Thursday, February 9, 2012

Help! I've lost my spouse in Bolivia! Part II

I stayed on the bus until I had the vague sense that perhaps we were somewhere near the center then sought out the first Internet cafe available. I had remembered reading in the book that if you get lost in La Paz the best thing to do is walk downhill which, lacking a map in hand, is exactly what I did, stopping every now and then to reference something at another Internet cafe and check for emails from my esposo. When I finally arrived at the hotel I found that it was closed for the holidays, it was the 23rd of December after all. I retreated to the Internet cafe I had already solicited 20 minutes prior and resolved to stay there until I heard from Gow. It had now been about 2 hours and I hadn't heard a word despite the handful of emails and even Facebook messages.

Fifteen minutes later I returned to the hotel, El Consulado, to join Gow who had single-handedly managed to convince the caretaker of the big beautiful colonial house turned hotel to let us stay there despite being closed for the holidays. Turned out that Gow had spent almost 2 hours at the depot asking people if they had seen his esposa - some of whom said they had and pointed him in the opposite direction - before finally giving up and taking a taxi to the hotel, where he accessed the Internet and received my messages. We spent two nights at the Consulado, a gorgeous house with enormous rooms, high ceilings and windows, claw foot tubs and the best breakfast in all of Bolivia.  I highly recommend it to anyone headed to La Paz who wants to splurge for a night or two! 

Help! I've lost my spouse in Bolivia!

On December 23rd we arrived in La Paz, Bolivia's second largest city, after a 4 hour bus ride preceded by a seriously cramped overnight train from Uyuni to Oruro. We got off the bus at the first stop in the city, announced as "La Paz, El Alto", and soon discovered it was at least one stop too early and that we were near the airport. The driver of the taxi we hailed explained that, due to restrictions on vehicles entering the city, he could only take us to a depot where we could get a combi to where we wanted to go.  He dropped us in a chaotic landscape filled to capacity with street vendors and mini-buses and eventually we reached semi-consensus that all of the buses were going into the city and we just needed to head to the front of the line. 

The second bus from the front was full but the back seat of the one in the very front was open so I called to Gow and proceeded to wrestle my luggage to the back.  When I turned around, my backpack taking up a full seat next to me, three women were filing in behind me. Then three men, none of them Gow. Just before the door slammed shut and the van roared off I saw him on the sidewalk looking intent and decidedly in the opposite direction.

Now I suppose some people would have yelled to stop the bus, but I was so bewildered it didn't even occur to  me at the time.  It was as if I thought that someone would just know that my husband wasn't on the bus and that it would stop without me saying anything.  When I realized that this was not the case, and that we were heading into the city "sin frenos" I consoled myself with thoughts that he would probably figure out what happened pretty quickly and would simply get on the next bus. Anyway, I knew that I would be fine, I had enough money to at least pay for the bus ride and go to an internet cafe. Plus I remembered the name of the hotel we had discussed going to. And I knew that he would be fine too, he had most of the money and his persistence would make up for what he lacked in Spanish skills. He also had the travel book. I really only became slightly concerned when the bus pulled onto the highway revealing a canyon of casas, piled one upon the other as far as the eye could see. All of a sudden I realized that the situation could be more difficult than I imagined, like a real-life "Where's Waldo" episode.