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What am I doing It's all fun and games till Annette faints and Carlyn gets her pants slashed... who am I kidding, it's still fun

Tupiza to Salta, Part 3: Bus to... Jujuy?

ARGENTINA | Thursday, 18 October 2007 | Views [3893]

Reaching the La Quiaca bus station I found it necessary to actually acquire Argentinean pesos (so as to be able to buy a bus ticket) 

Unfortunately, after asking quite a few people on the street where I could exchange bolivianos, I was actually laughed at and told the border (you know, the 10 minute taxi ride we had just come from)  So, I wandered around till I found a man in a store who was nice enough to chage $20 US out of his wallet (giving me a surprisingly good rate)… should be enough for a bus ticket and some food.  I then found and followed a Scottish guy to an ATM near buy, foolishly thinking I could withdraw money.  Three failed transactions later I still had no more pesos (although I did now have a $14 US International ATM withdrawal fee on my account- which I would find out about later) 

Thinking I should probably try and get more money, you know… just incase.  I tried the unofficial money changer (aka man with wallet) who had changed my US bills on the off chance that he might be able to change bolivianos.  What luck… he agreed.  Though I didn´t get half as good a rate as with the dollars I was just excited to be rid of my bolivianos and have a few spare pesos (you know incase I needed to eat or something)

At this point it is about 4:30pm… in Bolivia it had been 3:30, but we all failed to factor in time changes (as well as ungodly long border waits) when making reservations with hostels for the night. Scheduling to arrive at my hostel at 11pm, I had thought factored in some extra hours (5) for late trains and other things you cant predict, plus the actual 10 hours of travel time thinking this would give me some leeway.  It had also apparently been a lie when we were told that buses left for Salta about every hour… The next available was at 8pm.  This would make our arrival time approximately 4 to 5 in the morning… Unacceptable. 

So running around the bus station with James (who speaks not a word of Spanish) we attempted to find an other company who might have an earlier bus.  What we found was a woman who had a bus leaving for Jujuy at 4:45pm and who some how convinced us that we could take a taxi to Salta from Jujuy, it would take 45 minutes and cost us about $8 US a piece… maybe putting us in Salta by 10pm.  We were sold. 

After buying the tickets (surprisingly cheep at $18 pesos- about $6 US) I thought I heard the woman mutter something about collectivo… local bus.  Oh god no.

Food was our next thought having not eaten anything but the usual standby of a roll or two in the last 9 hours.  So Emma and I headed to the only dining establishment that was open. Supposedly we were buying the only thing they had, ham sandwiches with cheese.  Fine.  For the life of us we could not figure out why it was taking so long and we began to get worried when James ran up, yelling that the bus was leaving.  Attempting to tell them we didn´t need the sandwiches wrapped, we grabbed them and took off a full sprint to find our bus halfway out of the parking lot.  Apparently a lot of frantic miming on James´ part had kept the bus from actually leaving with out us, thank God.

Finally, on our way.  Can I just mention that I have never been so happy to see paved road and guardrails in my life (you really take pavement for granted until you spend time on a bus in a country with out any… dirt makes everything slower)

Now, I had been told that often times in Argentina busses were stopped by the police to search for contraband, but I wasn’t expecting the bus to stop 4 and a half minutes after departing.  What I really wasn’t expecting was the woman next to me to start shoving packages into her bra. 

This was going to be an interesting bus ride.  

I don´t know what she was hiding, but there was a plethora of sketchy activity following the initial breast adjustment.

As I previously mentioned, we had in fact gotten on the local bus.  This meant that we would stop in the middle of absolutely nowhere (miles from any sign of civilization) to pick up some passenger who had found their way to the side of the road.  It also meant that we would drop passengers on the side of the road, miles from any civilization. 

A few times threw out the trip a passenger or two (usually some completely innocent looking 60+ year old woman) would do the no-look package drop to the woman sitting next to me.  A few times there were some money exchanges with the ticket taker (although usually you would think that he would collect the money and not give it to the woman next to me)

Half way thru the trip James and Emma asked me if it was my backpack under their seat… No.  It apparently was one of 3 or 4 bags belonging to the woman next to me.  Spectacular.  Factor in the driver driving 35km/h in the 60 zone (later James and Emma informed me that, while I was being scarred by the smuggler next to me, they were being frightened by the fact that the driver had a constant stream of coca leaves entering his mouth, was smoking some unidentifiable substance, and in general was not displaying the qualities you would want in a driver- hence the 35 in a 60) and all the odd passenger drop offs and pick ups, and sometime around 10:30pm we finally arrived in Jujuy.  Not our final destination.

Ecstatic to get off the bus, and even happier to find that our luggage made it, we now had to find a taxi to another city.  

I branched out and asked a cop. 

It turned out to be one of the best moves of the night.  First, explaining that we needed to get to Salta, he found us a bus.  While that was great and all, we hadn´t had the best bus experience that day, it didn´t leave for an hour, and it took two and a half to get to Salta, putting us in town at some time around 2am.  Always an excellent time to arrive at an unfamiliar bus station.

So we told him we really wanted a taxi.  Quite a bit of miming later… and finally finding a pen and some paper for pictionary, our new best friend had found us a taxi, explained our destination, negotiated a price, and made sure that every thing was kosher (writing down the taxi number, as well as name and license number of the driver- you know just incase three tourists went missing)  as a cherry on top the Honda civic we expected to see turned out to be a SUV mini-van (large enough to comfortably fit the three of us and James’ surfboard.)  We were going to have space in the car. 

About an hour and a half and the best $10 I ever spent later, we were in Salta.  I was dropped off at my hostel only a hour later than expected (hadn’t factored in the time change) given an overly enthusiastic tour of my new housing and shown to my bed where I immediately passed out. 

18 hours after waking up in Tupiza, Bolivia, a train, taxis, an extremely interesting bus, and another taxi later, I had finally made it to Argentina.

My new smuggler friend on the bus... those weren´t really Cs

My new smuggler friend on the bus... those weren´t really Cs

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