Long Bus Ride To Potasi. Things Go Wrong in Bolivia

Today we find ourselves on an unexpected long bus ride.

We want to move out of Uyuni as the past 2 days have been a nightmare. My son is weak from being in the hospital, and I want to move on in case he needs treatment at somewhere not so remote.

Arriving For The Bus

We have organized bus tickets thanks to Antonia at Uyuni Tours, and this morning we aim to leave early.

In Bolivia, the buses are one step up from public transport, but really not coaches, as they are pretty old and worn out.  Often the seat will not operate to move to a lying position etc.

Boarding the Uyuni bus, we take the allotted front seats that we have paid a premium for only to discover that the young assistant is just an idiot.

Curtain Drama

the long bus ride

©Exploramum and Explorason – the curtain causes problems

Ah dear – this is going to be a long bus ride!  We ask this young assistant if he can open the curtains that are hung in front of our seat (protecting the front door and window) since they block our view of the road. As we cannot see the road we are starting to feel a little travel sickness creeping upon us.

Every time we open the curtain even a small amount, he closes them, just to be a pain as he is trying to wield his power as ‘the assistant’.  He is ticking everyone off on the bus marching up and down acting like he is in control. After all, the sun is behind the bus!

I explain that my son has been in the hospital and it is best so he can see the road and not get ill. Finally, he gives in, but not before it has resulted in my son having a meltdown, and a cry.

Folks on the bus all thank us for persisting and we realize we are now popular with the passengers for standing up to the young assistant.  It is odd, but often we find that bus drivers and staff have a sense of power over the passengers, and sometimes this can even be scary.

I realize later he was probably looking for money as a tip, but in the heat of the moment, I missed this.

Yes, this IS going to be a really long bus ride today!

Asleep on the Long Bus Ride


long bus ride

©Exploramum and Explorason – my son has just come out of the hospital and is still sick.

Finally, I manage to get my son some much-needed sleep. I notice how pale and skinny he is and I am really worried.  I want to get him fit and well and to move on out of this area as quickly as I can.

The Bus Breaks Down

Soon, the gears are not engaging, and shocking grinding noises halt the bus. It has a bus breakdown and once more there are ‘sighs’ from the passengers.

The problem is we are in the middle of nowhere and seemingly out of reception to gain any assistance.

The Long Wait

long bus ride

©Exploramum and Explorason – off for a walk

The young assistant and driver soon rip out a panel in the bus floor to access the engine, and I am forced to wake my son.  Besides that, as they tinker with the engine, the fumes start to rise inside the bus, and I am sure they are not healthy.


My son gathers some energy and goes for a walk nearby. It is good that he is getting a few rays from the sun which I hope will aid in his immune system restoring.  But soon I am aware we will have limited water so we head back to the shade. Alas, there really isn’t much shade. Stray dogs come and join us as we sit in the sunshine – waiting.

Fun And Games

First, we just sit as the road is quiet and there is no traffic. Next, we sing to the ukelele that a passenger has with them. Then people play cards and rock games. This long bus ride is getting longer by the hour, and we have no clue what is going on.

It Stinks

long bus ride

©Exploramum and Explorason – the floor is removed to expose the engine

Alas, now the engine has ceased so Explorason climbs back into the interior of the bus and he is happy here.  It is the first time I have seen a smile in days.  But even though there is no engine running, the fumes are thick inside, and I boot my son out of the bus – it stinks!

The long bus ride is proving to be more of an adventure than we bargained for, and several folks complain of feeling ill after inhaling all the fumes.

Blogging On The Side Of The Road

Here I sit, but this time I am typing my blog article on the side of the road. The sun is shining so bright, however, we cannot sit on the bus since they have opened the floor to expose the motor, and the fumes permeate the air.

Three hours later on this long bus ride and we are STILL waiting for a replacement bus.  Waiting on the side of the road in the heat of the day and with no shade or water is taking its toll on many.

There has been no announcement and the young attendant is fast losing his leadership role, fading into oblivion as passengers start to grumble.

Worse, is there been any consideration for women needing a bathroom? Men wonder off but there is not a place to squat that a woman can’t be seen.

We all just want the nightmare of the long bus ride to end soon.


Oh, the joys of travel!  Now the driver and young assistant have decided they need to turn the bus around, so they will try to roll this vehicle down the hill. So now we must all must muster our strength, and push this beast until it turns around. Even sickly little Explorason tries to assist the males.

Alas, next thing we know, we think the bus is going over the edge of the side of the road!

Now the ‘Dynamic Duo’ as we are calling them, have decided we must coast this bus down the hill to get lunch.


Local vendors think their ‘Christmases have all come at once’ as a busload of tourists and locals verge on their restaurant.

So we stop at a small roadside shelter and the lady has only four plates so we must wait and take turns.

However, the driver and his ‘challenged’ young assistant eat first, and as soon as they have virtually licked their plates, they make a dash for the bus and are hooting the horn. None of the other passengers have had food to eat!

There is still no toilet here at the shelters, and some passengers are getting quite upset. They don’t speak Spanish and they don’t know what to do.

A Replacement Bus

Without a word of warning or any instruction, we have to dash and bring our own bags to a replacement bus that has pulled up, and then we are off! As much as this is good, this is bad.  Women are groaning needing a toilet and this bus that has just arrived has no intention of stopping.

When times are tough, may I suggest that dignity must go out the window and one must go and squat in amongst the craggy rocks?

Now we have a new bus on the ‘long bus ride’ adventure.


long bus ride

©Exploramum and Explorason – arid land

We pass some pretty red trees, cactus, and craggy rocks as we move along, bound for Potasi. The scenery is sparsely vegetated, yet pretty beautiful.

Farmers and their Flocks

The wildlife is plentiful, as are the herds.  The basic farmhouses, with lone occupants, amaze me. Here farmers and folks with herds seem to dot themselves over the hills of Bolivia.

The rocks become more jagged. We pass some areas that remind me of the Grand Canyon with huge cavities in the ground. I do wonder if this was the USA if this would not be an incredible national park as it really is stunning.

Crops are drying in their piles. This has been common throughout Peru and Bolivia.

As Potasi comes into view, the long bus ride comes to an end and we arrive at a chaotic bus terminal.


heading to Sucre

©Exploramum and Explorason – happy to have new friends

We arrive at Potasi which is one of the highest cities in the world. Suddenly men are grabbing for our bags, and all talking at once to try to get us to their cars.

I firmly say no and head off to the side of the road, and it is quite overwhelming.

We try to get two hotels but the price is crazy. As we drag out big bags of luggage up the road, there is a group of guys off our bus that join us. “Come with us to Sucre” they invite unexpectedly, but enthusiastically.b Just moments before we had been asked I had thought we should travel on to Sucre and felt this was the right thing to do, and this was confirmation!

Off We Go


©Exploramum and Explorason – local farmer

Away we go, even though it is mid-afternoon by now. It’s great, as we shared a mini-van and had a good laugh. Another journey begins on our long day. Up the back hills and past herding sheep.

Changing Scene

Almost immediately the area became fields of gold and green. Houses changed and richer in all aspects.


©Exploramum and Explorason – houses improve

We also discover that all of us in the minivan want to go to the same hostel in Sucre. So the driver agreed to drive us there for no extra fee which is pretty great!


©Exploramum and Explorason – we love our room as it is clean, comfortable, and huge

We arrive and we get a fabulous room. It is large, has a great ensuite and is spacious, (actually it is huge) and lovely.

This is just the right place for my son to recuperate!

Comments and Questions

  • Have you ever been on transportation that broke down?
  • What did you do?
  • Any tips for our readers who might find themselves in the same situation?

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