Sam and I went our seperate ways a few days ago. La Paz and new adventures were waiting for me. After doing intensive Spanish classes for the past (almost) 2 weeks, I thought I’d be fine to get by with my new and improved Spanish skills. So far that’s been the case. But my day of travelling from Sucre to La Paz was a day that completely through me off course.
The buses in Bolivia are particularly bad. The bus drivers are almost always drunk, high from cocaine and/or cocoa leaves, or alternatively they often fall asleep while driving. The roads are dreadful and the buses go at hair raising speeds. All journeys in Bolivia are generally 12+ hours and there are never toilets on the buses (and if there are toilets, they’re locked). There are many nightmarish tales of the countless accidents, as well as of the awful awkward situations arising from a lack of toilets or toilet stops en route.
The hygiene here in Bolivia is terrible and the bathrooms (whether in a hotel, hostel, restaurant or bus station) are just gross. So with a an impending bladder infection begging to ruin my life, and an already pathetically weak bladder as it is, I decided to attempt airplane transport from Sucre to La Paz rather than endure another nightmarish bus trip. A much shorter and more pleasant flight seemed the perfect answer. Or so I thought.
My Spanish teacher/new crazy friend went with me to book my flight and all was peachy and confirmed and paid for etc. I arrived at the airport nice and early and ready to check in. I handed over my passport and ticket and stood patiently at the counter. I suddenly saw panic consume the face of the check in lady. Next minute she’s phoning people and radio-ing other people and sounding very worried. My passport is whisked across the airport and back about four times. I stand waiting (with a slight hangover creeping up on me) and non the wiser as to what’s going on. Stay calm. Tranquilo. I get told to stand to the side and wait, no problem, but after 30 minutes of waiting, I ask what’s wrong. I get a long Spanish, panicky explanation that I don’t understand. Why don’t I know more Spanish!! Eventually I ask a couple if they speak any English, the lady did a bit. She helped me so much. Turns out the system had messed up and booked me on a flight to Santa Cruz instead of La Paz, and it was a promotional fare rate rather than the correct price for the flight I was meant to be on. Now to try change it and get me on the right flight. My lovely translator told me it’s all going to be fine, I didn’t have to pay anything, it’s just a matter of time because they’re just waiting on the head office in La Paz to make the changes etc to put me on the correct flight. More waiting. With my flight time itching closer I started to get anxious. Just when I was reaching a point of panic (20 minutes before my flight, with everyone else going through the boarding gates) the lady calls me over and presents me with my ticket. Phew. The drama is over.
On the plane I go. Relieved. The smell on the plane consumes me. Dry hot stale sweat permeating into my mouth and nose. It’s a small little plane with huge propellers on the sides. As the plane rises (and dips), my stomachs is in my throat. I’m generally a very good flyer but when your head almost bashes the overhead storage and you feel like you’re about to throw up the entire flight, it’s not good. 30 min flight, and we’re in Cochabamba. I thought it was just a stop over to pick up more people, but apparently not. Tried out my best Spanish to the lady sitting next to me to ask if I must stay on board while other people get on, or if we need to get off and then get onto another plane. She didn’t know either. So together we went and asked. This lady became my guardian angel for the next 8 hours.
Off the flight we hopped, and then had to wait two hours in the airport for a flight from Cochabamba to La Paz. My guardian angel was so sweet and helpful and took me around with her in the airport and bought me lunch and we chatted a bit in Spanish. She couldn’t speak a word of English.
Our second flight of the day, the flight from Cochabamba to La Paz, was delayed by 2 and a half hours. So we sat in Cochabamba airport for a total of 4.5 hours. Thank goodness for my guardian angel lady who updated me on everything and let me sleep until it was time to go. The flight was delayed because the plane was broken (don’t know what) and so they had to fly in another plane from somewhere else. So much for flying being easier, safer and quicker.
Finally on flight number two. There was a baby on the plane with a young mother. The baby had an ear infection, so the dipping and diving and altitude was killing the poor boy. He was writhing around in a feverish panic the whole flight. Eventually we land in La Paz, but at the wrong airport. We landed at the military airport rather than the main airport. More dilemma. Everyone is furious and shouting at the pilot. I wrap the lady’s baby up in my blanket and carry him off the plane into the cold air of La Paz. The mom struggles along with her bags and high heels etc. My guardian angel lady is helping her too. Guess what… Our baggage didn’t arrive. What a surprise. A military van takes us to the main airport where we wait another two hours for a different flight to arrive, along with our luggage. Finally I see my backpack. I’ve never been so happy in my life to see my luggage.
The entire trip from the hostel in Sucre to the phostel in La Paz took me 7 hours using airplanes. Had I bussed it would’ve taken about 11 hours (providing the bus didn’t break down it anything but seeming how bad my luck is today, the bus trip probably would’ve taken two days).
- Locked up in La Paz (hayleyanddave.wordpress.com)
- A day in La Paz and more new travellers – La Paz, Bolivia (travelpod.com)
- From Arequipa to La Paz, and then to Wonderful Bolivia! (wonderfulbolivia.wordpress.com)
- La Paz (fromuptheroad.wordpress.com)
- La Paz Part 1 – La Paz, Bolivia (travelpod.com)
- Days 20-28 – La paz, Bolivia (travelpod.com)