Diaries of a 28 Hour Bus ride  

In Travel, much as in life, there are times where we need to make sacrifices in order to get to the places where we really want to be.  Normally we push ourselves to making these sacrifices by reminding ourselves of the reward at the end of the painful trip.  For one, I usually try to remind myself that it is the journey in which we grow, and not the destinations themselves. But in this case I couldn’t bring myself to believe my own lies.  I sat on the beach and bathed in happiness under the sun as long as I could, because I knew I wouldn’t see the its bright orange glow again for a while.  I was about to take a 28-hour bus ride down the length of Chile.

I know normally I write traditional articles using traditional forms of writing, but since I would be without my computer for the majority of this trip I decided that I might just jot down any old thought that came to mind as I was on the highway.  My intent was to then use these ideas to write an article, but instead I came up with this.  I guess it’s a little bit like twitter minus the computer or the internet, wow I am becoming an addict.  I did not edit these blurbs, I simply fixed typos.  I hope you feel the swing of emotions, as I did.

10pm – 1 hr before departure: I have arrived at the bus station way too early as usual, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been late for anything in my life.

1030pm – 30min B.D.: I’ve become a pylon in the center of a three person children’s games.  They race around me at top speed, I’ve never felt so useful yet inanimate in my life; I just wish one of them would tap my head and yell goose.  These kids are definitely on a pre-sleep buzz, I give it five minutes before one of them starts crying.

1038pm – 22min B.D.: I was 3 min off.  2 out of 3 kids crying…

1100pm – 28hrs Until Arrival (UA): I just realized that my camera got sand in it and is not working.  Looks like I have something to do for the next 28hrs, playing suck and blow with my camera will surely get the right responses from my conservative Chilean co-passengers.

1130pm – 28 ½ hrs UA: The guy next to me is my hero.  He is rocking out calf high leather hiking boots, tight jean shorts, and, because you didn’t think it could get better, he’s wearing black finger-less leather workout gloves.  Oh, he just cracked open an advanced Calculus book; a fashionista and a brain the ladies must love this guy!

1230pm – 27 ½ hrs UA –  I am sitting right underneath the scrolling speedometer they keep in Argentinean and Chilean buses so passengers can watch to make sure their driver is obeying the law.  I hope this doesn’t distract me from sleeping, not because of the alarm that goes off when the driver hits plus-100km/h, but because I am so enamoured with watching the speed magically stay between 98 and 99 as if the driver has rigged the system.  Or maybe he has set cruise control…

700am – 20 hrs UA – Wow, I just really knocked out there.  That might be the best I’ve slept on a bus ever, I am in quite a good mood.  I just sunk into the fine leather chair and let the twists and turns of the highway whisk me away to a land of milk and sugar.  I look out my window and see the desert in all its glory.  This place has always left me breathless.  To the first glance the desert seems bland and carrying a certain rusty monotony, but at further observation you can see its powerful features and giant seas of multi-coloured fine sand waves.  I love the desert.

900am – 20hrs UA: I hate the desert.  The desert sun has been beating down on my weary head for the past hour and a half and its sand has destroyed my camera.  I feel tired enough to sleep but each time I do I wake five minutes later in a pool of hot sweat. Oh, and someone just told me that we will arrive at about 5am which actually makes this 28 hour bus ride 30 hours. 20hrs UA

10am – 21 hrs UA:  I’ve just made my first Bano (bathroom) visit.  Why do guys feel the need to stand and pee on a moving bus?  Please swallow your pride and sit! I mean this wasn’t exactly The Colombian Rodeo but still.

1pm – 16hrs UA: So the inevitable happened.  The battery to my laptop died.  I am now on my own in this bus for the next 17hrs.  I no longer have the safety of my keypad to hide behind.  I think this is where the real journey begins.

130pm – 15 ½ hrs UA:  My neighbour has become my living pet peeve.  He lays his head on the shared arm rest, and listens to his Spanish language death metal at full volume with the earphones off his head as if we should be thanking him for sharing with us.  He will be the victim of my madness.

2pm – 15 hrs UA: They are playing a Zach Braff and Chandler flick on the bus! I want entertainment not torture.  Wow, I really think I’m tweeting on the bus.  Hi my name is Brendan and I’m an addict.

3pm – 14 hrs UA:  I’ve written 3 articles and I hate them all.  I’m starting to talk to my notepad as if it were my friend.  “Hey, that guys behind us is really snoring… dare me to drop an m&m in his open mouth?”  I’ve named my notepad Wilson after Tom Hanks’ famous lively friend.

4pm – 13 hrs UA:  Second Bano use, seriously learn to flush. Are they really playing this movie for a second time?  Great, another elaborate dance scene by Zach Brat. I’ll bet even the non-flusher would have no reservations pulling the trigger on this movie.

6pm – 11 hrs UA: I think my neighbour is going as crazy as I am; he tried to talk to me.  He asked me where I was from.  I told him I’m Japanese, I think he’s too shocked to respond.  He’s probably thinking “a blond Japanese guy?  Maybe he’s albino?”

7pm – 10 hrs UA:  I have spent the past hour teaching my neighbour the 8 Japanese words I know. He’s really buying this.  Things got scary as soon as he asked me his own words, but I’m creative: bus = Honda. Hahaha

715pm – 9 ¾ hrs UA: The craziness has definitely settled in.  I have just spent the last 15min pretending I have to jump the busover the every sign and street post we cross.  I am even keeping score.  I have 29 points.

730pm – 9 ½ hrs UA:  That may have just been one of the most colourful sunsets I’ve ever seen, and I wrote The Greatest Sunset.  The sky was filled with everything from purple to yellow, and just as the sun pushed below the dirt a small green shade appeared on top of the suns head like a punk rocker’s dyed hair.  Stupid sand.

12am – 5hrs UA: I have managed to distract myself for the past while watching the new Star Trek movie I feel like I’ve lost 2 hours of my life.  Maybe it’s just the long bus trip, or that something was lost in the translation when the movie was dubbed to Spanish, but that movie was pretty garbage.

530am – 30min late:  I have awoken from a night of sleepless tossing and turning.  My back aches and I really need to release 30 ½ hours worth of goods and materials.  My neighbour snore the whole night; at one point I became so annoyed I did actually drop an m&m in his gaping black hole, then faked a good sleep to hide.  Where are we?  I still don’t see city lights.

600am – Arrival: You know what they say, if you take a 28 hour long bus ride in Latin America, and you arrive in 31 you’ve arrived on time.  So after 31 hours on a bus, in the same seat, next to the same gas filled biker mouse from mars, I have arrived.  I hope the pain of the journey will make this destination taste even sweeter.

As I look back at the machine of plexi-glass and steel that held me captive for the past 31 hours of my life I wonder If I’ll miss it; kind of like a bus version of the Stockholm syndrome.  And as I walk towards the row of restless taxis I see my bus neighbour.  As we walk passed each other our eyes meet, and like a couple of marines leaving the battle field we share a shallow nod as if to say “we did it, and we will be stronger because of it.”

Brendan van Son – The World is my Jungle Gym

April 8, 2010


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