The Journey of the Devil of the Death From Hell...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I love head on collisions with buses. They're one of my favourite types of head on collision actually. Top 5 definitely. Up there with fuel-tankers and planes. The driver of my jeep from Atocha to Tupiza must have known this - found it out somehow. Why else would he have driven us straight into an oncoming bus. I mean, it's not the kind of thing you do just for fun, is it? Not really. And if it is, you probably shouldn't be allowed to be a jeep driver...

About half-way between Atocha and Tupiza, two of the more significant towns in southern Bolivia, I awake, squashed between two less than pleasant smelling Bolivian dudes, another 10 people packed into a jeep that should be carrying 6. My initial assessment upon waking is 'Hmmm...not that comfortable', followed by 'hmmm... not that safe.' Winding along the edge of the Southern Bolivian Highlands, the jeep and its 14 occupants are constantly coming precariously close to death by gorge, blockbuster movie style. I imagine us tumbling, rolling spectacularly down the side of the cliff, maybe some gangsters shooting at us from above - why not? - just for good measure, before the jeep explodes in flames. Being the hero, I would miraculously survive the crash and would then pull a young bolivian boy from the flaming wreckage. He would become my sidekick on our wacky adventures to track down the gangsters - he would also provide comic relief - funny little Bolivian kid... And he would also have a monkey. So, as I imagine this, we take a blind curve - one of many - and my thoughts turn to 'Hmmmm - Big fucking bus. Coming right at us. Brilliant. Collision time. Do it...' The resulting impact almost sends us over the edge of the cliff, as imagined. I'm not worried - I'm the hero. The keep teeters back up to level ground. Bolivians and Chinese-Indonesian-Australians all breathe a sigh of relief. Fuck me... Cheating death.

No death. Decent. No real injuries actually - for anyone. A bit average for a head on collision with a bus actually. The jeep, however - worse for wear. A little bit fucked. The next few hours are chaos. Pure and utter. A fine example of the complete inefficieny and lack of organisation of the 3rd world. In a funny way. A crowd gathers around the crash site - passengers from the vehicles and locals who have heard the news. 50, maybe 100 at its peak, each proceed, individually, to give their own opinion, all seemingly the same, of what the problems was - who was at fault; how it could have been avoided. The police arrive - 3 hours later - very official in their van and uniforms and proceed to report the incident. Make no mistake - this is CSI: Bolivia. Fucking high tech. A little hand drawing of the road. An old school tape-measure. A binder with a picture of an 80's movie star on the front - police report no doubt. An old wind-on point and click camera. All in the name of trying to attribute blame for this incident.

If they could understand english, I would have told them the problem. Simple. The road is 3 m wide. The bus is 2.5 m wide. The jeep is 1.5 m wide. The corner is blind. But the system doesn't seem to make any inquiry into flaws in the road, or the system itself - only human error. There was a crash, so someone must be at fault. One of the drivers. A joke... So, the road will remain the same - gravel, narrow, uneven, shitty, dangerous. Massive buses will continue to travel on them; jeeps will continue to speed on them. On this corner, there will be another accident. On this corner, someone will die. Or on another blind corner, a countless clone of this one... It's a fucking disaster...

Head on collisions with Bolivian buses make you think a bit differently - y'know? I could have made page 18 of the West in one of those 'In Brief' mini-columns, as these things frequently do. Especially from places like Bolivia. Just a bit differently...

The journey across the continent from Uyuni to Puetro Iguazu has been an absolute fucking nightmare. No exaggeration. Certainly one of the most trying periods of this trip. Things just kept going wrong. Everywhere. Sure, there was the whole head on collision thing. But there was more. Unfortunately, the whole head on collision thing has made it difficult for me to recollect all of the fuck ups and inconveniences of this single journey. Luckily for me, I managed to document some of the more signfiicant thoughts in a log I like to call - the log of the journey of the devil of death:

6.40pm - need to get to Iguazu as soon as possible. There's a train tonight. Get ticket.
6.55pm - train sold out. Next train Monday. Bitch...
7.30pm - obtain bus ticket for 4am tomorrow. Bus turns out to be a jeep. Another day in a jeep. Sounds safe enough. At least bus goes direct to Tupiza. Need another bus for the border.

4am - jeep to tupiza
6.30am - jeep not so direct. Stuck in Atocha. Next jeep to tupiza? 10am. Fucking killing me. It's cold. I'm tired. I'm hungry. Nothing is open.
10am - jeep leaves Atocha. There's about 40 people in this jeep. Should arrive by 12.30pm. Connecting bus to the border at 2.30pm. Easy...
1pm - Jeep decides to collide head on with bus. Good thinking. Brilliant...
4pm - Stranded on road. Bus to border missed. Informed by locals that next bus is only tomorrow.
5pm - arrive Tupiza. Dropped off at random place outside the town - not at the terminal? Where the fuck am I?
7.30pm - bus terminal found. Locals wrong - bus to border town tonight. Perfect. SHould be able to catch midnight bus to Salta.
9.30pm - arrive at bordertown. Frontera por favor. Go to cross the border. Guard says 'blah blah cerrado menana blah las seis.' Fuck off... Not happy. Border closed until 6am tomorrow.
10.30pm - I love walking around when i have no idea where I'm going. Especially in the Bolivian night. I could so easily be mugged right now...

6.30am - going to Argentina. Get to immigration. Packed.
8.30am - Packed. Line? Hasn't moved for 2 hours. Average...
10am - clouds look ominous.
10.30am - hail. Are you joking me? Stuck outside immigration in the hail? Fuck off. Water rushs off the buildings all around, the sewers are flushed out onto the street. Stench...
11am - me. Stamp. Stamp. Easy. What took everyone else so long?
3pm - bus.
11pm - arrive Salta. Tickets to Iguazu at 5am tomorrow. We'll wait in the bus station.

9am - Puerto Iguazu. Brilliant...

So, to the Top 5. I've recently heard a stat that, when faced with an imminent, life threatening danger, your brain processes information 200 times faster than normal. You know - the whole life flashing before your eyes thing. Yeah, like at a Boca or River plate game. Anyway, another such incident under my belt, I thought I would share the Top 5 thoughts that went through my head just before you are about to have a head on collision with a bus:

5. I wonder whether it would be better to be crushed by this bus or to fall off the cliff...
4. At least I'll never have to learn the rule in Brown v Dunne...
3. I would love a Samosa from the Hay St Bakery...
2. I wonder what James Crawford does these days?
1. Do you drink or eat soup? Is it a food? When does it become food?

Assistance to resolve any of these dilemmas would be appreciated. Email me for a forwarding address for the samosa...

The mighty falls of Iguazu... Do it.
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