I’ll just go ahead and say it. This story has two morals, and they are:
Rules are made to be broken.
Don’t assume anything!
We had an amazing-sounding free hostel that we were scheduled to visit and review in the small village of Samaipata. The only buses going there from Sucre were the night buses to Santa Cruz. So we bought tickets for a decent price on a bus leaving at 3pm, supposedly stopping in Samaipata around 5am, three hours before finally reaching Santa Cruz. Quite the trek, but we are getting used to it. Everything we read and heard confirmed this itinerary, and the guy from the hostel nicely arranged for a taxi to meet us and a hostel staff member to be up to greet us at this ungodly hour of 5am.
So we got on our bus, prepared for the long haul. After a dinner stop in who-knows-where, we both tried to sleep, me with a 4:30am alarm set on my iPod. I knew this was probably unnecessary though, because buses here are never on time and are in fact usually very late. I also assumed Samaipata would be an obvious stop with others getting off and more passengers boarding to take our seats. This was all a mistake. Don’t assume things when traveling in unfamiliar territory, no matter how much “experience with this” you think you have! We stopped around 12am for a pee-on-the-side-of-the-road break, and although I was in and out of light sleep, I don’t think we stopped again.
I woke up at 4:30am and we were pulling into a town. “Cool,” I thought groggily, “this must be it.” I asked a passenger if this was in fact Samaipata and his answer made my heart sink. “No, this is Santa Cruz,” he replied. “WHAT??? This can’t be!” The driver also confirmed it. “Why didn’t anyone tell us to get off? How’d we miss our stop? How are we so EARLY?” These questions swirled through my befuddled brain. Somehow, we were three hours early, unheard of in Bolivia, and must have passed Samaipata at around 2am without stopping (that either of us noticed).
Of course this was all our fault for assuming the driver knew we were going there and would tell us to get off the bus! And for following our previously-unbroken rule: Buses are never early! Argh. Although we didn’t know what we’d have done arriving in Samaipata at 2am, we now had to waste time in Santa Cruz until hostel checkout time. The cost of backtracking to Samaipata then coming back again to Santa Cruz made it not worthwhile, we unfortunately realized. So we were two days ahead of schedule but super upset about missing a free hostel and a cool town. Oh Bolivia, you got us again!