So we awoke at about 2:30am we woke up to catch our 3am bus. Lukily we only had a short walk around the corner and then I saw it. The massive cue of pure Bolivians. This was 100% a local bus, no other tourists or whiteys to be seen anywhere! Everything they tell you not to do, catching a bus with local pickpockets and rapists and also getting it at night. Brilliant. When it pulled up it was obiouvly nothing like the previous coahces we were used to, no toilet and about double the amount of seats as before! We were numbers 53 and 54 right on the back row in the corner. So i crammed in the very corner of the bus, which really was probably a good thing as people could only steal our bags from infront and not behind. I settled down, thanking god again for my wonderful fleece who became my pillow, (and Turloughs became a blanket) falling asleep pretty much straight away. Turlough bless him stayed awake for the whole 12 hours watching out for thieves and kidknappers. He probably couldn't have slept even if he wanted to because his back was literally too big for the seats, and the lady next to him had her 7 year old son sat on her lap, he didnt even have a seat!
Turlough woke me up when we arrived at the border to Chile. When we thought we had little direction at the last border crossing, we had no idea about how bad it could be! Literally no one on the bus spoke a word of English, so again we just did the sheep thing and tried to remember faces from our bus and follow them. We ended up in a cue with some people filling forms and some people pushing past, basically having absolutley no idea what was going on. Which was clear when we got to the front and the guard asked us for money. There was just one very big problem with this, we had none. A couple of Bolivianos in change and some sterling, but he wanted 21 Bolivianos each! We were screwed, he wouldn't give our passports back and he wouldnt take sterling, or card , and there was no ATM as we were literally in the middle of nowhere! We were like what are we going to do! So i stayed with the passports in sight, while Turl went wondering outside looking for anything. An angel must have been shining down on us, or all those years in a convent must have paid off, because as he was wondering aimlessly a women approached him (who didnt speak a word of English) and emptied her purse of ALL her money! A true angel. I couldn't believe it when i saw him come back in with the money and he told me what happened! We agreed that when we got over the other side we'd find an ATM and give her like 100Bolivianos for her kindness, or at least the tenner in pounds we had so she could change it up! However we lost her in all the hussle and bussle of the border and never got to truley thank her for what she did! Nightmare! I feel bad about it now! Surely some seriously good karma is heading her way!
In some weird midway point between chile and Bolivia, or chile before there immigration we had to change to another bus. This was news to us, especially as it was a free for all to get onto the new bus, which was about half the size of our previous coach and there was TWO coaches of people pushing to get on. This was by no means a coach it was pure old bus, and there was NO room what so ever between the seats! We decided that the best option was to force our way on with the bags and claim our seats, this worked and we managed to fight for two. Then i had to guard them while Turlough went out to put the bags on the roof. This was a tough job on both sides as Turlough was gone for ages negotiating the bags and i had to fend of the others. We were sat next to a lady who must have been AT LEAST 95, she was nearly dead, this tiny leather faced thing who clearly couldnt see or hear anything. Anyways when her huge family kept coming on she kept pointing the boniest finger in the world at me. Eugh it was horrible, you cant evil an old lady whose nearly dead, or explain anything to her in English!! Luckily Turl Arrived in time and we were on our way, clutching to our belongings in fear.
This was pretty useless it turned out because when we reached chillian imigration we had to take all our bags off again for inspection. Brilliant. But there was a cute sniffer dog there so it wasnt all bad. So Turl and I had to air our dirty laundry in public and get our chile stamps! This took a while because we filled one of the forms in wrong (it was entirley in spanish) and everyone had their bags searched. Theres obviously no bag limit on these buses, as half dead ladys family literally had about 20 bags. So then we were back on the bus, less of a free for all this time, and just another 6 hours to go!
Turlough had been promised that Calama (we had to stop here to change buses) was a big city and that it would be really easy to catch a bus to Santiago from there, so threw and absolute wobbly when we arrived and the bus station looked more like someones garage. Within ten minutes we'd sorted out a bus that was leaving in a couple of hours so it was just as easy as we were told, despite appearances. They didnt except card though so moody git had to go get some cash from an ATM with some seriously dodgy directions. So he plodded off leaving me with all the bags and a rob me sign. He ended up on a building site getting told off for not having a hard hat, but about 9 bank machines later he managed to get the cash out! When he returned he simply said we're going all the way we're gettin Solo calma! Basically, normally tourists travell semi calma, it means you get a toilet a bit of leg room and seat reclines, but solo is like first class of the bus world. We thought we had deserved after the week of hell on the Bolivian bus service, and then realised it was only like 7 dollars more to upgrade anyhoo, done.
As we had a couple of hours to spare we thought we'd get some lunch as we hadn't eaten properly in days. So after a short walk we actually found somewhere nice to eat, Chile was already obviously more westernized than Bolivia. We asked the waiter what the time was, our bus left at 6:45 and thought it was about 4. Wrong. He informed us it was actually SIX o'clock! Turl had put the clocks back instead of forward! After a minor panic we hoped that the service in Chile was better than Peru or Bolivia (after waiting 2 hours for a soup.) and thank god it was! We think it was partly the waitor that sped things up aswell though so we gave him a tip, and ran around to catch our bus. When we arrived it was just pulling up and we got a flash of our seats. It was a double decker bus, the 45 semi calma seats up stairs and the 9 solo calma seats downstairs. It was pure luxury. The seats were huge and leather, reclining fully back with foot rests aswell. There was aircon, Tv, and a nice assistant guy who kept fussing over everything downstairs. We couldn't believe where we were. Neither could he probably, as we hadn't showered in about 5 days and this was a 20 hour journey! At first he kept coming in and spraying the seats with this stuff, and i swear it was becuase of Turloughs feet. I feel i have to tell everyone that he purposly left his trainers in the very first hostel in Lima, so has been LIVING in those hiking boots this entire time, sweating away in the heat in them. EUGH. So we laid back in the absolute lap of luxury driving along the Chilean coast, watching the sun set over it.
We hardly noticed when the 20 hours had past and we had reached Santiago, it felt like nothing in comparison to the hell we'd just indured in Bolivia. The films were in spanish but i watched them anyway, and still failing at the hunt to find the sequel to my book in English, re read Twilight for the 3rd time. Turlough caught up on some much needed sleep, and also re read his book for the second time. Santiago was really sereal, after being in such rural, impoverished areas, suddenly this place really reminded us of home! We had also splashed out on a hostel, thinking we deserved it because out of the last week pretty much we'd been travelling by bus most nights and only paid for one night for 3pounds! So we got a private room and it turned out to be better than we could have imagined! It turned out that we were in our own little apartment with just one other private room. We had our own kitchen, living room, free internet, and Balcony! All for 9pounds a night! This was a warm welcome after getting to the hostel was a bit of a sketchy ride too! I refused to pay 20 pounds for a taxi from the bus station so we got the metro when we eventually found it. Yes with all our bags and everything! It was absolutley packed and baking with heat, but we managed to find our way (after going the wrong way once!) The metro there is really good, you just pay one set fee and then you can go wherever you please! It could do with a few more maps though! After thinking there was no way we were going to walk away from this not being robbed, we actually bumped into some really lovely people who helped us out as best they could. One man who helped us all the way out of the train station, came running after us because he accidently directed us the wrong way down the street!
Santiago is a brillaint place, clean friendly and full of hotdogs. Turl was in heaven. They have them on every street corner, the main ones being 'completos' which consisted of mayo tomatoes and onions on hotdog, and 'Italianos' which was tomato, mayo, and Gucamole! Safe to say he must have devoured about 5 a day while we were there! We didn't have much time there after the bus saga but we did manage to check out the cathedral which Turlough shamed me in, and a couple of the parks. We mainly just wondered around trying to soak up as much of the place as possible! We saved up on some money as we had our own kitchen, and went to the local supermarket which was actually a supermarket and not just a row of stalls under a roof! Bliss!
On the Thursday night we flew out to New Zealand, saying goodbye to South America! The flight was at 11pm which was nice, as it meant i could get some sleep. Not that i ever have trouble sleeping, but thats not the point. we weren't expecting much from the flight after the one over here, but went mad when we saw we had our own Tvs in the back of the seats! Yes! I kissed mine. After being ridiculously annoyed that once again even at the airport the sequel to my book was only in spanish, I then opened the film thing to find that Twilight the film was on!! Just to rub it in my face! So i watched that for the 4th time (and 5th :*) i'm getting pretty used to that story now!! I then pretty much fell asleep for the WHOLE flight only waking up in perfect timing for breakfast. (it was breakfast our time but dark outside!!) When we had left it was 11pm on the 5th March and when we landed it was 4am on the 7th March. We had lost the 6th! Gone forever! This did mean that when we landed we had absolutley no idea what day it was, but thats another story!
Hope this one wasn't too long! Thanks for keeping up those that have (mum&dad!!)
Missing you ALL loads and loads of love Fran and Turl xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx