I was on a bus with my friend going from Santa Cruz to Sucre. It's a 12 hour ride, mostly on a dirt road. High up in the mountains, 8 hours into the trip, we came upon a long line of buses (going both ways) stopped on the road. Hundreds of people were walking around looking lost and worried. Some ate snacks, others chatted, but no one seemed to be doing much of anything.
We got off the bus to see what had happened and discovered that a small stream running down from the mountain and across the road had actually eroded the edge of the road to the point where it was too narrow for the buses to continue.
It wasn't a large hole, just a small erosion. Michelle and I looked around at the roughly 300 people milling about. We then looked at our watches and up at the sky. It would be dark in about an hour. Meanwhile, more buses were arriving behind us and on the other side of the "hole". We were both hungry, neither of us had used the bathroom in ages... the usual when you're backpacking the country.
It seemed simple enough to us: a stream full of mud and rocks, 300 grown men and women milling about - fix the hole!
So the two of us walked over to the stream, picked up some large rocks, and proceeded to begin filling up the hole in the road. Now, we weren't exactly inconspicuous - two gringas in the middle of nowhere among hundreds of Bolivians. Or maybe it was because we were girls. We still haven't figured out what it was that suddenly brought all the men to attention. (God forbid a girl should out think them.)
Two minutes later a huge "assembly line" had formed and rocks were being passed from hand to hand and stacked into the hole. Not fifteen minutes later, that road was FIXED! and buses were taking turns crossing.
My two top travel tips?
Pee before you go, don't drink a lot during the trip, and be prepared to be proactive even if you aren't in your own country.
(OK, that was three tips but who's really counting).
Bella.If you accessed this article from our July 2011 online newsletter, click here to return.