The Three-Day Bus Marathon
After spending a couple days in Trinidad, we decided that the whole jungle adventure sounded a lot better than it actually turned out to be. After spending over a week to get away from it all, we found ourselves again at the bus station looking for the fastest way back to civilization. We wanted to get straight back to La Paz from where it’s a quick jump back to Perú and new and exciting things. This turned out to be harder than expected. There are three roads in and out of Trinidad. One heads north to the Brazilian border, a journey of unknown hours that drops you off in the middle of the jungle. The second is the road to La Paz. This road is about a two days’ journey and at the time of our inquiries was passable only by 4×4 since it is destroyed every rainy season. The third highway is the main way in, but involves backtracking all the way to Santa Cruz, an overnight trip, and then taking another overnighter to La Paz from there. After some research, the 3rd option, though boring and backtracking, turned out to be the shorter, cheaper, and easier adventure. So we decided to come back later that night and try to pick up a cheap ticket for the next day.
We had noticed the hundreds of motorcycles in the center of Trinidad, blocking up the main square, and sure enough when we got to the bus station the news was bad. “No hay bus a Santa Cruz.” “Mañana?” we asked. “No sé.” The Bolivians were again taking up their favorite hobby which is protesting things by blocking the main roads with rocks and angry mobs. We had encountered these protests before while en route from Coroico to La Paz. Our van left us off at the edge of the blockage and we had to walk 4km through lines of boulders placed every block or so. The protesters were angry about that cost of minivan rides or something, but we were super annoyed because we had never had to walk that far with all of our stuff before. On the La Paz side of the blockade, the police were showing up armed with huge bottles of pepper spray and the protestors were starting to get loud. We jumped into the first taxi we found and were happy to be out of that mess.
So, after a night of not knowing how long we would have to endure Trinidad, we walked back to the bus station and were happy to hear that we would be able to take a bus to Santa Cruz (50 Bs each) that night. So we stashed our big backs and took the cameras, journals, and books to the park where we sat all day waiting for our night bus. These days sitting around are sometimes nice times to catch up on writing, but after a few hours we are usually pretty bored. Usually we end up getting ice cream, and sometimes a beer helps to pass the time. Our bus left at 7pm so we arrived at the terminal the usual 30 minutes before, and the bus left the usual one hour late. We were tired and the seats reclined, so as soon as we were on the smooth road, we feel right asleep.
At 5:30am we woke in Santa Cruz, feeling some deja vu. The Santa Cruz bus terminal is the hub that we have spent the most time in this entire trip and we hate it. But they do sell good cheesy bread which made a nice breakfast. We were able to get right on a bus to Cochabamba (50 Bs each) after waiting less than an hour and fell right back to sleep. When I woke we were still in the jungle, but the mountains were visible on the horizon which brought some hope that we might actually make it. But this bus was super-slow! We had hoped to make it to La Paz in a perfect 24 hours after leaving Trini, but found ourselves only in Cochabamba at the 24 hour mark. The thought occurred that we could get a hostel and sleep for a night, but then we found a cheap ticket for a 10pm to La Paz (35 Bs each) putting us in the capital bright and early. So we bought it and wandered across the street from the terminal to indulge in some of the best street food we have found in South America. Good, cheap food always helps to cheer us up.
We woke at dawn with the lights of La Paz shinning below us. It was COLD, 0 degrees C read the sign, 5:30 am. By now we were pretty much braindead as we sat in the terminal, feet going numb. Eventually we decided that the best and cheapest route was to take the 8:30am bus to Copacabana (25 Bs each), which we did, where we ate a quick lunch then bought a ticket all the way to Arequipa (100 Bs each) on a bus that changed in Puno. The ticket vendor proclaimed that it was eight hours to Arequipa putting us at our final destination at 9pm. We had the fastest border crossing ever and but due to slow going and some more protests on the road, we didn’t find ourselves in Puno (where we had to change buses) until 4:30pm. Getting into the second biggest city in Perú (Arequipa) at midnight didn’t sound like the best of plans, so we decided to end the marathon, switch our onward ticket, sleep in a bed, then continue at 8am.
So finally, the next day, we completed our trek to Arequipa at around 3pm. That puts the total at 58 hours riding on a bus or waiting in bus terminals (after subtracting time spent in Puno). This was the biggest bus marathon we have had or (hopefully) will ever have this entire trip. Was it worth it? Yes, because we are back in Perú which seems like a first world country after so long in Bolivia. Yes, we enjoyed the fact that Bolivia is so underdeveloped, but after the extreme conditions of our time in the jungle, it was starting to get to us. After such a crazy bus marathon, a few days rest in a beautiful and modern city were exactly what we needed.