcoming they'd been - making sure I had somewhere safe to stay and giving me food and drink, for which they would not take any money. Truly lovely people - so generous and just the boost I needed after the nightmare of a journey there.
After settling into my room I then pretty much passed out for an extended siesta that went to the following day.
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