It is unbelievably cold in our hostel room. I have no idea why icicles are not hanging from my nostrils when I wake, and my eyes have not frozen shut with the sub zero temperatures. It is actually warmer outside, and I’m wearing all of the stinking clothes from last nights session. I’ve discovered Paddy had returned a little while after me, and was asleep in his cot as I attempted to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Little was I aware he had constructed a foolproof security device by the door in order to wake him should anyone try to enter. I smash my bare feet into the coat stand, which starts it swinging over to give me a full frontal in the head, resulting in a loud “fuck!” Paddy continues to slumber, totally unaware that potentially someone was robbing him dry. He’s a genius.
In a groggy world we’re wandering apparently aimlessly around the town trying to find a way out. Chile it the destination, and from here you can charter jeeps to cross back over the unforgiving Bolivian wilderness, or you can wait a few days and get a bus. We’re in no mood to hang around. For forty bucks we organise a ride to take us to another freezing cold hostel, wake up at 4am the next day, then drive to the border. It’s not a bad arrangement considering we’ll be in a new country by tomorrow afternoon.
It doesn’t help matters that this is Corpus Christi day. I’ve no idea what it really means, but everything is closed. Not everything, just everything useful for getting us out. Once again nobody knows anything about anything, and we’ve covered a lot of ground and time before we’ve finally booked a ticket to the frontier. Somewhere in between we’ve eaten watery soup with a carrot in it, visited an interesting train engine graveyard, and got in a fight with the angry proprietress of our icy hostel establishment. Well I did anyway.
It’s approaching the time to leave as we returned to the digs to pick up our bags. The door to the hostel is locked, the owner nowhere to be found. After banging on the closed vale several times, anxious that we will miss our man, a market stall holder behind informs us that they’ve gone out and will be back later. Well that’s just great. How the hell are we meant to get our gear with the hostel closed and locked, with no sign of the owner for what could be for hours. I give the doors a frustrated push one last time, and to my surprise they give way and screech open.
No sooner am I over the threshold, when the little lady that told us the owner was out is on her feet, screaming bloody murder at me. Paddy is doing his best to calm her down, while I’m doing my best to wind her up. According to Paddy, she’s claiming I was the drunk in room 16 (we were in room 2) who kept her up all night, my actions are that of a thief, and I’m a…..Credit to the calm influence of the Irishman, we manage to get our belongings as she produces the key she had all along. It’s time’s like these I really wish I did speak Spanish, because she would have been getting a barrage of abuse for nearly making us miss our shuttle out, all because she couldn’t be bothered to get up off her lazy fat Inca arse. As it stands I do my best in my mother tongue anyway, which does little to help Paddy’s diplomacy.
We make a quick getaway as the crowds have gathered outside to see what the woman is bleating about, and manage to reach the jeep in time. It’s a similar set up to the one we’ve just been in for four days, and we’re accompanied by yet another Irish girl, two Chileans and a Frenchman. Paddy and myself are once again squeezed into the back, and we lurch away down dusty tracks towards pastures new, until the rear drivers side wheel falls off.
I’m staring out the window thinking about Geoffrey Rush’s performance in The Kings Speech, when I’m snapped back into reality with a loud crunch and a screaming tyre. Credit to the driver, he does well to control the vehicle at that speed, when in the front of my mind and the fear in my eyes I know we’re going over. You hear many a story of these jeeps flipping out during the tours, but thankfully he regains control and we shudder to a halt. There we sit, in the middle of nowhere, the sun going down, the temperature dropping, and our guide scratching his head at the missing part on the rear left axle. It looks like we’re set for the night, in a similar setting to that of The Hills Have Eyes.
A couple of hours and a lot of mumbling pass by while he does his best to fix a hopeless situation. We don’t need a new tyre, we need a new jeep. He’s not going to patch it up himself by the side of the road. We wait in vain for some passing lights, but out here that isn’t likely to happen often, and would you honestly stop if a man was flagging you down by the side of a Bolivian dirt road in the middle of the night? It’s the oldest trick in the book. A kind soul still falls for it, and thunders off to get aid.
An indiscernible amount of time later and someone has picked us up in a new vehicle to take us to the hostel. Our bags will follow later. This is where it gets really dubious. In what could be one of the most elaborate rouses ever, our pilot is now making off with five ruck sacks of stuff, which he could make a killing from. Either that or they’re now being stuffed with narcotics, ready to be delivered by us across the border into Chile. How easy would it be to do? It amazes me they’ve not thought of it before. Or have they?
It’s a familiar lodging we eventually pull into, thankful of some hot tea and supper. By now we’re all fed up, cold and tired, so it isn’t long before we’re utilising several blankets to heat our shivering frames once again. With the alarm set for 4am, we can only hope our luggage will arrive in time, clothes and belongings intact, without new stitched pockets lined with kilo’s of coke. If you see me next on Banged Up Abroad you’ll know what’s happened. That’ll be my excuse anyway.