Half way through my tour through Bolivia I thought I was going to be spared the nightmarish transportation experience I’d heard so much about. It was the day our bus drove through a massive cloud of pepper spray with all the windows rolled down that I knew I was wrong.
The bus jolted down the road as the fat man next to me slowly crept into half my seat. I hugged my bag and tried in vain to sleep. When we arrived in Trinidad the next morning I blearily debarked the bus and grabbed my backpack. I found the only open kiosk and asked how much to Guayaramerin. A man with a severely overgrown pinky nail tried to explain it to me but all I could think was ew. Gross. Gross. Sick. Ew. Every time he swayed it back and forth in front of my face. It was hard to concentrate on his voice but what I gathered was that the road to Guayaramerin was not good. Ugly, he would say. He said, this time of year you would be lucky to make it there. If you did make it it could take up to ten days. And that is how I ended up at the Trinidad, Bolivian airport.
I approached the Bolivian military airline counter, knowing it would be the least expensive. He quoted me the price, of which I was $BS 25 short. That is roughly 3 us dollars. He told me not to worry and replaced my money with a ticket. I followed the line of people out onto the tarmac where I waited to board the plane. The man from the counter soon appeared and called me out of line. He ushered me to the group of 3 pilots near the nose of the plane. He explained that I had been given a discount. All three nodded in agreement and propped up the ladder. Those of you who know me well can probably imagine the look on my face when I realized they were putting me in the cargo hold of the airplane. The history of my fear of flying is long standing, and even though I don't have panic attacks anymore before I board an aircraft I am still not a huge fan of flying. I was literally laughing out loud as I climbed the ladder and squeezed into a green mesh hammock style seat amongst the suitcases. As soon as I was tucked they pushed the ladder in over the top of me and sealed the door. Craning my neck to see the top of a precarious wall of boxes and luggage in front of me I wondered what I my chances were of surviving this sans concussion. There wasn’t enough room for my knees and I had to sit at an awkward angle. There was another woman in there with me who looked up and said “why do I always get put in here?!” with a sort of panic in her voice as she made the sign of the cross on her chest and began to pray. The plane bumped along and every once in a while I would grab the ladder for stability or push a suitcase back into its place. I mostly kept my head in my hands trying not to be sick in the overheating cargo hold.
Climbing down the ladder, happy to be breathing fresh air again, I welcomed myself to Brazil and then promptly realized I don’t speak the language.
I've included a haphazardly concocted photograph of that prize of an airplane ride. enjoy.