Joined July 2015 Message
  • Day18

    Santa Cruz - 26 to 27 July 2015

    July 26, 2015 in Bolivia ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    An 18 hour bus ride...that's what we asked for and that's what we got. I want to tell you that it was awful, but it really wasn't that bad...well, for Keith anyway....

    So we left an hour late and after riding for about an hour or so, and after working on the previous two blog posts for a bit, Keith decided to take a sleeping pill. Right before be was about to crash, he went down and inspected the bathroom for Jaime. He found that prior to leaving on an 18 hour ride across the country, the bus company thought it would be a good idea to embark without a handle on the outside of the door. Passengers had to use coins to squeeze the knob together to get it to turn. Keith saw no other issues once inside however...it was actually fairly clean. This was probably due to the fact that very few people could get in to use the facilities....

    All of this information was relayed to Jaime. Keith even set her up for success and gave her the materials needed to open the door. He also assisted her in getting everything she needed prior to walking downstairs....including putting tiger balm under her nose to assist with any less than desirable smells.

    At this point I would like to inform our readers (or remind them...whichever is more appropriate) that Jaime hates public bathrooms. Hates them. To the point she will make herself miserable in order to avoid using one. But this was an 18 hour bus ride...so she knew she had to do what must be done.

    So Jaime sets off down to the bathroom with Keith quickly succumbing to the effects of the sleeping pill. Had he known what was going to transpire, he would have accompanied her and tried to help. Instead, after about 20 minutes, Jaime came back crying and borderline hysterical. Over the next few minutes, Keith was able to do figure out what happened. He got even more clarity the next day when Jaime was more ready to discuss her escapade....and he wasn't about to pass out waiting for her to get back.

    It turns out Jaime couldn't even get in to the bathroom and had to get someone to help her. Once inside and after she was done, she attempted to return to our seats. Fyi...it was a double decker tour bus and we were sitting in the very back in the top...while the bathroom is in the middle on the lower level.

    When she tried to unlock the door and come out she realized that the door wouldn't open..she played with it for a few minutes and then realized that it wasn't just her inability to open the door...something was broken. It was at this point that she started banging on the door. She later informed Keith that she knew he had taken a sleeping pill and that it was an 18 hour ride and she didn't know how long she'd have to be in there.

    Her banging eventually got the attention of some Bolivian Military Police who happened to be along for the ride and they started trying to help. They found a lady to tell Jaime 'one minute'...but Jaime started getting more and more into panic attack mode. This was because everyone else was speaking rapid fire Spanish through the door and Jaime couldn't understand what was happening. Due to her predicament, Jaime was unable to understand the Spanish and she was only able to speak English...this created confusion on both sides...

    They eventually were able to pry the door open with some screw drivers and allowed a sobbing Jaime to return to her seat.

    When Keith saw Jaime walking back to the back of the bus with a quickness, he realized something was wrong. When she got back and was in tears, he tried to figure out what went wrong. She couldn't understand why Keith couldn't hear her banging on the wall over the sound of the road and the diesel engine. Keith felt bad, but luckily for him, the sleeping pill completely kicked in a few minutes later. By the next day, Jaime was able to laugh about the incident....her words 'if this had happened to anyone else, I would have thought it hilarious'...

    Anyway, that was the highlight of the trip...we did stop and Jaime gave away some of our leftovers to a bathroom attendant who appeared to be lusting over our pasta dishes. She also gave some of our oranges to some kids at the train station once we arrived.

    It took us 18 hours to get to Santa Cruz and once we arrived we bought another bus ticket to Campo Grande, Brazil...this will be our longest leg yet and will put us close to the Pantanal....a wetland wilderness known for the abundant wildlife.

    Once we got to our hostel, we dropped off our bags and walked around. We had a late lunch and then decided to have some ice cream.

    At this point, Keith would like to point out what a nightmare it is to take Jaime out for ice cream. This is because Jaime gets overwhelmed from all the choices and literally freezes up and can't make a decision. (No pun intended). She takes what should be a 30 second decision and drags it out for 20 minutes....

    Luckily for Keith, her eventual decision was delicious. The ice cream was so good and so abundant that Keith and Jaime bypassed dinner and just walked around the square and people watched. More of the same is likely in store for tomorrow.

    We get to hang in the city during the day and then we catch our bus at 8 pm tomorrow...the plan is to drive 10 hours to the border. Spend a couple hours at the border crossing taking care of the paperwork, and then drive 7 more hours to Campo Grande....we'll see if there are any more bathroom incidents on the bus. So far, Keith and Jaime haven't had the best luck with the bus bathrooms on this trip.
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  • Day17

    La Paz - 24 to 25 July

    July 25, 2015 in Bolivia ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    So like I said, we left Puno at around 7 in the am...this is when the nightmare officially began....we just didn't know it yet.

    That's actually a gross overstatement. The bus ride and our fellow passengers were awesome....but the border crossing left a lot to be desired. Let me explain....

    So we arrive at the border and are given no instructions whatsoever other than the fact that the bus is going to drop us off on the Peru side and then pick us up on the Bolivian side.

    Now Jaime and Keith have both seen their fair share of border crossings...Jaime insisted that she had seen more and Keith cannot dispute this fact. Regardless, the Peru - Bolivia border crossing on the way from Puno to La Paz is one of the biggest clusters either on of us had ever seen.

    Luckily, some Japanese passengers and Jaime knew what to do....and the rest of the passengers followed suit. We go into a nondescript building on the Peru side and get our stamps....that portion was easy enough. We then walk over the border battling thousands of people walking and pushing carts in both directions. It was like two herds of thundering mud turtles were going the opposite directions...

    We finally make our way through the melee and get to another nondescript building, this time on the Bolivian side of the border. There are no signs where to go, just throngs of people standing and sitting in what appears to be a line of some sort. Also, please believe me when I tell you that calling it a line is stretch. So we finally figure out which side to stand on and we start walking to the end of the 'line'...and we kept walking.....and kept walking....and kept walking. We finally get to the end of the line and we are absolutely dumbstruck by how long it is. We can still see the building, but we are easily a few hundred yards from where we need to be. We end up standing in line for almost 3 hours. We finally get towards the front of the 'line' and the Policia realize we're Americanos and so we need a visa. We expected this and were prepared. So we go through the door and see there are only 2 people stamping passports. We go over to the visa lady and hand over our forms and cash and watch her inspect each and every bill we handed her. We also decided to drool over her baby a bit in the hopes of expediting the process....this only moderately helped.

    So we get our visas and walk over to get our stamps. Jaime went first and tried to helped a British citizen from Hong Kong. The Bolivian border personnel must have missed out on the British/Hong Kong relationship in their history class because they didn't understand....long story short, it eventually got worked out because another tourist was able to give them a history lesson. So Jaime got her stamps and the border guy then told her he needed a photocopy of her visa and passport....and he wouldn't return her stamped form until she got one. This was not a normal procedure....and Jaime, who never misses a chance to question authority figures in a foreign country, started to ask why. Her questions and the language barrier prompted multiple Spanish speakers to ask why as well since the bureaucrat was clearly holding up progress. This caused the Policia to help us even more to get us out of there asap...

    So she follows the directions of the Policia and runs over and gets one, with Keith following close behind. We get our copies and then head back. We hand him our copies and the arse doesn't do anything with them, he just sits them to the side and hands over the form. It's also interesting to note none of the other humans had to make copies. I guess it's nice to know there are asshole bureaucrats all over the world. So after we get through that, we walk to the bus and enjoy some leftover pizza we had brought with us. Trust me when I tell you that having that pizza was a clutch move as we were starving.

    After we got everyone on board, we made our way to La Paz....

    Bolivia is poor...like really poor. It's also covered with trash by the roads and cess pools/canals leading into the city. The countryside is beautiful, but is also littered with trash. It really is a shame.

    So we got to La Paz and found out where the hostels are. Jaime had the taxi drop us off at the bottom of the hill so Keith had to drag the 'fuzzing' rolling duffel bag all over creation. Keith has come to despise the rolling duffel bag...

    So they finally make it to an affordable hostel and check in. Jaime originally found a very expensive hostel that Keith would have stayed at, but she wanted something a little more affordable. She also insists that Keith is the one that said that it was too expensive....but I digress....

    So we drop off our bags in the room and get ready to go out and explore the town. We walked a couple of miles and during that time, we saw the witches market, another huge market and the lights and sounds of the Bolivian capital.

    We stopped at a nice restaurant and had a delicious meal, even though they brought Jaime the wrong food and they avoided coming to our table...these issues did not annoy Jaime in the least (sarcasm)...

    So we go back to the room in the hopes of crashing since both of us are exhausted....Unfortunately, there was a smell in the bathroom. That's actually not a fair description. It actually smelled like something died in the pipes. It was awful. Jaime tried to brush her teeth, but started dry heaving. Seeing her gag and smelling the bathroom also made Keith dry heave. It was a 'beautiful' moment...

    So we decide to notify the management and they promptly gave us another room. This one was much better. We fell asleep and got ready to explore the city the next day.

    When we woke up we walked around some more and had breakfast and spent the day walking around shopping and getting ready for our bus ride to Santa Cruz....a city in eastern Bolivia. So we show up to the bus station on time and the bus was delayed.

    I'm currently typing this post on the way to Santa Cruz and more details regarding this 18 hour ride will come later....
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