Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From La Paz, by bus to Uyuni with a maniac driver at night

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After feeling so ill yesterday, I am pleased to wake up feeling pretty well over 
the altitude sickness I have had. 
Breakfast for 2 of us is included at Hostel Isodori’s for less than $1 for both of us (6 Bolivianos).  
It is basic, but that is all I need.We head off to book the bus to Uyuni.  
We are absolutely thrilled. 
We are early enough to get the front seats. 
Right at the top.  
Directly in front of the window, over the driver.
We head back to pack.  
Then head back with our big bag.  
It is madness to cross the roads.  
So to take only one, I can guide us through our dodging of the crazy traffic.
We then find warm coats at the bus station for about $10 each.  
It takes us about 1 hour to sift through styles and sizes as she will only bring one out at a time. 
But we get there, do the deal, and return to the hostel for some blog time.
Then some school work for my son.
It is his first day after the school holidays, and he is not happy.
So I return my thoughts to easing him into the joys of learning.
I also try and book a hotel or a tour. 
I must have sent out 40 emails. 
I soon learn that in Bolivia, you don’t email. 
You just turn up and hope.  
I also find web-sites seem to only have dorms listed, and many don’t show me the price 
for a private room. 
Or if they do, they are way more than if we just arrive and pay.
Before I know it, 6 pm has rolled around. 
We have half an hour to board the bus. 
So we charge over, winding through the traffic.  
We discover a great inexpensive restaurant in the centre of the bus station.  
For just under $3 we eat a nice salad, rice and fries.
We find the place to pay the bus station tax 
(I only learnt this from the monitor in the restaurant – 2 Bolivianos), 
and it takes us a few walks of the bus station to work out where to pay.
We wait, til past 7 pm – the local ladies love my boy’s hair and all stroke it and talk to him -
– of course he hates the touching, but poses for a picture.

My son gets his energy out by climbing on the bars.

There is about a ½ metre first step up the bus.  
We grab our front seats and the driver soon works his way through the corridor of buses, 
with only centimetres to spare each side.

As soon as we are in the traffic, we work out we have a speed demon driver.
He weaves his way through the evening traffic.
I am amazed that there are people walking on the highway; minivans stop with no warning, 
and market stalls are along the side.

I love the way the traffic lights have only red and green. 
There is a huge numeric display that gives you how many seconds you have til it changes. 
 Our driver shoots a few red lights any way.
Somehow, we are held up for over 1 hour – 
- it seems there is a paperwork problem at one of the check points.
As we head towards the country, the roads are a myriad of dusty detours.  
Single lanes in both ways.  
It is completely dark - no street lights. 
Our driver is completely crazy.  
Sitting at the front, we see every scary move he makes. 
In fact, at first we laugh.  
He overtakes, and snakes his way, dodging oncoming traffic with complete wanton abandon.  
Soon he is out of control.  
He is on the wrong side of the road, discovers he can’t get back into the line of traffic in time, 
so hits the ditch on the opposite side. 
Then, without slowing, he charges along, dodging poles, rubber tyres, and cement barricades.  
Finally this ends when he has to merge for another checkpoint.  
By this time we have stopped laughing.  
We are praying.  
Soon the bus is filled with sleeping sounds.  
The man behind sounds like he is breathing from an oxygen tank -
- but it is just his snoring. 
Another one snores with the rhythm of a bandsaw.  
I think I am the only one left awake.  
I notice every passing vehicle flashes our driver. 
He is a danger on the road. 
He only turns his high beam off right as he gets to an oncoming vehicle, 
blinding hundreds of drivers over the hours.  
At 2 a.m., I still can’t sleep.  
Finally I pull the front curtain and try to crawl into a comfortable position. 
But because he drives at great speed to overtake, the brakes to pull in, it is a rough ride.
This is one long night !!

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