The Mexican bus trip that refused to end

One of the many beautiful old and abandoned houses I saw on the 30 hour trip

One of the many beautiful old and abandoned houses I saw on the 30 hour trip

It was around 2am when I was woken by two men speaking angrily in Spanish…Well they could have been exchanging pleasantries, but when you don’t speak much Spanish it is hard to tell the difference.

I parted the curtain to see a Mexican soldier holding a machine gun right outside my window. Suddenly another soldier stomped onto the bus and demanded to see the ID of a young man sitting up the back.

This story starts about 14 hours ago in Tijuana, when my brother Thomas and I decided to catch a bus from Tijuana to La Paz. We were told it would take 22 hours, which was fine – it would be good to travel overnight because we’d get a free bed. Essentially we ignored the first rule for backpackers in Central America: don’t travel at night – especially through northern Mexico.

It was seven hours into the journey and I was enjoying myself. I’d had a nap and I’d seen some amazing countryside. Lots of barren land, cacti, beautiful houses, and gorgeous mountains. Plus it was like a thrill ride – every time I opened my eyes we seemed to be careening around a corner on the edge of a cliff at 100kms an hour.

It was just after sundown, around 7PM, when suddenly the bus stopped. This wasn’t unusual, it stopped a lot, which is why it took 22 hours to get to La Paz. Everything was fine – until 15 minutes later and we were the last people left onboard and the bus was still stopped.

The driver came back onboard and started speaking to me in Spanish.

“Ahh no hablo Espagnol” I quickly said.

Then he left me and Thomas on the bus. Alone.

Fortunately a passerby came and explained in part English and part Spanish that the bus had engine troubles and we’d have to wait here for three hours until another one came to the rescue.

So there we were, stuck in a small, rural, Mexican town that no one even knew the name of. It was pitch black and we had three hours to kill. This was the sort of place where even the locals refused to venture away from the bus station after dark, instead huddling around a tiny tv under the fluorescent lights. So Thomas and I went to get some beer.

The bottle shop was a couple of hundred of metres away. There weren’t that many people around and the main street wasn’t very well lit.

I guess they don’t see many blonde haired Australians walking down the main street in rural Mexico because everyone we passed stared at us. Then we walked past a dark ally and a young man started chasing us, we bolted across the road and into the bottle shop a few doors down with the adrenaline pumping.

I wanted to get back to the bus station pretty quickly and insisted that Thomas get Sol beer because it’s one of my favourite – well, if nothing else is available it’s my favourite. We grabbed it and ran back to the bus station. I went to the bathroom while Thomas cracked his first beer.

“It has tomato juice in it,” he said when I came back.

“What do you mean? It’s beer, why would it have tomato juice in it?”

He was right though (sorry, Thomas), it was beer mixed with tomato juice. It was like the worst bloody mary I’d ever had. Mind you, I’ve only ever had one other bloody mary and it was also terrible, so there’s a good chance I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

That little adventure and two beers (we couldn’t stomach anymore) took up the first hour of our wait. My memories of the next two hours are a blur of awesome Spanish soap operas, Mexican Idol, and soccer all playing on this tiny little television that 10 people were crowded around. My favourite were the soapies. The storylines in these always seem to be the same – husband and wife have baby, evil twin comes to steal baby, husband tries to get baby back and gets shot, husband falls into coma, wife mysteriously gets baby back and weeps by her husbands side until he wakes up. I should write for Spanish soap operas.

Anyway the second bus eventually came and I promptly fell asleep until my 2am wake-up call at the military checkpoints. The checkpoints are to stop drug trafficking within the country but they weren’t too bad. We passed through 4 and only got stopped at two, both times the soldiers checked a couple of IDs and let us proceed. I pretended to be asleep both times so they didn’t talk to me…it seemed to work. I saw one bus where the passengers had been forced to disembark and unpack all their luggage.

We eventually made it to La Paz in one piece, though, and there are several important lessons I’ve taken onboard:
1. Mexican time really doesn’t mean 10-15 minutes late. It means hours late
2. Always take toilet paper everywhere. I usually do this anyway but for some stupid reason didn’t bring any to Mexico
3. Ditto with hand sanitiser
4. Eating is really important to Mexicans so don’t bother preparing by bringing food. We stopped for breakfast which lasted around 45 minutes
5. If you think something is wrong it probably is

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *