Busing in Bolivia

Busing in any country can be quite the endeavor and quite the adventure, from huge luxury lines, to being crammed full with the locals including their animals, to break downs, and alternative routes when strikes are blocking the roads. But when you step onto a bus in Bolivia and see locals get on with thick, woolen, blankets for the night, you know you’re getting yourself into an interesting situation that might not make you the most comfortable person ever.

I’m a Canadian from the middle of the country, A.K.A part of a deep freezer, so you might expect me to be fairly comfortable with colder climates. But let me tell you, there’s a difference between command starters, triple-pane windows, and furnaces with constant heating that doesn’t quite translate over to third world countries with a climate hovering above and below zero and no indoor heating. Also included is the fact that I haven’t actually spent a winter in Saskatchewan in over four years and you might understand why I can’t quite love how cold some places are.

Me as layered up as possible on my overnight bus ride from Uyuni to Sucre in Bolivia trying to stay warm. Chilly is one word to describe how cold the bus was.

I picked myself a lovely window seat (best for safety and views, worst for heat) with what felt like a cold wind blowing over me. I checked the windows to make sure they were shut, but apparently it was just poor sealing. Thankfully I was prepared and packed in my carry-on an alpaca sweater, a jacket, a toque (beanie or hat for those not Canadian), alpaca mittens, a spare travel towel, a blanket sniped from an airline company, and an extra sweater for “just in case” which would swiftly turn into “necessity”.

There was no temperature setting, no air conditioning, no heat, no lights, and nothing but me and a chilly window to keep the cold at bay. This would be a very long night, but thankfully I’ve taken notes along the way and came prepared for what I’m going to call my winter bus ride. I happened to have in my backpack a set of Hot Paws, sealed packets that when mixed with air turn into toasty little mini bags to keep the chill off your toes and fingers, or anywhere you decide to put it.

So I settled in with these four mini-heaters and the clothing piled high and tried to make the best of a very cold situation. The one saving grace? The absolutely stunning view of the millions of stars and incredibly vivid milky way out the bus window. These stars rivaled what I am fortunate enough to see at my farm in the middle of nowhere on a clear summer night with the yard light shut off.

After several hours of restless sleep, our bus stopped for an hour and a half wait at 2 a.m. in a small city only a couple hours from where I was trying to get to. Unfortunately we had nowhere to wait but on the bus in the cold until the next bus arrived. Shortly before 4a.m. the big luxury liner arrived and myself and the two Danish boys I was with happened to get seats on the bottom deck of the bus, which meant extra room, personal heat controls, and very comfortable seating. You can safely assume I spent the next three hours sleeping like a baby.

Moral of the story? If you ever travel by bus in Bolivia, please pack a variety of clothing to keep yourself warm. Your toes will thank you.

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