On a bus, you never know what’s going to happen. In fact, I’ve started to expect at least one thing to happen: cows, falling boulders, traffic jams, religious processions, military roadblocks–all sorts of things get in the way of buses.
In Bolivia, that thing turned out to be water. I was aware that I was traveling in the tropical rainy season–I was not aware how much this affects the roads. After leaving La Paz, all the roads became unpaved and quite muddy, despite traveling through some very dry areas.
I remember distinctly when, after nearly 12 hours of riding through the night, our bus driver stopped, revved the engine and did a Dukes of Hazzard move across the raging flood of brown water that bisected the road. We all cheered him and thought our driver was the coolest (although later, when I retrieved my soaking backpack from the compartment underneath the bus, not so cool).
Unfortunately, the bus behind us tried the same move and failed triumphantly. With their bus immobile and laid out across the muddy river, the passengers had to wade back to shore. We all got out and tried to help but to no avail. This video shows the plight of the stuck bus and the failed attempts of those around to get it unstuck. We eventually moved on to our destination but this bus sat in the water for three hours before being successfully towed to shore.
This was all practice for the next night on my bus to the border town of Villazon, where we rode right off the muddy shoulder and fell into a 2-foot deep ditch. I don’t have any record of that incident since A) it was 2 a.m. and pitch-black outside; B) I was on my knees in the mud stuffing big rocks under the wheel; C) along with about 12 passengers, I was pushing the bus backwards uphill. After an hour or so we did overcome and the bus was back on the road. We made it to the border by morning and I presented myself at Argentinean customs wearing the war paint of red Bolivian mud on my face and shirt.
Follow Andrew’s Twitter feed @Bus2Antarctica, and the map of his journey here. Bookmark all of his blog posts here, see videos here, and get the full story on the project here. Photo and video by Andrew Evans.