Over the last weekend I managed a trip to Sucre. I write this down as if I might one day forget, believe me I won’t! The previous night I had bought a bus ticket for 21BS (about £1.80) which would allow me to leave Potosi at 7am. “Perfect” I thought. “I’ll be in Sucre by 10am, whole day ahead of me.” Oh how wrong I was…
First the ‘new’ bus terminal was almost deserted. Nothing to help me find my bus except for the few staff here and there. I asked two where my bus was and both pointed in opposite directions. Logically I waited between both of them. Possibly this was my first mistake, if I am to blame. This I will probably never know. So along comes 7.30am and I’m still waiting. Suddenly a bus labelled Sucre appears. “Aha!” I proclaimed, a late bus is better than no bus at all. This train of thought was my second mistake. So on I hop, half relieved that it was here and half relieved that I hadn’t simply been stupid enough to miss it. After we depart I find the bus stopping every two streets or so to pick somebody up, “slighty odd” I thought, after all I had needed to buy my ticket the night before. Then the conductor turns and asks me for my ticket, I gingerly handed over my ticket expecting everything to go as it should when suddenly the conductor began shaking his head. I looked up hopefully but inside I knew what was about to happen.
I was going to have to have a conversation in Spanish. Oh Dear! This would either end in me looking like an idiot or an idiot tourist. I can handle looking like an idiot now and again but there is nothing I enjoy less than looking like an idiot tourist! Apparently I was meant to be on the “autobus,” wait, that’s what I was already on surely? Well whilst writing this I am currently assuming autobus is more of a coach whilst what I was on was more like a public bus, smaller and less comfortable. As it turned out my ticket was invalid so there went another 21BS. No problem really. It was what was to happen next that really set this Saturday apart from most.
After almost an hour of stopping and starting in and around the suburbs of Potosi, I could at least appreciate the severity of poverty that has grasped some parts of this small city. In a sense it’s good for the soul to see first hand just how fortunate you are. Your conscience on the other hand can receive a little bit of a rude awakening. I’ve witnessed it before but it never ceases to stop having some sort of impact. Then again these things can define oneself for the better, to be happy is to be grateful. Or at least that’s what a Ted talk told me.
Back on the bus, which wasn’t an ‘autobus’ but definitely a bus, we had barely covered a couple of kilometers from Potosi when lo and behold the bus broke down! Great! An unscheduled toilet break later (I wish the women had at least gone behind something) and we were on the roadside with the driver trying to flag down other buses. In fact he managed to stop a half decent one at his first attempt. It was a shame that there was only space for the woman and children, and that they went first. I’d of made a poor passenger on the Titanic it would appear, I looked on enviously at those fortunate enough to escape the impending nightmare that was currently chugging its way towards us, we weren’t to know, those who escaped never will.
As it appeared my heart sank, as it drew closer my heart began to resemble an anchor, weighing down on top of my stomach. As it cluttered to a stop I began to wonder how many AA batteries it was running on. Everyone clambered in, all eight who were left. I held back, hoping that it would also fill up and I’d be left to wait for another bus. One that wouldn’t be so small, so full, and so…well shit.