A couple weeks ago I happened to meet two girls while traveling: one from Saskatchewan near where I live, and an American girl from the East coast. I met them separately but we all decided to travel to Bolivia together. So we booked some buses and planned our trip to the new country with each other. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get Jane on the same bus from Peru to Bolivia as myself and the other Canadian, Rae, and thus began the start of an interesting and stressful adventure of finding Jane when she never arrived in the town we were headed to.
Both our buses left at 10 p.m. from the same bus station. We went together and made sure we all had our tickets. The last time I saw Jane, I gave her a big hug, she blew me a kiss and we walked away from each other with all our luggage to board our separate buses.
That was the last time I saw Jane.
Jane’s bus was to arrive in Copacabana, Bolivia at 7:30 in the morning. Mine and Rae’s bus was scheduled to arrive three hours later at 10:30. Jane was going to hang out at a hostel, do some laundry, and then either meet us in the square when our bus arrived, or we’d meet her at the hostel.
Rae and I changed buses once in Puno, Peru and then continued onto the border between the countries where we hopped back on our bus to arrive in Copacabana mere minutes later. Our border crossing went very smoothly and we had no problems or hang-ups, so we assumed Jane’s was the same. We were about twenty minutes late and didn’t see Jane anywhere in the square where the buses drop everyone off (there was no central bus station). So we grabbed our gear and headed to the hostel we were to meet her at. We arrived there and in our mish-mashed Spanish came to the conclusion that Jane had not been there. Where was Jane and how had we managed to lose her so easily and so swiftly after planning to travel together?
We were a little worried but Rae watched our bags while I wandered up and down the one tourist street where Jane may be, eating an early lunch or using some internet. After peering into every restaurant, store, and shop, I realized we may have a little problem.
Rae and I decided to wait in a restaurant, I sent Jane a message online to let her know where we were, and we discussed our options. We were supposed to be catching a boat to Isla del Sol at 1:30, but we couldn’t buy tickets until we knew where Jane was. We sat in the restaurant until after our departure time and then decided to get a hostel in town. We dropped our bags off and continued to discuss the situations Jane may have found herself in. Some pretty scary thoughts ran through my head as I just couldn’t understand how Jane hadn’t made it to the town when she had a direct bus here and why we hadn’t heard from her.
We wondered if she got stopped at the border, or if the coca leaves she was carrying an issue. Did she get stopped because she wasn’t carrying her yellow fever vaccination card? Did she get on the wrong bus? Not transfer buses correctly? Did she fall asleep and miss her stop and end up in another town? The biggest thing that scared us was that it was mid-afternoon, and 8 hours after our meeting time, we still hadn’t heard a peep from her online on Facebook or in an e-mail. We figured one of the first things she would try do if something went wrong was to let us know what happened and where she was. Where was Jane?
At about 3 that afternoon, Rae and I decided to go to the police station. Except apparently at this time, most places close up for the afternoon and everyone goes for a siesta. We went to one police officer in a small station and he said go to the tourist information center (I already had, earlier, and not a lot of help. Plus they were closed until later as well). So we walked around, talking to different bus agencies and finally wandered back to our hotel to check the internet for the 40th time. We got talking to the guy working there and he told us of a police station up the road. We figured we had nothing to lose, and it had been over 18 hours since we had last seen her. We went there and they were very helpful; they spoke English, and actually seemed to be concerned about our missing friend. We asked if they could call the border and see if she had, indeed, crossed into Bolivia as it would make finding her much easier. They called, and she had (as far as we could tell in their sudden rapid Spanish). They said come back in half an hour, so Rae and I went and grabbed some candy and chocolate to quell our nerves while we waited. Except we actually felt a lot better than we had all day. Someone else knew about our problem, they knew that our friend was missing, and they were actually going to help.
We also starting thinking, as we had received a piece of information earlier, that Jane probably had to change buses at the border as her original bus was going to La Paz and not stopping in Copacabana. Could she have been unaware and stayed on the bus, missing her stop? If so, this would be the best possible situation as she was safe in a city only a few hours away. And, if she could, she may have caught a return bus right away and might be arriving any minute which is why we had not heard from her yet.
Rae and I headed back to the hotel to wait until it was time to walk back to the police station. And in one small moment, I received a ping on my cellphone, looked down to see who the email was from and saw Jane’s glorious name. She had, indeed, been unaware of a bus change and rode her bus all the way to La Paz as by the time she realized what was going on, it was too late to get off and turn back.
So after a very intense, nerve-wracking and scary day, we had finally found Jane, several hours down the road in the capital of Bolivia.
Some might think it was silly to go the Police station so soon, but this is South America, and was a situation involving someone going missing on the way to the border. Not knowing what country she might be in and not understanding why she hadn’t sought out internet to let us know what happened, we had some very real concerns. You always hear some incredibly scary stories that happen to travelers on the road, and what more of a prime target than a pretty, blonde, young woman to take advantage of. Rae and I felt justified in seeking out help from the local police.
Each part of this trip for me has been filled with new adventures of a wide variety. You never know when you wake up each day just what you will encounter, learn, discover, and have to deal with. And after Jane was successfully found and not in any trouble, I couldn’t have asked for a happier ending to a very long day.