Written at 5:30am on a 20-hour bus ride from Tarija, Bolivia to La Paz, Bolivia.
He had a dream. The dream was to be a mountainbike tour guide for The World’s Most Dangerous Road near La Paz.
When he was 14, he hurt his stomach in a tragic street burger accident and hasn’t been the same since. In the hospital he was approached by the Bolivian version of John Goodman in “Community” and told that an ancient book had prophesized that he would be a bus driver in Bolivia.
Reluctantly, he became a bus driver and happens to be the driver of my bus today.
5 years on, his willingness to be a mountain bike tour guide hasn’t waivered. He still loves to go off-roading, but this time on a massive semi-cama bus. Scraping trees on all sides, dipping into ravines and going on every impossible path makes his job fun – especially when he flies off of rocks and speed bumps. He didn’t mind, however, because he had a seat with actually padding not rods up the ass like the passengers and the ceiling was high enough above him so that he didn’t bash his head on the overhead compartments – like the passengers did.
Just like on the Death Road, he makes sure to go as fast as humanly possible through hairpin turns; just edging the sides of massive Andes cliffs.
A bumpy ride? That’s an understatement. That’s what the hydraulics are for. Wait, it’s a crappy bus; there are barely any hydraulics!
Just as if he were competing in the X-Games, he loves to blare music as loud as a dance club while his passengers are trying to sleep. He throws a dash of Spanish opera, a whole lot of over-repetitive choruses, and a dash of English classics that are quickly skipped midway to show off his DJ skills (Just like at a shitty house party!).
Bathroom breaks are for the weak. He will stop every twenty minutes to pick up new people and cram the bus, but no bathroom breaks. If you have to pee, just pee in a bottle, like this person.
For that one bathroom break, make sure you get it all out and don’t have to go again ‘cause it’s the only stop. While your there, you better have one boliviano because no one gives you change.
When you are in the public bathroom, enjoy the sights of un-flushed turds, the stench of death and if you feel like getting clean, just use the watered down soap (most of the time in pay public bathrooms you don’t get soap, this was a treat!).
Ok ok, I’ve ripped this poor bus driver enough. For only 90 bolivianos (about $12.86 USD) to travel across a country what should I expect right? Perhaps its too much to ask for safety, bathrooms on the bus, or a clean bus and rest stops? It’s definitely too much to ask for the annoying music to be turned down a smidgen and not for the driver to drive like an absolute maniac in a piece of shit bus!
I’m lucky I’m not sick or I’d be puking like I just chugged a massive cup of Fernet, Singani, and wine during all together in a huge coke bottle during King’s cup (way to go Niall!). And I would have been sick if I gave into the actual food at the rest stop – whole chickens dipped in a witch’s pot of fried grease (kind of reminds me of the pirate city in Pirates of the Carribean) orstreet burgers notorious for their 99% chance of inducing diarrhea.
I probably would have bought one of those meals actually if I could ever get change. You can only take out 100’s from the bank machines and no one ever has change. Pay credit card? Ha!
At restaurants receiving the bill is the worst. They never divide it and don’t always have change. In fact, the entire service industry in Bolivia urks me. Hairs are always in the food, cutlery and salt are rarely on the table, pepper never is, service is mind-bogglingly slow and you have to expect diarrhea at all times. Serving is a really easy job, but I guess some people just can’t do it.
I am being a little too harsh on the food here in this blog. I have had a few great meals for really cheap and I absolutely love waking up to saltenas in the morning (a spicy meat filled pastry). I just wish I could get them all day long and not just in the morning.
By the way, newsflash to the world! People pee, poo and make garbage! How is the #1 priority in a society not sanitation? Eliminating poverty? Not realistic. Eliminating nasty toilets and eliminating trash dumps on the sides of the road is perhaps more achievable. It doesn’t even need to be a government priority. If you are a company that uses the Death Road, why not spend a day picking up the copious amount of gringo trash? If you are a house with trash around it, why not pick up the trash around your house? Trust me, your health will thank you in the long run.
I’m generally a person that likes to keep clean. Not quite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator hypochondriac because shit happens, but I still like to be clean. With the amount of dirt everywhere in this country and rarely soap, I can’t believe that none of the travelers I meet have hand sanitizer. As a matter of fact, not to toot my own horn or my parents’ recommendations about being prepared to travel, but I am so glad that I was prepared. None I have travelled with has a money belt, toilet paper good shoes, proper raincoats, medicine or adequate sanitary items. They leave their stuff around and don’t take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from being robbed. Furthermore, many of them don’t have their proper shots, don’t take care of their passports and don’t have travel insurance (or know the company’s name if they do). I am the one lending everyone money and supplies and I really don’t mind, but be prepared people! No wonder a lot of the people I have met have lost their cards.
I’m not a bad guy, Bolivia, but I’m wide awake at 5:30am, freezing my ass off, resisting peeing my pants, hungry and have some bruises from being bounced around on the atrocious roads with the off-road driver. At least it doesn’t sound quite as bad as Legal Nomads’ “Bus Ride from Hell” which ran along a similar path.
Am I being self-righteous in this rant? Yes. Maybe it’s because I am Canadian.
Being Canadian as a traveller is pretty dope, haven’t ya heard?
Walking through Potosi I saw a guy with a huge backpack and a Canadian patch right in the middle of it. The nice Canadian that I am said “hey man, where are you from in Canada,” even though I was in a rush. He brushed me off and replied: “I’m not Canadian, I’m Belgian.”
With people like this and Stephen Harper we are bound to lose our nice reputation Canada! We haven’t lost it yet though.
The point of the patch is so that everyone knows you are nice and not an American.
There’s also a good chance that people you meet will know pretty much nothing about Canada, so if you are faking it they won’t have a clue. All they know are that we are nice, like the wilderness (like the New Zealanders of America), come with travel gear, put patches on our bags and sound like Americans. The Brits I have met know NOTHING about Canada. Obviously no one knows that Ottawa is the capital, but they don’t know that we still honour the Queen in our politics and on our currency? Why are we paying so much money for that again?
Ahh I digress. Still having a great time! If you have me on Facebook make sure to check out my 400 photos so far.
Off to the Amazon tomorrow. This time I take a military airplane with three seatbelts. Here we go!