Based on the notes I took during this (what turned into a nearly 10 hour) ride, I am confident that I spent the bulk of my time dreaming of how I could get off the damn bus.
My notes are pretty funny to read through now, after the fact. I have 28 pages of notes/scribbles/complaints from my bus ride, just complaining to myself.
Before things went from bad to worse, I had attempted to break out the ride into activities:
Look out window / 1 hour
Write / 1 hour
Read Chile (in Lonely Planet) / 1 hour
Read book / 1 hour
Nap / 1 hour
Movies / tbd
Eat / tbd
Organize bag and dump trash / 30 minutes
It started out simple. I even noted that I “revised thoughts on long haul buses. This is not Greyhound. And better than coach on an airplane.”
After all, we had meal service. I was served food…twice.
First, a sandwich which tasted better than it looked.
And a special guest. A guy with a butcher’s coat and sunglasses jumped aboard to sell empanadas and would ride with us for a few miles before hopping off. In case you are wondering, the bus smelled delicious but I passed on the opportunity to purchase the empanadas, wherever they may have come from.
I even noted that it felt somewhat safe because cops would randomly come aboard, walk the aisles and leave.
I admired the scenery, with switchbacks sans guardrails, homes in the middle of nowhere and the vegetation once we decreased our elevation.
I was playing around with the exchange rate so I had an idea of what $10USD and $20USD would equal in Chilean pesos. At the time I was traveling 9500CHP equaled $20.55USD. I noted that “it makes me nervous with so many zeros.”
I wrote some words I learned “palta = avocado,” aceitunas = olives” and “para llevar = to go”
I made notes about my fellow passengers. I came up with stories on why they were traveling and where they were headed.
“Flowing chocolate milk…with rocks.” Apt description of the fast-moving brown river, considering the other notes I made, that include: “rafts, going in that water???” “lots of rocks” and “where’s the nearest hospital?” (perhaps I was foreshadowing for what was to come).
Then, another meal service later, with an assortment of crackers, cake, marmalade, teas, coffees, instant milk and a variety of sugars. I don’t drink coffee but I finished everything else off….once my bus neighbors finished yet another diaper change (and their aversion to throwing the dirty diaper in the trash, instead tucking it into their diaper bag). At the same time, their second child was having a meltdown, throwing a bottle of milk. The image and stench of the bus bathroom memory was still worse than then smell of countless diaper changes and spilled sour milk just a few feet away.
And then my ride went from tolerable, to painful…
In reality, looking at these 28 pages of notes, forget my timeline of activities I could do to while away my travel time. Instead, I spent the bulk of the time on the bus detailing my misery in chicken scratch.
A movie with English-language voiceover couldn’t entertain me. The words didn’t match their mouths and I started to unravel. This was the beginning of the end, though this hiccup would be the least of my issues as I became increasingly more cranky on this seemingly never-ending ride to Santiago.
I have notes like “This bus ride is making me nauseous.”
“How gross?” I questioned in advance of checking out the bathroom situation after a few hours. “AWFUL,” I responded, noting my attempt, but instead choosing to hold it.
(I assume this was directed towards the baby) “This ride is awful. And guess what, I want to scream and cry too.” “Super crankified.”
I also had jotted down “Cute kid. Not so cute anymore. Throwing food. Sister is crying. I’m cranky too.”
Using the logic from the time that had elapsed, the Lonely Planet and whatever signage appeared on the roads, I was creating crazy math equations and sketches, passing a good chunk of time. I was definitely getting frustrated because my answers were “No idea how much time is left” and also, the much more colorful, “No F idea.”
My misery crossed language barriers and was documented in my notebook in both Spanish and English.
To top off my bus misery was the added uncertainty of my arrival in Santiago.
I was going to be arriving in the middle of rush hour. I needed to secure a seat on a bus for the 90 minute ride to Vina del Mar. Friday. Summer. Rush hour. Didn’t I just do this the week before in Buenos Aires?