Bolivia > Tarija
The bus of death.
Wrapped up in layers upon layers of clothes as well as our flattering new hats and gloves, we tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the 10hr over-night bus to Tarija. Difficult, especially when all we´ve heard are nightmare stories about the journey.
Combining two main elements of Bolivia: Mountains and no roads, we were soon bombing up and down mountains in what can only be described as an old Army bus. 10hrs with toilet, no lights and extremely uncomfortable seats, fairly smelly air and a constant worry that this vehicle is severely lacking an MOT - we knew it would be a long night. As anticipated we hardly slept, Nick transfixed on the drivers every move as the driver whizzed along at a questionably fast speed along these roads with cliff drops for curbs. I succeeded in playing dumb to the situation until I made the mistake of looking out of the window. The next 5hrs were filled with thoughts of what music I would like to have had played at my funeral and "it was nice knowing you" glance exchanges with Nick.
One way to make your passengers at ease,
- Reverse around a cliff-top corner
- Over take another bus on a tight lane with an on-coming lorry flashing its lights at you
- & finally, stop three times, whip our your tool box, clamber under the bus and start banging away (a great chance for locals to relieve themselves of both number 1´s and 2´s and for us to really regret doing this journey)
Our jellied legs took us off the bus at 4am, to the nearest taxi, straight to the hostel, and straight to bed. Safe at last.
Welcome to the most chilled out town in South America. Warm and sunny during the day, quiet and chilly in the evening and two hour siesta´s breaking the two up. Tarija is the wine capital of Bolivia and its wealth from this can be seen upon arrival. We´ve been re-introduced to roads and pavements but the traditional clothed women and markets for supermarkets remain the same. With only a few wine tours on offer to tourists, the main attractions for us are the three plaza´s; beautiful floral parks that seem to be occupied all day by pigeon feeders, families and fruit sellers. As you can imagine, to say our days here have been relaxed would be an understatement - catching up on sleep, recovering from our colds, long lunches and plenty of Bolivian people watching.
With only 11 days to get back to Rio for our flight to Florida, we knew it was time to move on. Too soon to endure another death bus, we booked a cheap flight to Santa Cruz with the Military Airline TAM. 9.30am and we were checked in and waiting in the airport for our 11am departure. 10.30am, after being entertained by journalists interviewing people re. swine flu, we were still waiting. 11.30am, still waiting. Informed there were weather problems, we were asked to wait some more. By 12.30pm we decided to take a stroll outside the airport. Instead of walking all the way back to the hostel only to be told to wait another few hours, we decided to ring up to find out the situation of our flight. This time however, we were told that there was something wrong with the plane (!?) and it was now delayed until 10am tomorrow. Oh, and you have to come and get your bags in the next 20mins otherwise we´re locking them up for the night. A mad rush and a huge stitch up from a taxi man later, we were taking a stroll outside the airport trying to decide what to do. First task, sorting the accommodation we had already booked in Santa Cruz - a short conversation later rubbed salt into our fresh wounds, they were still charging us for the night we were struck in Tarija. An hour later and booked into a 4* hotel (only slightly higher priced than our previous hostel, minus the backpackers - not that there were any to be seen anyway!). The chilled vibe of Tarija soon crawled into our bones and the next thing we knew, we were sat in a park, smiling in the sun.