Monday, 6 April 2009


Hello there, hope you are all well, ots been a while but Bolivia has been action pàcked..

As most of you know by now the most common way to journey about SA is to take a bus, I have never seen such an extensive bus network, very impressive and most locals wont fly due to cost...this is why when you speak to people who fly about SA internally they will scream about the airport taxes theory is that they are always there but not revealed by many western airlines..

So back to buses, broken down by country here are my thoughts on the buses and what you get for your money:

Brazil: Buses seemed realtively modern but companies like Pluma have buses that should have been decommisioned years ago, in true form we had the pleasure to experience one that had an aircon unit above your head that screeched every time the thermostat kicked in and the best part was the dirty stinky toilet that conveniently blew smells into the cabin of the bus! All in all the buses in Brazil were average but not the best, they were overpriced for the long haul trips over 10 hours compared to other countries.

In most countries you get the seating choice of semi-karma, karma and executive. What you get at each leavel ranges from a seat that reclines somewhat and no meal, to a seat that reclines very well for sleep and a basic meal and drinks to finally the executive that provides leather seats, horizontal recline, great food and they will stop at a restaurant for your dinner!

In Australia or England I never could have imagined doing a 17 hour bus ride but here it is amazing how quickly you get used to catching buses, making yourself comfortable, sleeping and dealing with the specialities the locals come up with (and there are many 5 people to 3 seats is not uncommon!).

Argentina: in My experience probably the most efficiently run and best buses in SA are in Argentina, they run like clock work, everyone has an allocated seat and you cant get on without solid identification (you would think thi sis a given but read Bolivia below). We got a nice upgrade to Executive from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, the seats were virtually flat and they stopped at a restaurant and paid for our dinner!

Bolivia: Ok so once you dribble over the border from Argentina into Bolivia things begin to change drastically, good buses apprently exist but we havent be exposed to too many. It seems gringos (non SA people) pay for their ticket and hope to get a seat where as the locals can comfortably board most buses with no allocated seat or can start to see how things get stolen..

Ok so worst bus experience was in Bolivia: 12 hour over night bus trip from Uyuni to La Paz the capital. Prior to baording the bus the ladies in the booking office were joking about the probability of us getting our day packs stolen (usually contains your most valuable items). So to prepare for this I had a chat with a few Israelis, Irish, Scots, English and Aussies and we all agreed we would stick together and keep eyes open. So we hop on this bus which form the exterior looked pretty solid and we all made our way to the back (no allocated seats) and got seated, we locked our day packs at our feet and tied them to the under part of the seat and then put one leg through the strap as a final resort (this was after concealing all of our paper valuables, passports memory cards for photos etc under our clothing)..we were ready! So the bus cruises off and we quickly discovered that in Southern bolivia the roads arent sealed so the apprently strong bus started to rattle and shake tremendously, the seats were shaking like a dodgy massage chair on overdrive, crazy stuff. As this progressed anyone sitting aisle side was cooked by the heat in teh cabin and anyone window side were cold as the cold air started to creep in. Naturally there were a few worried faces as the bus started to sway here and there and reverse in sections where it couldnt pass! So onwards from here the lights in the cabin go out and we started to slow down and pick up every viallage person who wanted to get on and sure enough they started to make their way to the back of the cabin and talked loudly where people were trying to sleep in the crazy conditions. Mike and Sole a cool english couple we had met were behind us and we agreed that Mike and I would sit aisle side to wait for the locals. Soon enough the locals started to sit in teh aisle around our feet and hands were moving about in the dark near our bags but we were ready and quickly moved to removed..after some knees and elbows they got the message and moved down the bus. Ok so all was going fine and then 2am it was time to change to another bus! So gringos moved very fast off the bus to secure our bags coming out of the under carriage..all sorted we were doing well! Finally we got on a freezing bus for the final few hours to La Paz - we made it safely but in hindsight it came from sticking together and working as a group...I can easily see how single people or even couples can have their bags picked off by distraction...

Off for our Macchu Picchu Trek briefing...speak soon!

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