You can’t make this bus ride up

A movie, a short nap and some staring out the window later and we pass a bus on the side of the road. Flipped over.

I was thankful that my seatbelt – while covered in gum – was fastened.

The drive continued. At the border we were stopped. Sitting, waiting. I was anxious. Maybe we’re almost there and time passed faster than I had thought.

HAHAHA.

We were the only bus at the border because all of the other companies had cancelled their route for the day. Awesome. Now I was genuinely concerned about my safety. This bus was going through the Andes mountains. Though it was a well traveled route and it was summer, had I chosen a bad route, and more importantly, should I have gotten off the bus when I had the chance.

I did believe I was the only one with a passport from the US on the bus so I figured my parents would be notified rather quickly should things take a turn for the worse (and sadly this was not the only bus ride I had this thought – wait for the Bolivia bus ride from hell).

We were finally able to get off the bus to go through passport control and I was able to take a quick bathroom break. Anything had to be better than the bus toilet … but with a quarter of an inch of liquid on the floor of this bathroom, who knows what was worse.

X-ray machines, dogs sniffing and a maze of stops to check in with a passport. Sometimes with a bag, without a bag – it was definitely a lengthy process.

Nearly 1 hour and 10 minutes later we depart. Remember, we were the only bus. How long this would take on a day where other buses were traveling this route, I am confident I would have lost my mind.

My seat mate and my translator have differing opinions on what’s ahead. My seat mate thought we passed the bad part. My translator thought the worst part is to come. I think I just want off this freaking bus.

From the time we left the border, it was about 12 minutes of driving. Then we slowed. And all I see is a hole in the road. Like an earthquake had separated the land.

This picture doesn’t do the scene any justice.

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Obviously we had some warning, but might there have been a conversation at the border like “Hey, for real, there’s a big problem up ahead.” Or did I miss that chance when I could have gotten off the bus before we started? Was that my warning? Probably.

We saw a 4×4 off road through the missing road – and so our bus went forward. Then back. Then I think we may have gotten stuck.

And then there it was. We were in the middle of the Andes mountains and we were asked to get off the bus. I recognized the word ‘peso’ which I pieced together that the bus was too heavy to make it through whatever the driver was attempting to do.

Everyone but the driver disembarked and I found it pretty hard to breathe. Duh. The driver motioned where we were to meet him (we were in the middle of the mountains, it wouldn’t be hard to find a bus). He revved the engine and went.

The rest of us walked and I was so thankful that the driver made us get off the bus because I probably would have had a heart attack if I had stayed on the bus for that part.

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Back on the bus…for a variety of scenery. And some gut wrenching twists and turns. Not to mention the drastic weather conditions.

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(Some of the few guardrails spotted)

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6pm: The bus stops to let someone off. Since so many hours had passed since this journey started, I was thinking that we may be in the home stretch (and if someone is getting off, we must be near civilization, I think). So I ask my seatmate if he thinks we are close. He pulls out a map and tells me we likely have five more hours to go. Looking at the map, we were closer to where we started than to where we were headed.

7.43pm: Entering Jujuy. I still don’t know if I should be taking my malaria pills because technically it’s bordering where I should be taking them. And it’s raining. I decide I’m going to wing it without the meds.

Arrived in Salta at some crazy late hour – my patience thinned and second guessing if I should have just headed to a beach instead. My 10 hour bus ride was at least 15.

Grabbed a cab and made it to the hostel. Checked in and requested a private room since I just wanted to go to bed. I’d happily be friendlier in the morning after sleep and a shower.

It was still raining pretty hard. I noticed that the window screen in my room had a gaping hole (but because of the temperature outside, the window needed to stay open). Concerned about the malaria situation here, but not enough to take the pills, I pulled duct tape out of my bag, covered the hole, hoped for the best and went straight to bed.

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