30hrs, 1 border and FREE WINE!

23 February:
I’m about to set off on what could possibly be one of the biggest journeys of my life. Not spiritually or life changing, well not that I know of, but I’m about to board a bus that will leave San Pedro De Atacama at 10.15am on 23rd February 2016 and arrive in Santiago at 8.45am on 24th February 2016.. Yes friends, I will be on this bus for almost 24hrs. Then I hope to get a connection to Mendoza straight away, which is another 8hrs. So, I’m calling this first bus, MY bus. I’ll see people come and go. We’ll share stories and/or smiles. I’ll entertain myself in many different ways as I probably start to question my life again, much as at Laguna 69.

We set off and I’m next to a lady called Joanna who has ok English, and I have ok Spanish. She asked how long I’d been speaking Spanish for and I said almost 2 months. I feel like it should be better for learning for this length of time. I mean, I get by. But sometimes they talk too fast and I don’t have a clue what they’re saying. It’s like when a child tries to talk to you. And you really want to understand but you can’t and they get annoyed and you get upset. Joanna and I manage to have a conversation though in Spanglish and she thinks I’m brave for coming somewhere that I can’t speak the language. I said I’m crazy. She laughed. She’s on the bus for 5hrs before we bid each other farewell and I’m on my own. Well, there are there are other people on my bus. In my section. I opted for the seat that costs around £80. It turns into a bed, you see. Even at my height I had enough room to stretch my legs fully. I’m on here for almost 24hrs. I need comfort. And comfort I have.

Joanna’s seat remains vacant after this drop off and pick up, but the seat across the aisle from me is now taken by a rather plump lady. Don’t know why that description was necessary. See, if I write a book it would have to be fiction because I don’t like describing real people as fat or large or plump or obese. Getting carried away there. Anyway, the thing that interests me about this woman is her love of ‘selfies’. She’s just kicking back, sorting her hair out, putting her sunnies on, pouting like a duck and taking selfies. It’s fine. I’m so used to seeing people do this now and being a lone traveller (who refuses to buy a selfie-stick), I have had to take the odd selfie. However, I do it discreetly. I think it’s so vain. I’m my case, not so much, just wanna prove I was somewhere really. The woman is using her phone (she has two so I’m assuming one is just for selfies), and she doesn’t have this phone on silent. What’s the word for the noise that a camera makes? Normally when you’re explaining it in person what do you do? I make the noise with my mouth, hold up an imaginary camera (an actual one, not a phone) and push the ‘button’. I also wink as I make the noise with my mouth. I could google the name but this is more fun so if you know the answer, send it on a postcard to Carly @ NFA! Anyway, I hear this sound like a hundred times. Not even exaggerating. I don’t get it.

I’m reading a book ‘Winner Of The National Book Award’ by Jincy Willett. It’s getting better. I think the reason I’ve not stuck with reading before is that if it isn’t any good by the third chapter, I give up. I’ve started giving it til the 5th chapter now and then usually (well, the last two books), it has you wanting to read on. Maybe this could be the life altering moment I was talking about. Books! I don’t usually have time to sit and read anyway and what time I do have, I’ll watch cartoons because they’re pleasing on my tired eye. But now I have soooooooo much time, and no cartoons, books are great! The book is about a woman’s sister who releases a book about (I think, we’re getting there), killing her husband. The sister is promiscuous and had always used her sexuality to have men in the palm of her hands, but this man changed her after his own mother had treated him so cruelly that he then hated all women. The sister, telling the story, is the opposite and is a librarian. (Backing up my younger-selfs theory that you can’t read books and have sex.) It’s a good book. I’m enjoying it. The writer is really funny so I’d be interested to read more of her work.

I have a nap.

Sal hasn’t been too well and has pulled a muscle in her chest from coughing too much. I thought I had developed a sympathy pain but then I realised that was impossible as I don’t actually give a shit! (Joking, obvs). I thought I was having a slow heart attach after I thought we were being hijacked the other night. Sounds silly now. We were pulled over at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, all lights off and the engine too. There seemed to be some sort of commotion, doors slamming, men with torches. Sounded like an argument. Then I saw two men in white paper overalls and this is when my fake heart attack started and I thought we were being hijacked! What am I gonna do? When I worry about the bus crashing, I think I can survive that. But if I got shot, I think I’d just die. Probably from the shock of it. Or the blood loss. So I’m a bit worried right now. We start moving again and I ask some girls next to me what was going on. They said there was a problem with the electrics. When I told mum, she said, “Why didn’t you call me?”
And say what, “I think we’re being hijacked. Oh no, it’s the electrics. Go back to sleep.” Yeah right. Anyway, not hijacked. Not shot. Not sympathy pains. I too have pulled a muscle in my chest from my ridiculous backpack. I’m gonna throw it all away. I’ve already lost three pairs of shorts and three bikinis. Don’t ask me how. I’ve also lost my mind but that was to be expected. In place of my mind, I have gained this ridiculous imagination. I’m never gonna go out again after this. Either that or I will because I survived a hijacking and a heart attack. Ria is arriving on 29th Feb, meeting in Rio. She can bring me stuff.

Foot update: Was on video call to Mum and she asked how my foot was. I said, “Yeah it’s alright”, and tried to move it and then immediately changed my mind. She found this hilarious. Thanks, Mum. Apparently it was my face.

We make another stop another 5hrs later (I think it’s 5hrs, I’m losing track already). And we hop off for a stretch of the legs and fresh air. It feels weird outside now. Like, it can’t be trusted. I stay for a minute then get back in bed/seat/my bus! The movie is a shared movie, you have to plug your headphones in if you want to listen. To it in Spanish. Or just read the subtitles. In Spanish. One movie was Terminator. Think it was the recent one. Another was Man Up, which I watched just last week, or the week before. It’s ok. I’m more than engrossed in this book. I wanted to finish it before Brazil, which I definitely will.

Some more time passes and now I have a new neighbour next to me. I’d just nodded off in bed and I’m the aisle seat. He wakes me gently and I let him by. I prefer an aisle seat. One, so I can stretch my legs, but two, it’s also easier to come and go. Not sure where I’m coming and going to in this imaginary scenario but play along. The bus from Calama to San Pedro De Atacama I should have have an aisle seat. Instead I had a stupid selfish bitch that was sitting in my sit and when I said, “Estoy asiento veinte”, she just got up and let me sit by the window. I’d already just done a 12hr journey so couldn’t be bothered to argue. Plus, if she wants it that much, have it. Bad karma will get her. Plus, the voodoo doll I’m sticking pins in. Ok, I’ve lost it now. How long have I been in here? I said to Sal that it’s like being sent to solidarity for being naughty. I’ve been so good! I might start a tally on my arm every time I think an hour has passed. Without checking, obvs. I go back to sleep, on and off until 7.30am. We’re almost in Santiago now.

We arrive at 9am. I go and book a ticket for Mendoza which is at 10.30am. I get a coffee (I miss tea) and some fresh air for an hour. Whenever I brush my teeth I feel cleaner but I still feel gross. I don’t smell, yet, but I feel sticky. The bus had AC but you know when you just get that weird stickiness. I’m not explaining this very well. Hot people will get it. People that run hot, I mean. For example, I was so hot the other night waiting for my bus that my arms were sweating… New level of gross. I’m looking for wifi. Can’t find any. Is this what it was like before it? Peaceful. I find some with not a great signal but enough to ask mum to book me a hostel as, one) signal isn’t that great and two) don’t really want my phone or iPad out longer than necessary. Can never be too careful. I’ve heard terrible things about Brazil. From friends and locals regarding robberies.

I board my bus and take time to prepare myself for the excitement of a glass of red wine and a gorgeous piece of steak. I’m salivating. I’ll have to shower first, of course. It just occurred to me that by the time I get there, I’ll have been wearing the same underwear (and clothes, I’m not just wearing underwear) for over 30 hours. Well, I couldn’t exactly take them off and air my dirty laundry whilst on a bus. Could I? Do people? I got a nice seat. I always get nice seats now and I have two sandwiches from my previous bus that they gave us for lunch and dinner, which I didn’t eat because I had a cigarette instead. I’ve been replacing the odd meal with a cigarette. Very strange. I don’t read. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink coffee. And now I do all of those things. I no longer get drunk, only enjoy a sensible glass with a dinner now and then. I reckon two pints when I’m back and I’ll be ON my back. I’ll be exactly the same as I was before I left, just lighter and darker. Work it out.

I can’t believe it’s only 4 days til Rio. Ria lands at around 6am I think. I jus got so lost in beautiful Peru, on the beaches, by the pool, that if isn’t realise time was passing me by. And now I’m on this Top Gear Challenge to Rio. Can’t wait to work out the distance travelled. Not just on this stint but since we finished tour before Christmas. And then if I include that travel as well.. Then wow!

I was on that bus for 22hrs before and I didn’t figure out how to connect to their ‘Tur Bus Play’. But I just have. There are movies I can watch in English. How funny. Oh well, better late than never. I also have another saying, ‘Better late than never but never late is better’. I heard that somewhere. Can’t remember. I like it. And I’m not late for things anymore. Well, unless I’m late to meet Ria in Rio. That could be the worst. I was born late. Originally due on the 10th December and finally arriving on 28th December after my Nanny Bet told my mum to drink a weird potion. “Drink this and babe will be here in 2 days.” (It was 26th December).
Think it was orange juice and malt or something. I’ll ask Mum. Anyway, next day Mum thought she wasn’t going to live. Then the next day she had all the reason to live. I WAS BORN! Angels gather and rejoice!

These long journeys don’t half make me waffle.

Cross over into Argentina and I automatically adopt my Attenborough voice. ‘And here we are in Patagonia’.
I’m giddy with tiredness, dazed and confused from all the travel, drunk with excitement to be in Mendoza.
The drive here was gorgeous too. Tunnels going through mountains. Great roads to be on for my Top Gear Challenge of getting to Rio by 29th Feb.

Sorry this hasn’t been more exciting but it’s hard when I’ve been on buses for 30hrs. Or whatever it is now.

Drunk with excitement soon turned into drunk with wine when I arrived at my hostel. Free wine between 7pm and 9pm. Que? En serio? Yes. Free wine! I’m so happy. I drink all of it and then go and have some delicious meat. I think I love Argentina already.

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