Government building on the town square, Sucre.
Well, how do you describe the worst journey of your life (and considering we´ve travelled through some pretty poor countries in South East Asi, that is saying something). We got to the bus station at 7pm and after fighting our way through a throng of humanity, watched numerous lovely modern coaches depart, watched in horror as something that was held together by rust and rope pulled in to our spot. It was dark by this time, but the bus had no lights, so had to get on aided by torchlight, climbing over adults and babies asleep in the aisles. When we found our seats, one was basically bare metal so the next 12 hours was not likely to be very comfortable. The aroma in the bus left much to be desired also, and we dread to think what was making the floor so sticky!! We had been told that the bus would stop every two hours for toilet stops where we would all be woken and jostled about, so didn´t expect a smooth journey.
A real live dinosaur at the Parque Cretacico, Sucre.
What came next, though, went from bad to farce. Half an hour into the journey the driver stopped at a cafe and said "dinner time" so everybody traipsed off to either eat or just mill about. From that point on we stopped three times - once when our boys went to the front of the bus to mime what would happen if they could not get off and go for a wee, and twice due to a major wheel malfunction ie: a puncture in the inner tube for which there was no spare and no means of getting the wheel off. Considering the roads we were driving on ie: single lane and sheer drops over a cliff if you miss the edge, this journey was horrendous. It took an hour the first wheel stop for the driver and his cohorts to work out that they couldn´t do anything, so we limped to the next town to wake up the local tyre man at 2am for assistance. The old joke "how many Bolivians does it take to change a tyre" can be answered very simply - one! Fifteen of them tried, but only the tyre man had any success and he took two hours to do it. By this time, most of us were absolutely miserable, freezing cold and feeling like murdering someone. AT one point, Melissa did suggest to the bus conductor that he place the wheel jemmy somewhere out of her reach, or he risked his own life! From then on, it was full speed ahead (that is, about 15 kms an hour) for the next 6 hours until we reached Sucre
(with no further toilet stops). Funnily enough, just as we got to Sucre, the conductor had the nerve to actually come and check our tickets - our guide told him that he should be paying us for the experience. Needless to say, he didn´t get the joke. My advice to anyone taking a public night bus is DON´T!!! But if you must, don´t eat or drink anything for the previous four hours as toilet stops as at the discretion of the driver, and seeing as he is a man and can probably just pee out the window, there may be none! At the time, we were in agony, but at least we can laugh at it now.
Sucre, thank goodness, has completely redeemed our opinion of Bolivia. The city is clean, tidy, the traffic is fairly calm and best of all we are staying in a lovely 4 star hotel. Our guide probably thinks we´re the travellers from hell, because when we went to get lunch (all 16 of us, for which he had rung ahead and warned the cafe), the waitress seemed to write anything she pleased on her order pad and the orders were all wrong. She then proceeded to blame everyone else for not telling her what we wanted!! Anyway, after some much needed food and a bit of a rest, we went for a quick walk around the plaza and then out on the Dino Truck to the cement works above the city where a stack of dinosaur footprints were found in a cliff face. You can´t get close to them, but they look just like ant tracks running up a kitchen wall. They are vertical now, but obviously (due to tectonic movement), the wall used to be a lake bed and the footprints were left in its mud and then covered by volcanic ash about 92 million years ago. The entry includes a guided tour, and the guide was actually very good with an extensive knowledge of dinosaurs and prehistoric times. The park also has lots of model dinosaurs made out of concrete and fibreglass including the biggest one in the world (and yes, it´s pretty big). when we got back, there was once again a protest march in the town square (they seem to follow us everywhere we go), and once again they were complaining about the government. Melissa was pretty whacked so got a Chinese takeaway and went to bed, while Noel went out to dinner with our leader and one other from the group - lovely pizza and wine across the road from the hotel. Bed never felt so good as it did tonight, not even after 24 hours economy class to London!