Bolivian Bus Hell – An Illustrated Guide

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The earliest bus that goes the journey between Sucre and Samaipata leaves at 4pm – possibly because they got tired of all the screaming from the back when they went during the day – so I was finally going to have to face that which I had been avoiding throughout our journey through Bolivia: The Overnight Journey.

My hopes of a nice, easy ride were raised somewhat when we arrived at the terminal and saw some decent looking buses parked out front. None of them were ours, of course, but still the fact that they even had decent looking buses in this country was enough to give me some hope.

Unfortunately my overly-optimistic imagination inevitably leads to disappointment.

We boarded the dumpster-with-windows and took our seats which, thanks to some ‘mal comunicacion’ between the travel agent and the bus company, were now right at the back. We were joined by a young mother and her five-year-old, and an older gentleman in a stetson.

The first 20 minutes out of Sucre was on nice, smooth tarmac. Once again, hopes were raised.

Despite this radical departure and my obvious torment, the Cowboy next to me had managed to fall asleep very easily.

After four hours of terrain that would make a Toyota Land Cruiser weep into its wheel arches, we arrived at Aiquile. Nobody except me seemed to have noticed that we had veered off the edge of a cliff and were lucky to be alive – they were all content to hang around the bus chatting or go and find food in the cafe.

After the stop, we were moved to newly vacated seats near the front. Erin assured me that we were, in fact, on the right road then dug out my iPod and a pot of Jalapeño-flavoured Pringles to help calm me down.

It wasn’t long before I learned that the recliner on my new seat was broken.

At the rest stop, we had picked up more passengers than there were seats. One of the men standing in front of us had decided that the most comfortable position was not leaning on the headrest of the aisle seat of the row in front, but was, in fact, to lean right across me and support himself on the head rest of the window seat instead.

At around hour 7, our bus was plunged into a thick fog that made seeing impossible and did little to stall my descent into full blown nervous breakdown.

Needless to say, I got very little sleep that night.

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72 Comments (6 pingbacks)

  1. Great story! This totally reminds me of an 18 hour bus trip I took through Malawi. My trip through Bolivia was done in SUV’s. I kept getting swapped from one to the next as they broke down. Between that and being reassigned to different SUV’s with different co-passengers at various stops, I’m surprised I made it back. It was a very different kind of journey.

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  2. The quality of the roads and the buses vary greatly in Bolivia, certainly the road from Sucre to Samaipata is not a good one (in most countries rural areas usually have quite bad roads, right?), but if for instance you take a bus from Sucre to La Paz you can sleep quite comfortably for a relatively cheap price. Yet, no one who eats jalapeño-flavoured pringles is the kind of person who would enjoy a long bus ride in Bolivia, no offence intended. I simply didn’t enjoy your post. I’m from Sucre and I have had worst rides than this one in India, I have taken more uncomfortable buses in Spain, and I have dealt with worst drivers in Korea. So please stop feeding the idea that the transport in Bolivia is the worst one. Next time you guys should consider taking a plane, obviously road trips are not for people like you. Good luck!

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  3. HEY! DX I’m Bolivian and I’m very proud of my country! This post is just horrible! Wait, who am I kidding, I love my country but the truth is the truth. You guys at least experience this once or twice, we have to deal with buses from the 50’s for school buses and public transportation. We have to deal with mini-buses that carry 20 people like sardines, taxis that end up being run by gangs who end up committing horrible crimes. Great work on this and the cartoon, xDD muy funny. Hope everyone wants to visit Bolivia and for everyone that already has, come back again. Aside from these things, Bolivia is a great and wonderful place!

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