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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Someday I'll Learn

Written by Catesby Holmes
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Some things don’t require planning: life’s surprises, in fact, often trump schedules. Or at least that is the philosophy that has pervaded my existence thus far. I inherited impulsiveness from my family: we arranged vacations two days before we took them, and bought our Christmas trees on December 24th.


Now, as an adult accustomed to a laissez-faire lifestyle, I find planning an anathema. I even tend to shun it when I travel.


marketIn my multiple South America experiences, however, I have discovered that certain planning basics — such as checking bus schedules and routes, making reservations in hostels, and authorizing your visa card for international use — tend to be necessary.


When, in 2004, the Brazilian border police rejected me because I did not have a Yellow Fever vaccination, I made a mental note to become a more detail-oriented person. Due to that one medicinal oversight, my travel companion and I had to cancel our flight to Rio de Janeiro, and stay overnight in a small, drug-running, border town. There, I waited in a long line with 25 Bolivians — all under the age of ten — to get vaccinated at a public health clinic. Then we had to beg the airline to let us on a fully-booked flight the next day. It was 24 hours of worry and waste.


You’d think I would learn. You’d think that, instead of just winging it on my Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil trip that week; I would have made certain inquiries. And, indeed, I sort of did: I booked a hostel in Rio, and looked up the address of one in Cordoba (granted, it was after I had already arrived in Cordoba), still I was proud of myself for taking these actions. Hey, Mom, look: I can plan!


Old habits, however, die hard. Let me explain. After eight hours of travel in a tiny, knee-crunching minibus through the rather dismal Argentine north, I strolled across a metal bridge from Argentina into Paraguayan territory. The idea was to then take a local bus to Asunción after passing customs. Except that I never did pass customs: once again, I was stymied by the border police. It turns out that Americans need visas to enter the country. I suppose that is something I could have looked up. But for Paraguay? Honestly. Who knew?



Dusty and defeated, I turned around, recrossed the metal bridge, and waited for the bus I arrived on to return. Zen-like, I pondered the fact that I would soon retrace — exactly —my morning travels. So, after 14 hours, two bags of street-vendor peanuts, three empanadas, and more canned flan than I care to remember, I returned, at midnight, to middle-of-nowhere Resistencia, Argentina—the city from which I had departed just that morning.


I caught a quick shower in the bus station (gross, yes, and weird, but I had been on busses without showering for two days!), and bounded after a Brazil-bound bus just as it was leaving Resistencia. Having spent the entire day and night traveling, then, I finally arrived at least part-way to Rio. I got into Iguazu falls, on the Argentine-Brazilian-Paraguayan border, at 8 am — after a 10 hour trip.


Of course my debit card doesn´t seem to be working, but that is another story...


In any case, I will leave Iguazu falls on an airplane. Here is where sponteneity can be useful: Brazil has discount airlines, and for only about $100 I will arrive in lovely Rio de Janeiro this evening at 8. rioMy plans for the night: sleep in a bed for the first time in two days, eat something other than crackers, peel a mango while sitting on the beach.

© Catesby Holmes

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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