Normal, the bane of our existence for 11 hours

We wanted to ride semi-cama (semi-reclining seat) from Cochabamba to Sucre, but when we went to purchase our tickets, there was only one seat left. We checked with other companies, but our only option seemed to be ‘normal’ class (reclining seat if you’re lucky) leaving at 19:30, 20:00, and 20:30. All overnight and only overnight. The price difference between the two classes was $1 and we were so ready to ‘splurge’ for a good night’s sleep.

But comfort was not in the cards for us, so we reserved a place at the front of the ‘normal’ bus with big panoramic views and vowed that we would just read all night. No sleep for us! We’ll sleep when we die!

My seat did not recline and Leah’s did only slightly more.

At the hectic Cochabamba bus station, we naïvely thought that it "wouldn't be so bad"

Our 'normal' bus seats at the front of the bus

At first we powered through the first couple hours of the ride with our headlamps and our books, resolute in our goal to read our way through discomfort. But the cobblestone, and gravel, and rock-riddled ‘roads’ and cliffs combined with the ancient suspension on the bus had different plans for us. We were slowly lulled into a rollercoaster-ride delirium of sleeping and staring and holding onto our seats.

At one point I looked out the front window, past our chain-smoking bus driver, to see our bus making a right angle turn, steep cliff on the right, rock avalanche on the left. With a toot-toot warning to any oncoming traffic he zipped around the corner at what seemed like Mach one million. I closed my eyes, gripped my armrest, and hoped that the religion we picked up in Cochabamba would guide us safely through the night.

At another awakening, I found myself head to head with an antique-smelling Bolivian man in a bowler hat. He was on the floor beside me sitting with his eyes closed probably trying his best to ignore the gringa who kept trying to rest her head on his.

This went on all night, finding myself in different positions and with different cuddle buddies. On the floor with my head on my seat and my legs tangled with another fellow floor-sleeper, against Leah who was making a second attempt at reading, and with my forehead against the front window, willing 5:00am to be here already so that the nightmare bus would end.

But 5:00am came and went and the 9-hour bus ride slowly and painfully turned into an 11-hour bus ride. 350 km in 11 hours! We made it though, in one piece…just barely.

Our epic South American journey so far. We've become bus warriors.