hi, i almost died in a bus last night

buenos aires - la quiaca: 1900 km, 28 hours.

the bus was an hour and some late leaving retiro and i do believe we might have been the only non-bolivianos on the bus.
a child kept popping his head over the seat and staring at us. i kept wiggling my finger and smiling and he´d hide his head, only to pop it out again five minutes later. i thought he was cute with his little black eyes and big puffy, rosy cheeks, so finally i asked him como te llamas?, he gave me his name but i can barely understand 3 year olds when they speak in my native tongue let alone a language i haven´t begun to master. after about three times kythe and i both understood that his name was nahuel, which sounds more argentine than bolivian but anyway, then he asked us our names, which we never should have given him : for the next hour and a half he kept screaming catalina! porque reís? callate! callate!
one day i will understand why people on buses in latin america think it´s a good idea to feed their children sweets and 2 litre bottles of soda and let them run around and scream and make everyone else in the bus´ life miserable. sugar = hyperactive annoying children. especially on a 28 hour bus ride.

we made friends with the bus drivers (they saved us from nahuel the horrible sugar baby) who shared maté with me and let me smoke downstaires (awesome) and i took about 200 pictures of the sierra de las 7 colores and all along the road of the quebrada de humahuaca, i tell you, i´ve never seen anything like it and it still leaves me in awe after the second time. and now you´ll be able to see why cause i have pictures, pictures, pictures, but i probably won´t be able to upload them until i get to lima.

we arrived at la quiaca around 3pm, took a 5 peso warm but not hot shower and then dragged ourselves to the border, jumping back and forth on the bridge saying "look! now i´m in bolivia! oh! now i´m in argentina! oh! i´ve got one foot in each country tee hee!" like the idiots that we are, we crossed into villazón where i promptly bought some hoja and bica because it´s just so good and LEGAL and really does help with the altitude. we then went to the bus station to find a way to santa cruz where we were told we´d need to go through tarija to get to destination instead of sucre or else it would be an extra 10 hours. we paid all of 5$ US and then went to find something to eat, walked around the market where i found something scrumptious for amélie, tried to find an atm but it wasn´t working, and then i steeped some hoja with my yerba and made myself some cocamaté before embarquing on the bus. i don´t know if cocamaté is something common but it´s hellagood and it keeps you awake and alert and keeps soroche away.

i look at my guide to see where we´re going, my map tells me that tarija is 189km from villazón but the bus driver says 7 hours.

that seems... strange, even for south america.

now i knew beforehand that roads in bolivia are generally unpaved, and most of the times resemble more dirt paths than roads, ferg had told me the first hour of bumpy roads and heads bouncing onto ceilings would be funny but then it would get tedious and annoying quite fast - especially considering there were 4 grown humans (i dislike the world adult because i do not yet feel i am one, nor will i ever be one if i continue sleeping in subwoofers in filthy blankets in the mud) and two children in a bench for 4 people with seats that didn´t recline. but that didn´t bother me, not one bit.
neither did the lack of street lights, well you´d imagine that there would be none on a dirt road, right?

what bothered me was as i looked lovingly out the window at the jagged mountains poking out against the clear night sky, thinking about how i would have rather seen the scenery at night rather than day, i peered down..

and saw the road under the wheel.

a one lane road about 2 metres wide atop a cliff with a 2500m drop towards a winding, dry river bed in the valley below.

my vertigo kicked in and i started jumping to the other side, perhaps thinking that extra weight on the other side of the bus would keep the bus from tipping over the edge, or make me feel better about the fact that i was literally peering down upon my possible death, and started hyperventilating.

i then understood why 189 km was a 7 hour bus ride.

every now and then you´d feel the bus tip to one side and feel the screeching of breaks: one of the back tires didn´t seem to be working so well and sometimes would just barely skim the edge and i could feel my heart leap out of my chest as if it was my last waking moment.

it was scary as hell but exciting in a strange way. how many times in your life can you say you drove through 2 metre wide hairpin bends going up almost 4000m in the andes in the black of night, only to go back down to 1000m and then go so far up all you can see out the window is clouds, clouds, and more clouds..?

wait! i can say it again! because tonight at 6:30 we jump on a 24 hour bus to santa cruz which is in the lowlands, but to get there you have to go through the central highlands (aka antiplano), at some 3500m, where the roads are apparently really, really, really bad, but also really, really, really beautiful.

i can´t even imagine what the la paz - coroico road through las yungas must be like.

aside from bus frights, it really is beautiful up here, and high up, and the sun beats down like mad and at night it´s not too cold but right now we´re only at some 1 500m. i´ll tell you if i´m cold in sucre where it´s 2 000m higher.

we had a nice little breakfast at the mercado central, a sort of bolivian funnel cake with honey and a cheese empanada and dear god people like their food fried - everything i´ve eaten since i´ve been here has been fried, and not because i´ve asked for it that way, but because it´s cheap and local and i like eating cheap and local. i know you´re not supposed to eat food from street vendors but PFFFFF to that.

i love the bolivianas, with their layered skirts and colourful scarves which they use for everything - carrying their children, as backpacks, as ponchos, etc.. and the hats! i want a hat like that.
although distinctly andean, bolivians have finer, less prominent facial features than their peruvian neighbours (i call it "the inca nose"), but they look so much more indigenous, dark skin that is tanned by a scorching hot sun, rosy cheeks and they come up to my belly button (well.. maybe not but you get the picture). i´m fascinated by them, they´re not what you would call aesthetically beautiful by our modern standards but they have something to them that i just can´t pinpoint. maybe because they´re still so traditional in the way they live and dress and speak - their spanish is very accented with some andean dialect, i´m hesitant to say aymara or quechua because there are so many others but it´s the first that come to mind.

that, and they have AMAZING handicrafts. amazing.

so tomorrow night we should be in santa cruz which means saturday we´ll be en route for quijarró on the (dun dun dun) death train and by monday night i should be back in santa cruz en route for sucre, from there uyuni to see the salt flat, la paz just to say i was there and i hope by next friday i´m in copacabana on the edge of titicaca so i can do a little tour of isla del sol (fabled birthplace of incan mythology) before jumping on a bus to puno so i can get back to lima on time for my plane on the 17th. i hope to arrive in lima the 14th or 15th so i can still cram in some last minute souvenirs and see moises my punk friend who has the BEST SMILE EVER and eat some ceviche and then goodbye, south amerika.

but not for long. and now - bolivia awaits!


waiting for my bus, all we´ve been doing is pigging out because it seems like it´s all there is to do here in tajira, oh my god the little indian woman in front of the bus terminal makes the most AMAZING empanadas ever, they´re potato and pea stuffed with spicy mined meat and drool, once again, screw you, people who say don´t eat on the street.

on another note, i was asked if this is the pg 13 version of my trip.

to you, i answer: me? do anything even remotely non catholic? never.

well. i won´t document it in a travel blog. i save the crispiest stories for home. like moustaches and weird looks in the morning.

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