Friday, April 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Busses

(Harris getting some mud out from between his toes and surveying the scene)

As we sat in Rurre on our last night, enjoying a unique Bolivian tradition known as 2 for 1 happy hour we made the rather astute observation that we were facing a very large continent : time ratio. A few back of the envelope calculations showed clearly that moving at our current rate we were destined to spend approximately -3 weeks in Venezuela, give or take. A BUS! A BUS! We realized that was our solution. A deal with the devil maybe, less biking, more time wedged between fat ladies with narrow notions of personal space, but it was our best option, as we saw it.

We arrived at the bus station at 7:30 the next morning for an 8:00 bus slated to make the 500 km journey to the border between bolivia and brazil in about 18 hours, give or take. There was a bit of rain as we peddled to the bus station and we'd heard that it was possible in the rainy season for the journey to take as many as 3 days because of deteriorating roads. 3 days for 500 km though? Really? We saw this figure as an outside bound, two standard deviations from the norm, more of a statistical anomaly than anything else. We pointed to the figure in the guide book and laughed. Sure would feel sorry for those 3 day bastards.

By 8 the rain had picked up, by 8:30 the sky was filled with a cube of water. 9, 9:30, 10: ditto. The bus arrived and at 11 the bus driver decided that it was now or never. We clamored on and took our seats in the back of the bus. The bus rumbled on at break neck pace, bump, bump, BUMP, bump. We were tossed like fresh, leafy greens. We were the Micheal Jordans of bus riding. All two hundred odd pounds of Matt Turnbull were thrown against the overhead console and he came down holding his forehead with one hand and his butt with the other. Thea pulled the same trick and soon we were asking ourselves what we had gotten into. It was less than two hours into the trip when the bumps stopped and we found ourselves caught in a rut. A few men got off, some shoveling was done, the bus moved on. A kilometer down the same story, and then two kilometers after that.

We were all ordered off the bus when we had to get through a particularly muddy patch. The driver revved the engine and shot the bus out of the mud, careening through the next spat the bus leaped onto two wheels and returning from a 30 degree journey, fell back down on its tires with a thud. Its amazing how fast people run when they think a bus is about to land on them. We climbed back on and after another couple of kilometers the bus was stopped again. The shovels and pickaxes were brought out, digging commenced, the bus still wouldn't move, more digging, a rope was tied to the front of the frame and every able bodied man and Thea pulled with all their might, trying to free the great steel Leviathan from its muddy grave. Nothing. More digging, more pulling. The bus is equipped with two drivers. One drives the bus, the other drives the passengers to pull harder.

The locals were getting restless, they were calling us some impolite names within earshot (four gringos are a good scapegoat if you need one on the quick). There was a good chance that we would be the first to be eaten if this bus didn't start to budge. It was starting to get dark, we dug, we pulled, we repeated. Sometime around 10 we moved, we cheered, we were stuck again in 50 yards. Another four hours, another fifty yards. We were Doctor Faustus and the devils with sparklers had finally appeared.

A muddy expanse lay before us and we realized that it only got worse from here on out. We were no longer just pulling the bus out of the mud, we were building road in front of the bus. We would shovel out the soupy slop, use pick axes to tear up the ground to create a tractionable surface and when there weren't enough tools to go around we squatted down and used our hands to ladle the mud to the side of the road. At some point a Lord of the Flies scene erupted when passengers from the long line of buses that had formed behind ours gingerly walked by, not offering a helping hand. Someone threw mud and then a volly of mud came directed at anyone, man, woman, or child who walked past. It was a messy scene.

The coca was passed around and we shoveled and pulled more. By 2 am we were still going. Thea told us about an email she'd recieved for a jungle party back on campus. Now this is an f@#$@ jungle party we thought. We were tired. My bare feet had been bitten by ants and cut up by the rocky road. Getting back on the bus was a clear faux pas, however. 10 more minutes! our foreman, er, driver said. It elapsed to 20, 30... By 3:30 we had done the last ditch of the stretch. We cheered shook hands, passed out on the bus. The worst of it was over.

The next morning we had a traditional bolivian breakfast. It was suspect, but we hadn't really eaten in the last day, so we weren't going to complain. We had gone about 80km in 30 hours. Even the bolivians on the bus couldn't help but comment, Wow, this is an adventure. That night we unloaded again for dinner. Jamie told me that Saturn was the bright body on the horizon, and that in Bolivia, Orion's belt was known as the 3 marias. We ate some more food of unknown origins and got back on the bus. Matt and Thea befriended a copy repair man who was going to fix a broken copy machine in Riberalta, Ben befriended a burly man with "sex instructor, first lesson free" written on his mud covered tee shirt.

The pace picked up and in just under 60 hours after the start of our trip we arrived safely in our final destination. We shook hands with people as we got off the bus, gave them well wishes. We confided to the driver that it was quite an adventure. He just laughed, it had taken him 18 days once last year, he said. We had gotten off easily.

We spent a night at the border and the next day crossed into Brazil and hopped a bus to Porto Velho. It was air conditioned, our bags were luggage tagged and our seats reclined. The 300 paved kilometers were covered in 5 hours and we arrived in Porto Velho without a story to tell.

DonĀ“t worry, the bus is not on fire. The smoke is just to keep bugs away while we push the bus off the road and through a river.


Blogger naree said...

holy schmokes. i sometimes wonder what it would be like if ya'll had it up china. i imagine there would be many mini-inquisitions in small prison cell blocks. not nearly as awesome as fun in the mud. ya'll rock

12:59 AM  
Blogger rt said...

What does that mean, "Micheal Jordans of bus riding"? All air? All into minor league baseball?

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last, I found your post once more. You have few [url=]useful tips[/url] for my school project. Now, I won't forget to bookmark it. :)

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good day everyone. I'm actually into shoes and I have been looking for that singular make. The prices as regards the shoes are approximately 350 bucks on every site. But for all I bring about this area selling them as a remedy for half price. I in reality want these [url=]prada sneakers[/url]. I will absolutely buy them. what do you think?

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good day people. I'm honestly into shoes and I was searching allowing for regarding that particular make. The prices due to the fact that the boots are around 200 bucks on every site. But completely I base this locate selling them for half price. I absolutely love these [url=]gucci sneakers[/url]. I will probably purchase those. what can you tell me about these?

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi friends. I'm really into shoes and I have been looking allowing for regarding that exact brand. The prices due to the fact that the velcros were around 330 bucks on every page. But finally I set this site selling them for the benefit of half price. I really want those [url=]gucci sneakers[/url]. I will definetly purchase those. what can you say about it?

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When ever I surf on web I come to this website[url=].[/url]Plenty of useful information on Let me tell you one thing guys, some time we really forget to pay attention towards our health. Let me present you with one fact here. Recent Research presents that nearly 50% of all USA adults are either chubby or weighty[url=].[/url] So if you're one of these citizens, you're not alone. Its true that we all can't be like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, and have sexy and perfect six pack abs. Now next question is how you can achive quick weight loss? You can easily lose with with little effort. If you improve some of your daily diet habbits then, its like piece of cake to quickly lose weight.

About me: I am webmaster of [url=]Quick weight loss tips[/url]. I am also health trainer who can help you lose weight quickly. If you do not want to go under difficult training program than you may also try [url=]Acai Berry[/url] or [url=]Colon Cleansing[/url] for fast weight loss.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you guys watch movies in theater or on internet? I use to rent DVD movies from [b][/b]. Recently I discovered that we can watch all new movies on internet on day, they are released. So why should I spend money on renting movies??? So, can you guys please tell me where I can [url=]watch latest movie Despicable Me 2010[/url] for free?? I have searched [url=][/url], [url=][/url], [url=][/url] but, Could not find a good working link. If you know any working link please share it with me.


6:41 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home