1326 kilometers in two days
31.08.2007 - 01.09.2007 6 °C
On the 31st of August, we caught a plane from La Paz to Sucre, Bolivia, at 1pm. We landed in Sucre airport at 2pm. Happy to be on the move again, we decided to head straight to Potosi from there. We took a "flota" (s kind of fast, shared taxi) from downtown Sucre to Potosi - we had to wait almost an hour for them to fill the car, but after that the ride only took two and a half hours, through some amazing mountain landscape, and we were in Potosi by 5pm.
Potosi being the highest city in the world (whereas La Paz is the highest capital), at 4090 meters elevation, it did not exactly provide the repreive from La Paz's altitude that we were looking for. So, we booked a bus for the same evening at 8pm, furhter south to the town of Villazon on the Bolivian/Argentinian border. The bus initially seemed decent for Bolivian standards, with soft seats and decent leg space. The denomination of sleeper bus is random here though, and in this case the seats reclined about an inch. It got worse, as we soon realised they had overbooked the bus, so people were sitting in the aisle (gets quite annoying when some guy keeps falling asleep on your legs). And then we saw that there was no toilet on board - on a 10 hour bus ride! But, these things turned out to be the least of our problems on this bus ride... About an hour out of Potosi, the bus his something - something big enough, and hit it hard enough, that the bus very nearly toppled over, and this is a big, heavy double decker bus we are talking about. We were sitting downstairs, with no view out the front, so we have no idea what it was (- the driver later claimed it was a cow). The impact shook everyone around a bit, but noone was hurt. Several people wanted to get out to see what had happened, but the driver refused to open the door, and after a couple of minutes, he drove on. The impact however, has smashed the whole front of the bus, and had broken the windscreen. But this is not enough to stop a Bolivian bus driver, so we continued through the night with the icy mountain air streeming in through the broken front end of the bus - it was like a freezer inside the bus, and we had nothing to keep us warm but our silk sheet bags and thin rain jackets - it was a complete nightmare!! To top it all off, a drunken man sitting on the steps had been woken up by the crash, and for much of the way he was singing drunken, incomprehensible songs in a loud voice.
This continued into the next morning of September 1st. Naturally, we got no sleep at all, and by the time we got to Villazon at 6am, we were stiff from the cold, and extremely tired. This ride definetely makes it to my top three of the worst bus rides of all time!
In Villazon, we had some croissants and cups of hot tea, to thaw our frozen bodies. Then we crossed the border with no problems, and were now in Argentina! The Argentinian border town of La Quiaca was small and dusty, although visibly more ordered and clean than the Bolivian side. As we were feeling better from the tea, and there was little of anything to do in La Quiaca, we caught a 9 am bus to Salta. The ride took seven hours through some amazing desert landscape. We saw some beautiful mountains at the town of Humahuaca, which had an amazing array of colours in the stone - apparantly they are known as the mountains of seven colours. We got stopped and had our bags searched at one checkpoint, but it is routine for busses coming from the Bolivian border. By 4pm we arrived in Salta, and checked into a hotel to get cleaned up from our marathon plane-taxi-bus-bus tour.