For Real, I’m Going to Die on This Bus

 

It’s the final day of my 72-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Lima, and the seats around me have turned into a strip mall, my fellow passengers into skeptical (but willing) customers.

It all started at the border crossing from Chile into Peru. As soon as we got through customs and back on the bus, the driver stopped to pick up two large, sweaty men wearing elaborate hats and shouting ‘iPhone! Nokia! Camcorder!’ as they hopped on board.

Since their arrival, they’ve made like magicians, gleefully pulling more and more shoddily-constructed imitation electronics from their bags, pushing them into the faces of each passenger in turn before moving on toward the back of the bus. At the back door, they turn around and repeat their cycle as if they were approaching a completely new batch of fresh, rich, interested customers.

Shoot me now.

I have to admit, what passes for an iPhone down here is kind of fascinating (like a train wreck or a particularly ugly pug). Turning the device over in my hands I can see that it’s about twice as thick and a little bit shorter than a legitimate iPhone, and some of the icons are the same (though most are just words explaining what the button does, or rough images of god-knows-what thrown together in Paintbrush).

What’s really wild is that the bottom opens up to reveal an antenna which can be pulled out, allowing the owner to watch futbol on their very own PORTABLE TV.

This is the future, folks. Steve Jobs, please take note.

A few hours later the electronics salesmen are let off on the side of the road and a young man with a duffelbag full of plastic-wrapped Nike trainers comes aboard and starts handing out shoes to anyone who will take them. It’s explained to me by a fellow passenger that he’s doing this so that when we come across police, they won’t know all the shoes belong to him and he won’t be arrested for smuggling.

After Mr. Nike hops off at one of the many tiny towns in the Peruvian desert that leads to Lima, a couple of old ladies climb aboard and start selling Inka Cola, water, breads and alfajores (it should be noted that unlike Argentine alfajores – which are small treats consisting of two cookies with dulce de leche in between, covered in chocolate – these Peruvian versions are essentially big, sweet tortillas with dulce de leche holding them together…they didn’t look appetizing at all). They walk up and down the aisle, smiling their toothless smiles and calling me rubio (‘blondie’).

The final night is torturous.

Not only am I not feeling very well, but the bus is speeding along at a fast clip up a large mountain.

The road is a serpentine obstacle course, with periodic boulders blocking the path, requiring the bus to squeeze between it and the cliff face. Looking out the window I can see all the way down the mountain, my view unobstructed by anything so bourgeois as barricades or fences. One wrong move, one accidental flick of the driver’s wrist or popped tire, and there is nothing between us and a long, long fall.

It doesn’t help that it’s nearly pitch black outside and the only thing lighting up the night is the periodic cross-traffic and lights of distant towns.

It’s about 4 am, I’m 7 hours from Lima on a freezing cold night in the mountains and I’m fairly certain I’m going to plunge to my death before I get there.

I hope somebody bought one of those ‘iPhones’ so the survivors can call for help when we reach the bottom.

And until they arrive, we can watch futbol.

62 comments

  1. Fantastico! hahahaha very very nice adventure, have you a gun with you? No? Good luck! :-D I think it’s more frightening than going on roller coaster ride!
    It’s a shame that you can’t take a video of all that, I think it would be paid very well by National Geographic! :-D

    Keep us updated with your latest news!

  2. Fantastico! hahahaha very very nice adventure, have you a gun with you? No? Good luck! :-D I think it’s more frightening than going on roller coaster ride!
    It’s a shame that you can’t take a video of all that, I think it would be paid very well by National Geographic! :-D

    Keep us updated with your latest news!

  3. Fantastico! hahahaha very very nice adventure, have you a gun with you? No? Good luck! :-D I think it’s more frightening than going on roller coaster ride!
    It’s a shame that you can’t take a video of all that, I think it would be paid very well by National Geographic! :-D

    Keep us updated with your latest news!

  4. Fantastico! hahahaha very very nice adventure, have you a gun with you? No? Good luck! :-D I think it’s more frightening than going on roller coaster ride!
    It’s a shame that you can’t take a video of all that, I think it would be paid very well by National Geographic! :-D

    Keep us updated with your latest news!

  5. I find it fascinating what people sell on buses and why people think that a bus is a good place to sell electronics, shoes, TV rabbit ears, etc.. My favorite vendor was demonstrating knives (out of their protective covers!!) on a bumpy bus in Paraguay – everyone was ducking under their seats to avoid imminent death. The most annoying are the miracle medicine vendors – they are like evangelical preachers, yelling at the passengers that they will drop dead tomorrow if they don’t buy their snake oil.

    The way buses take mountain curves in this part of the world gives one a fatalistic view on life…

  6. I find it fascinating what people sell on buses and why people think that a bus is a good place to sell electronics, shoes, TV rabbit ears, etc.. My favorite vendor was demonstrating knives (out of their protective covers!!) on a bumpy bus in Paraguay – everyone was ducking under their seats to avoid imminent death. The most annoying are the miracle medicine vendors – they are like evangelical preachers, yelling at the passengers that they will drop dead tomorrow if they don’t buy their snake oil.

    The way buses take mountain curves in this part of the world gives one a fatalistic view on life…

  7. I find it fascinating what people sell on buses and why people think that a bus is a good place to sell electronics, shoes, TV rabbit ears, etc.. My favorite vendor was demonstrating knives (out of their protective covers!!) on a bumpy bus in Paraguay – everyone was ducking under their seats to avoid imminent death. The most annoying are the miracle medicine vendors – they are like evangelical preachers, yelling at the passengers that they will drop dead tomorrow if they don’t buy their snake oil.

    The way buses take mountain curves in this part of the world gives one a fatalistic view on life…

  8. I find it fascinating what people sell on buses and why people think that a bus is a good place to sell electronics, shoes, TV rabbit ears, etc.. My favorite vendor was demonstrating knives (out of their protective covers!!) on a bumpy bus in Paraguay – everyone was ducking under their seats to avoid imminent death. The most annoying are the miracle medicine vendors – they are like evangelical preachers, yelling at the passengers that they will drop dead tomorrow if they don’t buy their snake oil.

    The way buses take mountain curves in this part of the world gives one a fatalistic view on life…

  9. Great story, Colin. I had a similar experience in Morocco – from fake watches to mouldy looking bananas. Sometimes an old man or woman would give up selling things and just hold out a hand for money.

    Heading to that part of the world later this year so it’s great hearing about your experiences. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  10. Great story, Colin. I had a similar experience in Morocco – from fake watches to mouldy looking bananas. Sometimes an old man or woman would give up selling things and just hold out a hand for money.

    Heading to that part of the world later this year so it’s great hearing about your experiences. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  11. Great story, Colin. I had a similar experience in Morocco – from fake watches to mouldy looking bananas. Sometimes an old man or woman would give up selling things and just hold out a hand for money.

    Heading to that part of the world later this year so it’s great hearing about your experiences. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  12. My wife was in a bus accident on her way back from Lima. Take heart in knowing your headed to Lima and not vice versa.

  13. My wife was in a bus accident on her way back from Lima. Take heart in knowing your headed to Lima and not vice versa.

  14. My wife was in a bus accident on her way back from Lima. Take heart in knowing your headed to Lima and not vice versa.

  15. My wife was in a bus accident on her way back from Lima. Take heart in knowing your headed to Lima and not vice versa.

  16. I’ll be honest, I enjoy these article series a lot! Mostly because you name a lot of things that are rather common around Latin America, but what I find the most interesting is how you relate to the events.

    By the way you are really facing serious danger on that cliff, it’s not uncommon to hear about fallen buses, I really hope you read this once you are safe and sound, I don’t want to scare you more than what you are.

    But hey, hold on a bit, you are almost there and you have survived a lot of things to give up on a hell bus filled of iPhones with Futbol!

  17. I’ll be honest, I enjoy these article series a lot! Mostly because you name a lot of things that are rather common around Latin America, but what I find the most interesting is how you relate to the events.

    By the way you are really facing serious danger on that cliff, it’s not uncommon to hear about fallen buses, I really hope you read this once you are safe and sound, I don’t want to scare you more than what you are.

    But hey, hold on a bit, you are almost there and you have survived a lot of things to give up on a hell bus filled of iPhones with Futbol!

  18. I’ll be honest, I enjoy these article series a lot! Mostly because you name a lot of things that are rather common around Latin America, but what I find the most interesting is how you relate to the events.

    By the way you are really facing serious danger on that cliff, it’s not uncommon to hear about fallen buses, I really hope you read this once you are safe and sound, I don’t want to scare you more than what you are.

    But hey, hold on a bit, you are almost there and you have survived a lot of things to give up on a hell bus filled of iPhones with Futbol!

  19. I’ll be honest, I enjoy these article series a lot! Mostly because you name a lot of things that are rather common around Latin America, but what I find the most interesting is how you relate to the events.

    By the way you are really facing serious danger on that cliff, it’s not uncommon to hear about fallen buses, I really hope you read this once you are safe and sound, I don’t want to scare you more than what you are.

    But hey, hold on a bit, you are almost there and you have survived a lot of things to give up on a hell bus filled of iPhones with Futbol!

  20. @Anthony: Ha! Exactly! Though with fewer white-noise emitting humidifiers!

    @Luciano: Ah, next time I’ll have to shoot a video of the adventure. Didn’t think to do so at the time.

    @Audrey: Oh geez, maybe the electronics guys weren’t so bad…everything I hear about Paraguay really makes me want to pass through it, just to see if all the stories are accurate. It sounds so crazy I have to see it firsthand!

    @Shaun: Funny you mention that – at first I thought the guys in the hats were just begging, because they came in with hands extended, asking for money for ‘cooking fuel.’ Then after they had extracted a few Soles from the passengers, they whipped out the electronics and started selling.

    @Braedon: Geez, that’s harsh. She was okay, right? I hear the accidents are super-common, especially in Peru. If you Google Peru and ‘bus,’ you get a lot of shocking headlines.

    @Nate: I have seen the future, and it’s analog :)

    @Alejandro: Thanks for the heads up, but thankfully I’m already several days past the whole experience (had to stagger the posts so I didn’t pile them all up at once). I’ve been in Lima for almost a week now, and man do I have some stories to tell. Some will go up next week!

  21. @Anthony: Ha! Exactly! Though with fewer white-noise emitting humidifiers!

    @Luciano: Ah, next time I’ll have to shoot a video of the adventure. Didn’t think to do so at the time.

    @Audrey: Oh geez, maybe the electronics guys weren’t so bad…everything I hear about Paraguay really makes me want to pass through it, just to see if all the stories are accurate. It sounds so crazy I have to see it firsthand!

    @Shaun: Funny you mention that – at first I thought the guys in the hats were just begging, because they came in with hands extended, asking for money for ‘cooking fuel.’ Then after they had extracted a few Soles from the passengers, they whipped out the electronics and started selling.

    @Braedon: Geez, that’s harsh. She was okay, right? I hear the accidents are super-common, especially in Peru. If you Google Peru and ‘bus,’ you get a lot of shocking headlines.

    @Nate: I have seen the future, and it’s analog :)

    @Alejandro: Thanks for the heads up, but thankfully I’m already several days past the whole experience (had to stagger the posts so I didn’t pile them all up at once). I’ve been in Lima for almost a week now, and man do I have some stories to tell. Some will go up next week!

  22. @Anthony: Ha! Exactly! Though with fewer white-noise emitting humidifiers!

    @Luciano: Ah, next time I’ll have to shoot a video of the adventure. Didn’t think to do so at the time.

    @Audrey: Oh geez, maybe the electronics guys weren’t so bad…everything I hear about Paraguay really makes me want to pass through it, just to see if all the stories are accurate. It sounds so crazy I have to see it firsthand!

    @Shaun: Funny you mention that – at first I thought the guys in the hats were just begging, because they came in with hands extended, asking for money for ‘cooking fuel.’ Then after they had extracted a few Soles from the passengers, they whipped out the electronics and started selling.

    @Braedon: Geez, that’s harsh. She was okay, right? I hear the accidents are super-common, especially in Peru. If you Google Peru and ‘bus,’ you get a lot of shocking headlines.

    @Nate: I have seen the future, and it’s analog :)

    @Alejandro: Thanks for the heads up, but thankfully I’m already several days past the whole experience (had to stagger the posts so I didn’t pile them all up at once). I’ve been in Lima for almost a week now, and man do I have some stories to tell. Some will go up next week!

  23. @Anthony: Ha! Exactly! Though with fewer white-noise emitting humidifiers!

    @Luciano: Ah, next time I’ll have to shoot a video of the adventure. Didn’t think to do so at the time.

    @Audrey: Oh geez, maybe the electronics guys weren’t so bad…everything I hear about Paraguay really makes me want to pass through it, just to see if all the stories are accurate. It sounds so crazy I have to see it firsthand!

    @Shaun: Funny you mention that – at first I thought the guys in the hats were just begging, because they came in with hands extended, asking for money for ‘cooking fuel.’ Then after they had extracted a few Soles from the passengers, they whipped out the electronics and started selling.

    @Braedon: Geez, that’s harsh. She was okay, right? I hear the accidents are super-common, especially in Peru. If you Google Peru and ‘bus,’ you get a lot of shocking headlines.

    @Nate: I have seen the future, and it’s analog :)

    @Alejandro: Thanks for the heads up, but thankfully I’m already several days past the whole experience (had to stagger the posts so I didn’t pile them all up at once). I’ve been in Lima for almost a week now, and man do I have some stories to tell. Some will go up next week!

  24. First, I am truly sorry for the suffering you are undergoing.

    Second, I am simply gleeful about the suffering you are undergoing, because it has led to some truly epic writing. I am in fact in danger of dying from laughter, and that was just from reading the title.

    Thank you, sir.

  25. First, I am truly sorry for the suffering you are undergoing.

    Second, I am simply gleeful about the suffering you are undergoing, because it has led to some truly epic writing. I am in fact in danger of dying from laughter, and that was just from reading the title.

    Thank you, sir.

  26. First, I am truly sorry for the suffering you are undergoing.

    Second, I am simply gleeful about the suffering you are undergoing, because it has led to some truly epic writing. I am in fact in danger of dying from laughter, and that was just from reading the title.

    Thank you, sir.

  27. First, I am truly sorry for the suffering you are undergoing.

    Second, I am simply gleeful about the suffering you are undergoing, because it has led to some truly epic writing. I am in fact in danger of dying from laughter, and that was just from reading the title.

    Thank you, sir.

  28. I laughed through that entire post! I have had numerous similar bus experiences throughout the world. You must add Nepal to your list if you want to have another harrowing bus ride. Actually, India would work, too, with swamis added! Glad you survived, nonetheless.

  29. I laughed through that entire post! I have had numerous similar bus experiences throughout the world. You must add Nepal to your list if you want to have another harrowing bus ride. Actually, India would work, too, with swamis added! Glad you survived, nonetheless.

  30. Though I haven’t been to places that you are writing from, I have lived in Pakistan for a number of years and I’ve seen similar roads and been on a bus in a mountain on a one-lane road going fast. That wasn’t fun.

    Keep up with your fun articles!

  31. Though I haven’t been to places that you are writing from, I have lived in Pakistan for a number of years and I’ve seen similar roads and been on a bus in a mountain on a one-lane road going fast. That wasn’t fun.

    Keep up with your fun articles!

  32. I don’t think the busdriver is paid enough for him willing to die. The moment people get extra cash to drive faster is when you should be worried. ;)

  33. I don’t think the busdriver is paid enough for him willing to die. The moment people get extra cash to drive faster is when you should be worried. ;)

  34. I don’t think the busdriver is paid enough for him willing to die. The moment people get extra cash to drive faster is when you should be worried. ;)

  35. I don’t think the busdriver is paid enough for him willing to die. The moment people get extra cash to drive faster is when you should be worried. ;)

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