Bleary-eyed and crumpled against the bus window, I roused myself from sleep and looked up at my companions. Following their gaze, I looked left and felt that heart-dropping sensation people talk about..I wasn’t looking left, I was looking down and I could have scooped some mud off the mountain floor, despite being sat in a bus.
Guess the rain and the bad roads had finally caught up with us.
Rewind three days and we were setting off in the most glorious weather. Jumbled in the back of a pick-up truck with some families and fellow backpackers about to self-guide ourselves around the two-day village trek outside of Sucre.
Sucre up until then had been absolute chaos. It was the dregs of carnival and it seemed that the party spirit wouldn’t dissipate until the bitter end. Everyone was a target. Everyone had ammo. Everyone was going to lose. It was brutal. I threatened little children, had buckets of water thrown at my crotch and ran after mobs before realising this girl was way out of her depth. I loved every second!
After the never-ending street party, we were resuming the original mission of our trip to Sucre. To explore the incredible scenery that surrounded Bolivia’s capital and to maybe see some dinosaur footprints…
It wasn’t the strongest start it turns out as we made the first wrong turning at the very beginning. (Discovered months later at a hostel in Peru). Thankfully however, this trek is idiot/tourist-friendly enough that any errors were somehow absorbed by our confident map-reading and strength in numbers.
Blissfully putting one foot in front of the other, the views were varied and consistently phenomenal. It was hard to believe that a capital city was only a couple of hours behind us. Bolivia for this reason was by far one of my favourite countries, the terrain always had so much to offer and, at times, you felt like you could be the only one there. On the first day, the expected rain only appeared sparsely enough to offer us a rainbow before disappearing, it was idyllic. Even our two wrong turnings, causing us to arrive after sunset couldn’t dampen our spirits. Stiff and wrapped in blankets after an unheated shower, we gobbled down soup and played cards until our fingers went numb. Bed never felt so good.
An early but necessary start and we were off. Today was dinosaur footprint day. I had no idea you could legitimately see these things anymore. Pushing myself up a rocky slope, I turned to the others, when are we going to see these footprints?! Uncertain if I was joking, they pointed out the massive hole next to my foot, I’d tripped up on them. Darwin eat your heart out!!
The rest of the morning continued, uneventful and incredible. On the last few steps I realised my feet were almost bleeding, I’d been so distracted by the countryside around me that pain had become very much secondary! Thankfully, we rounded the last corner, spied the bus in Potolo’s town square, and ran for it.
It is with conflict that I say I am grateful we ran for that bus. On reflection it was probably the last one back to town but as I stared at the tens of kilos of corn that we piled on board, it really could have been our last. Seriously. The two Israeli guys I was with stated they had never lifted anything as heavy as those sacks that took two men to carry. There were four sacks.
As we trundled our way through town, the relatively empty if a little heavy 25 seater bus gradually began to pile up with locals. Soon there were so many bags and bundles of goodness only knows what that the floor had become a sea of colour, so lost was it underneath the muddied wears and garments of our crowd.
Gradually we began the incline up and over the mountain that would lead us back into Sucre. Night had fallen by this point, and it had become fairly clear that our 2.5 hour journey was going to be much longer.
It is at this stage that I would like to show you the road on which I woke at the beginning of this post…
We were at the first hairpin bend so there was a lot more adventure to come.
It seems, nothing brings strangers together better than events that force us to realise our mortality. We are all equal, all vulnerable and all in this together. At each bend, the bus emptied of humans in a bid to increase our chances of scaling this mountain. The bags of corn sadly had none of our human compassion and remained on board despite likely weighing more than us collectively. Those who were up to it, got behind the van and pushed, slipping and sliding in the pitch black mountain mud. The rest of us looked to throw grass and weeds under the wheels in the hope that friction would appear. There wasn’t a lot of talking but once that van got up and onto the next bend, the applause and cheers, rallied us on as we followed its red lights into the distance. Each turn was a brand new mission and we were its soldiers.
Having removed my trekking boots from my blistered feet, I found myself trudging uphill, squelching through mud and despite sheer exhaustion, I was just so happy. This really is the stuff that adventure is made from. I truly appreciated in that moment that every day on this trip, I was marching into the unknown. It’s all about how we deal with these moments and what we make of them. And it’s times like these that I can really buy into those cliches because I felt light and life felt simple and maybe, just sometimes, happiness is a choice.
Seconds to make count
- Be in the moment, it’s amazing how much more alive you feel.
- My famous person general knowledge could be greatly improved.
- We are always stronger together.
- Dinosaurs were absolutely mind-blowingly huge and they definitely existed.
Tips for Travellers
There’s no food or sellers on the way for this walk, take plenty of snacks, water and lunch for both days. Your hostel will provide dinner and breakfast.