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On buses and food, and food on buses

My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

WORLDWIDE | Thursday, 5 April 2012 | Views [798] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

I laughed when I saw the bus that I was due to travel on for 22 hours from Paraguay to Bolivia. Nothing like the pictures, daydreams of a luxury journey morphed into a nightmare prospect of discomfort, knocking undercarriage and dubbed Bruce Willis movies.

Thank God, then, for the promise of food. Life could still be good, great even if experience had taught me anything.

A few months previous I had left behind Ecuador’s rickety but dollar-an-hour bus bliss and moved on to the more genuine bliss of bus travel in Peru. This is where the food-on-buses disease took hold.

Although I tried pretty much every bus company going in Peru, the crème-de-la-crème has to be Cruz del Sur. Comfortwise, spot on. Foodwise, up there with the best airplane food.

Don’t laugh. It may indeed not sound very appealing, but for a traveller in South America, fresh(ish) vegetables full of colour and dense, sickly chocolate puddings are the foods of dreams.

So here I was, about to leave Paraguay in a battered looking vehicle, and I realised that although the state of the bus meant we might not actually get to Santa Cruz, at least we would be well fed.
And we were. Granted, the most local thing about it was the inclusion of both potato and rice in the main, served along with bright yellow Guarana fizz. But we didn’t mind. At all. Even the chicken nugget dust mix was appreciated. I raced the middle-aged man next to me. He won. Maybe I was enjoying it too much?

What I’ve learnt?

When travelling in South America, choose a bus with food. Failing that, get on a local bus where vendors clamber on board weighed down with nets of oranges and baskets of steaming, oily empanadas. Listen to their practised sales song, part with some pennies and wrap your mouth around a gooey cheese feast.

Actually, if I’m honest, the latter food experience wins. Because, after all, pre-packaged bus food is really no different from pre-packed airplane food. And really, mostly, it’s pretty non-descript.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012



Hi my lovely Niece Finola. Well done, this is written so well. It's so fantastic being able to follow your travels, and you write so beautifully and expertly that its always a joy to read your blog. I hope you win the scholarship, cos your entry is surely the best! Take care and all the best for your continuing journeys. what a brilliant adventure you're having. Am so proud of you. Love and hugs always. Joanie xx and all the family xxx

  Joanie Apr 25, 2012 7:26 AM


this post bring so many memories from our travels! we always used the local buses and yeah, bus vendors were definitely the highlight of each trip, although we rarely ventured trying their offerings they were great to watch! I still wonder what was in those stacked little pans - surely nothing vegetarian! But I like the notion of pre-packaged bus food, an interesting discovery

  rockers Apr 25, 2012 3:21 PM

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