A tiny step for humanity, but what a leap for me! I, Jakob Arnim-Ellissen, on the 8th of August 2009 managed to sleep. In a bus. A Bolivian bus. A Bolivian bus on an unpaved road. Truly amazing.
But I didn’t manage to do that on my own. There are many people that contributed to this feat. I have to thank my travel-mate Flora for going on three overnight-buses in four nights with me, otherwise I would have never reached the needed level of tiredness. The bus company for not just promising, but actually delivering a funtioning toilet on board of the bus. And reclining seats. And food. The owners of our last hotel for the great patio that allowed optimal preparation and relaxation. The windows of the bus for rattling loud enough to drown all potential snores in the bus. I probably forgot some factors so let me finally thank anyone who contributed but wasn’t mentioned so far…
Sleeping on Bolivian’s dusty, unpaved road towards and through the Grand Chaco… Unbelievable.
However, that wonder didn’t last long as we crossed the border at 4.30 am and had to leave our bus to collect the Bolivian exit-stamps. The post in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by little huts, a couple of armed militaries and a cozy campfire, was kind of romantic I guess. My mind was occupied by the early hour. Back in the bus the adventure of entering Paraguay began.
The post where we got the valuable entry-stamp isn’t until about 300km into Paraguay but on this way we were stopped at least three times by lonely militaries checking our passports, before the ‘real’ custom-control in some kind of bar-shed. We had to leave the bus with our entire luggage, put it in a line on the floor and stand in a row next to it. Then a dog ran up and down, burying his nose in everything. After the dog was sent into the bus every passenger, one after the other, had to present his luggage to a military-guy who went through everything. Mine looked into the boots in my backpack, shook the figures of a chess-game I bought in Santa Cruz and stuck a screw-driver into an un-opened pack of playing cards (marking the cards instead of just opening the damn thing). The only reaction I got was an impressed nod when he found my pocket knife, in fact, a little later he approached me to ask me how much it had cost in dollars. So Flora and I were both clean, as were most of the other people in the bus. We still had to wait quite a while, because a French tourist-couple had not only tried cocaine and marihuana in Bolivia, but had also left the (almost) empty tubes in their bags… Not the smartest thing to do before crossing a border. According to the guy he even had to strip naked.
Well, nothing was found and we eventually continued our trip, including the French. After another two (or more, I lost count at some time) bored militaries checking our passports we finally got our stamps, but I can remember at least two more checks until we arrived in Asunción. There we booked into a cheap hotel (together with to Chilenean brothers who we had met in the bus) and set out to look for the boat to Concepción. It was too late to check the port, but a guy in the bus-terminal confirmed that the ‘Cacique’ would leave the next morning and we decided just to go there and try our luck.
We set our alarm at 5.30 am, when we took a taxi to the port, where we arrived at 5.00 as Flora’s cell phone was still on Peruvian time. Being early with no harm done we found the Cacique II and booked a cabin for two. The next 24 hours (or so we believed) we were going to spend on a boat going up the Rio Paraguay to Concepión…
Oh, one thing I almost forgot: I was a millionaire! For about five minutes. One Euro equals over 7.000 Paraguayan Guarani, therefore I got 1.000.000 Guarani from the ATM. An empanada costs 1.000 Guarani, a double room in a cheap hotel 50.000 the boat-trip to Concepción about 150.000. This is weird.