So there I was, freezing all my appendages off in a bus station with inexplicable Christmas decorations adorning the ceiling at 3 in the morning, all because of a whim that could never really be lived up to (like, I was never actually going to see the Sundance Kid himself, for example). In a clever scheme to save money on hostels, I decided to go for the double whammy of night buses: one from Uyuni and another to La Paz. Unfortunately, on the way there I had the rarest of experiences; a bus that actually took as long as it said it would, with the joyous result of my being deposited in Tupiza bus station at the jolly hour of 3am. Having said that, I was actually bloody grateful that Tupiza had a bus station at all – Uyuni, for example, had none – and that at least I could sit inside and be safe and warm(ish).
I won´t pretend that it was one of the most fun-filled mornings of my life, waiting around for the world to wake up – but as I´ve said before, in my opinion this kind of thing is part of what makes up the whole idea of travelling. It´s rough, and not exactly enjoyable, but you want to travel; you have to accept some discomfort somewhere along the line. That´s the deal.
So I sat around for a bit, I slept for a bit (having bikelocked my bags to the bench, very enterprising of me) and woke up even more freezing than I had been initially (i.e. very). It was comforting at least to be surrounded by other people kipping on the benches; it was very much not comforting to see them all prepared with blankets and pillows and other such luxuries. Ho hum. Still, I managed to get a good couple of hours snoozing in – probably actually more than I had done on the bus there – and it was light when I woke up, which was a good sign. I decided to buy my ticket to La Paz while I was there so I wouldn´t have to worry about it later, and by 9 o´clock I allowed myself to leave the blasted bus station (aka my new second home) in favour of looking for something more interesting to do.
It being Easter Sunday, perhaps unsurprisingly the streets were somewhat empty that morning, so for the most part I spent my time wandering around trying to warm myself up by only walking on the sunny side of the street. By late morning though, things were picking up (as was the sunshine: I switched to only walking on the shady side of the street). I quickly sought out the markets (it´s like I´m magnetically drawn to them or something), and found potentially one of my favourites of the trip thus far. I´m not sure if it was a special market put on only because of easter, but I basically followed the direction of the drifting crowd and stumbled upon, joy of joys, what I believe was pretty much the Bolivian equivalent of a car boot sale. I didn´t buy anything (except food of course; market lunches are the best (and always about 60p)) but I did enjoy feeling a lot like I was back in England on car boot sale day; dozens of stalls filled with brick a brack and awful awful clothes. Perked me right up after my dull morning.
Other than spend many an hour visiting all the markets (there were three), I dedicated the rest of my time to trying to find places that looked like they could be in the film. I should briefly explain: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are basically outlaws who rob trains and steal things and the like… and they decide to go to Bolivia because why not. But then when they arrive –
Butch -Jesus, the whole of Bolivia can’t look like this….
Sundance – How do you know? This might be the garden spot of the whole country, people may travel miles to be where we are standing right now.
So of course I had to check it out. I walked along a very very long stretch of the train track, and snuck into the train station (only one of the gates was locked, heh) to have a look. Found very little but then I spied an old train carriage rusting away to one side so decided that must be either the train they got or one of the trains they robbed (I was having a very imaginative day). Admittedly it was all a bit pointless, but I had quite a nice day wandering round anyway, and had a very cheap time of it (I was going to do horseriding but nobody did it only for an hour, and I don´t think I even like horseriding anyway).
My bus was at 4.30 so I returned to my favourite place, the bus station, with plenty of time to spare, actually very excited for the trip to La Paz. My last bus! Oh the joy!
Typically, the bus didn´t arrive til 5, always enough to make me panic that I´m not waiting in the right place (luckily I asked some nice Bolivian ladies and they confirmed that they were waiting for the same one), but eventually it trundled up to the station, we loaded our bags and got on board. It was a pretty nostalgic moment, the end of 7 weeks of getting long distance buses at least every few days (I don´t even want to count the hours spent on the road) – and naturally, it ended up being one of the least enjoyable journeys I´ve had thus far. I have no problem with 15 hour bus journeys, as long as I have reasonable fellow passengers and its at least not freezing cold or boiling hot.
I got to my seat fine, and found that I was sat next to a pile of blankets, which it soon transpired were the property of a presumably Bolivian lady who was attempting to take control of 4 seats at once. Not that I particularly cared, but it did mean she kept getting up and sitting back down again, nearly prompting me to tell her to stop fidgeting (see, I really am turning into mum). It didn´t stop there. When we got to one of many inconsequential army/police ´stop and search´ points, she got really panicky and agitated (muy suspicious) and kept asking me to do something with her bag, I couldn´t figure out what. Luckily for her, they weren´t that bothered by searching the actual bus itself and we moved on with only some Spongebob Squarepants merchandise having been confiscated (I think that´s what it was; but I think the owner got it back anyway). After that she settled down a bit and sat next to a boy who I presume was her son; but not before shoving all her extra luggage under every spare seat so I had no leg room in either direction (and not enough Spanish to say MOVE YOUR BLOODY LUGGAGE PLEASE AND STOP BEING SO INCONSIDERATE THANK YOU).
Whatever. I settled down to sleep (gritting my teeth when the boy in front opened the window, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT) even though it was only about 6.30pm by this point, because all the lights on the bus had been turned off so there really wasn´t a lot of choice. I didn´t get a lot of sleep, even over a 15 hour stretch, because it was soooooo cold on the bus, and even my llama jumper wasn´t enough to insulate me. It was a relief to arrive in La Paz at last, about an hour and a half after schedule, and just head to the hostel (I had allowed myself the luxury of pre-booking this time), but pretty gutting to find that I couldn´t check in til half 2 (so no catch up nap for me). On the other hand, they did let me have a shower and it was THE BEST THING EVER, they have consistent hot water and I hadn´t been counting really but I think I hadn´t had an actual shower in three days. I stayed under the water a long long time. It was beautiful.
So this is it. My last stop before home. I´m planning on buying lots of things from the markets and enjoying the South-American-ness as much as possible before my marathon 36-hour homeward journey. Fingers crossed it should be good. I´ll be seeing you all very soon!