Buses in Bolivia
The bus from Humahuaca, Argentina to Bolivia is a painless two-hour ride. However, it's preceded by a succession of dour Argentine faces. Bolivia, why?
In Bolivia the floods are horrible. There are no roads. Everyone is either dead or dying (submerged in the mud, buried in ravines, your landlady tells you).
Yesterday the border was closed. Everyone was sent back. Maybe you shouldn't go. Some Bolivians are still alive, though.
Bolivian Immigration is the slowest, but also the friendliest. Over tea, the official asks where you go next. To Paraguay. Paraguay, he says spilling tea, why?
Sitting in Vilazon
No one appears to be doing anything in Bolivia, it's remarkably relaxing. They don't seem slothful, depressed, waiting for a sucker, segregated. No, they appear genuinely relaxed.
You walk to the bus station at the end of town and ask the boy behind the counter for a ticket to Potosi. He says sure, that will be almost no money. The bus leaves in six hours. You pay almost no money, then you go to the park and relax, with everyone else. You try and remember the last time you did nothing and didn't feel guilty. You can't remember.
Villazon to Potosi
All the travel books say never accept cigarettes, food or sweets from natives - especially not on night trains. You'll be drugged and will wake up without your money, passport or one of your kidneys.
The kid next to you is eating candy, but he doesn't offer you any. You arrive with your organs intact.
Sucre – The White City
Sucre is called the white city because it's – white. The churches are white, the tourists are white also. Backpackers stay here for months and take Spanish classes, really odd, no one speaks Spanish here. Indian languages sure, but Spanish, nope, not really.
Sucre to Santa Cruz
You have no memory of these twelve hours, it may be like childbirth. Santa Cruz feels similar to Brazil, altitude tiredness is replaced with long siestas.
Santa Cruz to San Ignacio (Jesuit Church circuit)
This trip takes either seven or twelve hours. Let me explain. After two hours, the engine overheats, it smells like wet tar. The driver goes outside and sleeps until the mules wake him up at dawn.
For those five hours a baby cries, Mama.
San Ignacio to San Raphael ( a church town)
It's still called the 10:30 bus even though it's well past noon. The people are a mix of Andean Indians (high cheekbones) and Brazilians (the lips, the lips.) You really don't mind sitting on the floor and watching them speak.
San Ignacio to San Jose
It takes all day, it stops everywhere. The road is a red ribbon of clay and beautiful.
San Jose to Santa Cruz
San Jose has the big, glamorous train station. Just to be sure, you buy a deluxe ticket. After two hours it crashes, really – a big surprise. It jumps the rail and you go way up in the air, but not in a good way.
Reflections on the Train Crash
There were many more Bolivians than Westerners on the train. Guess who panicked? Bolivian ladies were crawling back into the upside down train to retrieve dime store items. Once you realize you're not dead, the thought lifts you high up above the wreckage – you are happy, enjoy a good laugh and write a short story about the experience.