Travelling by bus in South America is always an interesting experience. Well, to be fair, it's not too bad in Brazil, Argentina and Chile. But once you start heading north it starts to get sketchy.
This was particularly the case in Bolivia, where a non-stop service would mean that one driver would drive the whole distance... non-stop. The most I [un-] happily experienced was a 13-hour journey, but I heard horror stories of trips which lasted 18 hours and longer - and during the wet season these journey times could double, as heavy rain wreaked havoc on the many raw, un-made roads. Imagine one driver on a 36 hour shift. Now think about your safety.
How do they do it? In Bolivia, they chew on coca leaves - coca as in cocaine. Leaves don't have quite the same kick, but they serve to keep the driver awake. Unfortunately it does nothing for their sense of alertness and reaction times.
When reached Peru, I was somewhat happy to see the following:
One of the baggage compartments under the bus has been equipped with a mattress where a second driver can sleep, to be well rested for alternating driving shifts . Ahh... the security of having bus drivers who won't veer off the road with fatigue. Though I was told by other passengers not to keep any valuables under the bus: it seems they sometimes get a little bored under there and entertain themselves with theft from the luggage and backpacks.
During one trip in Bolivia, my bus stopped in the middle of the night for some reason. There was a commotion outside - it sounded like a little child was crying and screaming. I looked out my window and thought I saw the driver force a little child (around 8-years-old) into the baggage compartment. I went back to sleep thinking that I was was either still half-asleep or just seeing things. I realised later that what I thought I saw was actually real.
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- Diarrhoea and Bolivian bus accidents
- Travelling light
- The road to Colombia