A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single…bus

The whole Hecha y Derecha journey thus far! A to M...73+ miles on buses, and going strong!

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” –Jack Kerouac

Due to terrifyingly twisty and mountainous roads and slightly sketchy characters I'd qualify the Colombian leg of our journey as the scariest so far...but we made it unscathed!

Well, after two back-to-back overnight buses from Northern Peru we’ve successfully made it Lima (if you measure success in hours between brushing teeth…which I do). Paul Theroux never spoke to me as much as he does right now when he said “travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”  Sadly, we’re now down one fully-fledged woman, as Vero had to leave us and return to the Czech Republic yesterday…so I thought I’d take this opportunity to recount some of our most beloved and numerous moments together…on the buses of South America!

I was all for breaking up the bus trekking with some train-travel, but for some reason Virgie and Vero didn't like the idea....

Thus far, we’ve logged about 3 days, or 73 hours, on buses from Bogotá to Lima, which doesn’t include day trips or excursions.

I honestly couldn’t tell you how many miles this adds up to (since Google maps refuses to calculate distances without exact addresses…which can be a problem in Latin America).  But from Diablos to Chivas to Lecheros to VIP double-deckers there’s not much we haven’t done or seen when it comes to South American bus travel.

Virgie scopes out energy-efficient Ecuadorian transportation alternatives, but alas, we're on a tight schedule

Virgie scopes out energy-efficient Ecuadorian transportation alternatives, but alas, we're on a tight schedule

We’ve crossed countries, cultures, borders, and mountains; we’ve been gawked at, laughed at, laughed with and proposed to; we’ve slept on buses, not slept on buses, and been slept on by random babies on buses;  we’ve laid in fully reclining leather seats and aisles alike; we’ve held our pee for way too long; we’ve seen sunrises on the Amazon river and sunsets above the clouds; we’ve crammed backpacks and bikes into impossible spaces; we’ve starved and tried new foods; we’ve been helped, harassed and haggard; we’ve heard every kind of typical music and seen “Fireproof” twice, in Spanish (a movie that one should never even be subjected to in English…Kirk Cameron, what HAPPENED to you?!); we’ve sat on bus-driver’s laps, hung out doors, and generally hung on for dear life.

High Rollers in Peru, the nicest buses I've seen anywhere. Not just VIP. SUPER-VIP. Holler.

Observe: repose of the SUPER-VIP

Observe: repose of the SUPER-VIP

One of my favorite things about buses in South America are the surprise hop-on/hop-off passengers…you never know what you’re going to get!  These are people who board you bus during stops, give the entire bus anywhere from a 30 second to 30 minute pitch, and hop, jump, leap or roll off at high speeds.  What will it be this time?  A song by a girl with a plastic comb-turned harmonica?  Mmm, is that a new type of snack I see?  Need a new religion?  We’ve got that too!  Do I look like I need instructional English DVD’s taught by poorly animated characters?  Herbs to cure arthritis and cancer? Maybe later. Perhaps a nice…chicken?  I’ll just stick with the home-made Ecuadorian ice cream, it’s a safe and delicious bet.

Yup, it’s been a wild ride, and there’s still more to go…but here are my votes for some Superlatives thus far. What are YOUR favorite/most ridiculous/funny/lucky/scary or whatever travel stories…we’d LOVE to hear them!

Funniest/Most Romantic Moment:

Boarding a packed bus in the Amazon at 5 am, after 3 hours of sleep. Delirious with exhaustion and motion sickness, with no seats available, I lay down in the aisle. The bus attendant takes pity on me and invites us into the cock-pit where we sit next to the driver, share our mandarins, have some laughs, and get a front row seat of the Amazonian sunrise.  The attendant takes a liking to Virgie, an hour of hilarious attempted flirting takes place, and ends with a proposal of marriage. Sorry buddy!  We girls all learned our lesson long ago…we are already happily married back at home (in addition Virgie warned that she might vomit on him).  Another little known fact, Vero even has two “kids” back in Europe!

Most Sticking-Out-as-a-Backpaper Moment:

I mean that literally… Hitching a ride on a bus once I had my sleeping mat latched horizontally on my pack and tried to hop through a narrow door.  Imagine a dog trying to fit through a doggy-door with a large newspaper and you’ll have a pretty accurate image of what I looked like and how successful I was.  The driver didn’t seem to think this would impede his driving abilities, however, and took off, leaving half of me hanging out the bus and the other half hanging on to Virgie and Vero for dear life, the three of us all the while rolling on the floor in hysterics, much to the amusement of the people of Colombia.

**Amazingly, this moment was captured on film…but on Virgie’s stolen camera 😦

Most Frustrating:

Quito, Ecuador. The night before the Funniest Ride we drive from Quito to Banos, and what should have been a 1-2 hour ride turns into 4 plus.  Why?  We drove over an hour on the road to Banos when suddenly a road block appears, declaring the road is closed due to a landslide. Okay, obviously you can’t predict that, Ecuadorian government, I get it…but you CAN place a simple sign at the entrance to the highway declaring so, and save people 3 hours of their lives.  Thankyouverymuch.

Twilight Zone Moment:

Virgie and I were on an overnight bust to from Mancora to Trujillo Peru two nights ago when our bus was stopped and boarded by a police officer who apparently had a problem with a passenger.  This is a fairly common occurrence, so I put my awesome eye-mask on and fell back asleep. The next morning when we woke, we discussed the policeman boarding, and how we both fell asleep again immediately…only to then find out that upon falling asleep we had the SAME EXACT DREAM about our bus being hi-jacked.  Spooooky.  Did it happen? Was it really just a dream? Nobody knows…but at least my laptop and watch still appear to be intact….

Well that’s all for now, but please, share your superlatives with us!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I know some teeth that need brushing….


Riding off Into the Sunset on another alternative form of transportation...though given that livestock farts constitute a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, we're probably be more "green" if we went all Godfather on these horses instead of riding them...


3 responses to “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single…bus

  1. Hi! It looks like you took the exact trip I want to take, Bogota to Lima with a side trip to Machu Picchu. How long did this take you? Would 4 weeks be enough?

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