Flights not so Fancy

Trip Start Mar 11, 2009
Trip End May 06, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, March 26, 2009

I made it. I even took a picture of the "Welcome to La Paz" sign because, for many hours, I didn´t think I would ever see those words. I was beginning to think that Bolivia was going to end up being a pipe dream and that it just wasn´t "meant to be".

As stated, Tammy and I parted ways on Monday and I decided not to take my flight to Lima (which may or may not have been a good plan, I´m still not sure about that). I stayed another night in Cusco then booked an overnight bus for Tuesday night to La Paz. I was reassured that this was a "directo" bus and that I would be arriving in La Paz on Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn.

Tuesday night I haul all my gear down to the bus station and am told at 9pm that night that there are no buses to La Paz because not only has their been an accident on the route my bus was supposed to take but now, apparently, there is also a strike and they aren´t sure when (or if) it will be over. I ask what my options are in my seriously pathetic Spanish and the bus dude just shrugs his shoulders. I am told I can try again tomorrow night. Okay then. He points outside, indicating that I can stay in one of the several dodgy looking hostels around the bus station.

"Are they safe?" I already know the answer to this one. Areas around bus stations are never really that great and the last place you want to be. Alone. After dark. Like I currently was. He shrugged, looked me up and down and said, "One night, safe enough for you." Gee. That´s reassuring. But seeing as I had about 14 soles (Peruvian money) left on me and I didn´t want to pay to take more out if I was going to be leaving the country, I opted to stay in one of the hostels.

My room was only a bit bigger, in length, as the twin bed it housed and the width of it could have maybe fit another twin bed but that was a matter of opinion. It had a mirror, a table and a filthy carpet that I kept telling myself to stop looking at lest I figure out what the stains were. It was too late to care where I was sleeping at this point and the bed looked clean so I locked myself in, plugging in my iPod and had a 30 minute dance party to make myself feel better. (I -heart- music!)

I didn´t dare use the shower there, that would have been tempting fate so the next day I loitered around the bus stop, paid too much money for breakfast because I didn´t ask how much it was before I ate it and ended up eating 10 cent bread rolls for the next 24 hours. Oh. And bananas. My intestines LOVE me right now. 

Around noon I went back to the station to ask about the bus. No, the strike is still on. Miraculously, I was patient and explained that I had to leave Cusco today so what were my options. Turns out I could get on a bus to Puno (11hrs) then switch and get on another bus going to La Paz (6hrs). Okay then. Whatever. Just get me out of here because Cusco turns into the Peruvian equivalent of Seville!

At 7pm I get on the bus. It is supposed to carry us on some dirt road (because the other way is blocked by the strikers) for 11hrs and it doesn´t have a bathroom on it. For the next five hours the bus seems to stop for no particular reason, never to let people off to pee, and then some time around 2am it pulls over on the side of the road. By this point my nerves are frazzled because we have driven down pitch black switchbacks with no guardrails, braking violently at random intervales to let other massive buses pass by. It has stormed enough that I was beginning to worry about mudslides on this dirt road and every time the bus went around a corner, I would wake up with a gasp and the faint thought that we were tipping down a mountainside. I spent most of the last five hours squeezing my eyes shut and telling myself to fall asleep so that I will at least die in my sleep.

Good. Times.

So, did I care that the entire bus could see my brilliantly white behind while I squatted to pee on the side of the road? No. Not even a little bit.  

We made it to Puno without incident but, somehow, two hours late which meant that I had missed my connecting bus. I am proud to say that I handled all of this spectacularily without a hint of rage or even a speck of emotion. Which was probably due to the fact that none of the information was a surprise. In fact, I´d been expecting it. From the get go this journey from Cusco to La Paz seemed doomed to be difficult. I was good with that.

So we´re told that if we want to go to La Paz we can wait until 1pm or 2:30pm for the next bus which will take 7hrs to get to La Paz itself. It is currently 8:30am and the last thing I want to do is waste yet another day (it would be my third) waiting around for a bus. My bus partner happened to be an Irishman by the name of Patrick (of course) and we decide to take a taxi together to the Peru-Bolivia border. Whereupon we assume we can find a bus or some other means of transportation to take us to La Paz and still arrive sooner than the seven hour bus.

Good plan Paddy, good plan. (I love the Irish!)

The taxi ride is fairly uneventful and we arrive at the border without issue. Passports stamped and everything approved, I was surprised at how quickly that was handled and then Paddy and I skipped our way on foot over the borderline. WEEEE! We´d made it. Welcome to Bolivia!

It takes us a good 20 minutes to find transport to take us the rest of the way. In the end, we choose a bus over another taxi and end up being told it will take about 2hrs to La Paz. Great. Nap time. Keep in mind I haven´t showered in two days and am wearing the same clothes because I had just laundered everything and I refused to sit on filthy buses in my clean clothes. I´m feeling pretty revolting but positive that we´re ALMOST THERE.

Twenty minutes into the trip we stop for gas. Ten minutes later we stop for passengers. Another twenty minutes and I hear a POP and a HISSSSSSSSS. WTF. Oh. We´ve just blown a tire. Paddy and I exchange looks and I mutter how perhaps a taxi would have been a better choice and WHY, dear god, are the bus people across the street picking up rocks?!?

Twenty minutes later I am calmly chewing on my last Sublime chocolate bar (damn you Tammy, damn you, I´m addicted!) and again pondering my death en route to La Paz. At least, this time, I´ll die with chocolate in my mouth. Mmmmm. Chocolate.

Needless to say, it takes half an hour but we´re on our way again. An hour later I wake up to a storm and I slam my palms on the window exclaiming loudly to the entire top floor of the bus, "IS THAT SNOW??!! You have GOT to be KIDDING ME??!! Shit. I did NOT pack for this trip." Paddy´s chuckling with an Irish accent and I am putting my sweater back on, wondering at irony and still impressed that I´m not screaming in frustration.

Only 40 minutes late, we arrived to La Paz and I am comfortably clean, somewhat chilly and hanging out at my very Irish Wild Rover hostel. I don´t plan on moving from here until Monday as it took me nearly two days to get here, I am going to stay put for a while.

And that, my friends, was an adventure!
xox K

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maedchen on

Ah Buses
Funny how after our talk about buses in India not having bathrooms..and not stopping.. that it happened to you! Sorry I jinxed it for you by bringing it up ;)

Take a couple of more bus rides like that though... and you won't even blink an eye at it anymore! Could you at least look out the window at pretty scenery (albeit rainy scenery)

tfrazer on

no ham n cheese moments!!! proud of you!!!!
terrible murial, just terrible....but I luv you make me laugh!!! But i am so sorry you had to go through that...we had just taken a bus back from Puno 4 days earlier...oh my :( Glad to hear your clothes are clean and the sublime is oh so yummy!!!!! hugs to you...stay safe...miss you already!!

tfrazer on

no ham n cheese moments!!! proud of you!!!!
terrible murial, just terrible....but I luv you make me laugh!!! i am so sorry you had to go through that...we had just taken a bus back from Puno 4 days earlier...oh my :( Glad to hear your clothes are clean and the sublime is oh so yummy!!!!! hugs to you...stay safe...miss you already!!

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