I have to be honest.
I was really nervous to take a bus in Bolivia. First, I don’t speak Spanish. And the drivers don’t speak English. I also read a lot of feedback on the Internet and met many travelers who decried the horrors of overnight Bolivian bus rides; everything from the uncomfortable seats, to the bumpy unpaved roads, to how freezing the buses were … to the point that there was ice on the inside of the windows!
So, when I discovered that there was an option to take a day bus from Samaipata to Cochabomba, I was on board (literally!)
It was a local bus, and my German travel partner and I were the only non-Bolivians taking this ride. It was interesting to see them get on the bus with all manner of goods: large sacks of rice, eggs in a bag, boxes of potatoes. Of our 9-hour ride, most of it was over a bumpy, dirt road that climbed high into the mountains on narrow, curvy passes. Not for the faint of heart! But the view was magnificent and the ride wasn’t overly uncomfortable… except for the old man who got on at about hour six, sat next to me, and proceeded to stuff coca leaves into his mouth for the next three hours and then breathe his foul smelling coca breath on me. But you can´t have it all!
BUS FROM SAMAIPATA TO COCHABOMBA:
I was pleasantly surprised by Cochabomba. Although it has less to see than Santa Cruz from a tourist perspective, it has some nice restaurants and cafes. We stayed one night here. The next morning we took a taxi to see the Christ statue overlooking the city — which incidentally claims to be 30 or so meters higher than the statue in Rio — and then went to the bus station to catch a ride to La Paz.
The bus from Cochabomba to La Paz was a completely different story from the one above. This was a double-decker and we were lucky enough to score the front row on the second floor (read: AWESOME VIEW.) The seats were also luxury, reclined halfway and had a leg/foot rest. It was a sweet ride. But it was the scenery that once again stole the show. My video below doesn’t do justice to the feeling of driving on top of the world, with ragged mountains every for miles.
BUS FROM COCHABOMBA TO LA PAZ:
Now, you would THINK that the top of these mountains would be empty. Not so. There were several little villages… some just a huddle of stone and clay huts, bracing against the brisk, bitter winds. The bus stopped at one of these for a food break, and while the toilets were India-worthy, the people watching was almost as interesting as the mountain backdrop.
I don´t have many pictures of indigenous people because many get angry if you try to photograph them. So, here´s a look at some scenery instead:
These buses would also just stop anywhere along the road if there was someone waiting. Now again, you must think: 10,000+ feet high road, bitterly windy… who is going to wait on this road? Surprise! Many people. At one of these stops, two guys got on and started singing. I didn’t know what was happening at first.
MEDICINE MEN SELLING ON THE BUS:
I think my days of day-buses in Bolivia are numbered… but these daytime experiences were really an awesome chance to see the changing landscape and really experience Bolivia.
*Side note: The hostel we stayed at in Cochabomba – Residencial Familiar – is a place where people go to kill themselves. Seriously. Even a friend who is staying at the cheapest places because of her strict budget hated it. The doors aren’t that secure or private and it probably hasnt been properly cleaned in 50 years. Just in case you were thinking of staying here….