Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bolivian Bus Ride

I am sat next to sleeping Jordi[1]. I’m wired. I feel weirdly jubilant. I have gone beyond tired. The salt planes of Uyuni seem like 6 days ago, rather than 6 hours. At 4.30 this morning I was in more empty space than I have ever seen – a salt desert. I’m now on this bus heading to Potosi. I’ve got adrenaline, I’ve got lip salve, I’ve got half a bottle of whiskey and I’ve got The Stooges loud on the headphones.

The expectation of a Bolivian bus ride (of which I had been told plenty) and the actual experience of it is coalescing. I’m not, as I had imagined, sitting with three chickens and a farmer on a bus with part of the roof missing but the driver of this bus has no conception of when his vehicle is full to capacity.

I´ll attempt a 360 degree portrait in words: immediately behind me is Fernando who is having a panic attack and muttering about the complete under regulation of the entire country. Beside him Manuel, who is sleeping as best he can. To my left is Jordi’s extended right leg taking up three quarters of what is already only small a area for legs and feet (if you include rucksacks with valuables). Hanging precariously over the head of a sleeping family of three (whose seats are reclined to their limit) is my guitar. Owing to the continuous vibration of the road it doesn’t seem to matter where I put it – it is an axe in the strictest sense. To my immediate right are two Chola women[2] who are sat on a pile of their own wares in the aisle of the coach. The first has contrived to use my right knee as a back rest and the second, behind her, has propped her forehead comfortably against my elbow on the armrest and is fast asleep. Aside from that the route is a treacherously steep dirt track up a mountainside.

Perhaps it was the whiskey but the whole event gave me a peculiar sense of euphoria – a euphoria which perhaps I only feel when I am potentially close to death or at least a significant mental crisis.

[1] A guy who has now become a firm friend even if I do only understand half of what he says.

[2] Women who chose to wear the traditional indigenous garb of Boliva – as to differentiate from the post colonial Spanish.

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