Overnight buses are a way of life for the South American backpacker. Not only do you spend bugger-all money getting to a place, you also save cash on a night’s accommodation.
That may sound like the most tight-arse thing in the world, but it’s moments like this where you have to remember that the bloke who owns Jim’s Mowing asks for a doggy bag for soup and still buys toilet paper and glad wrap in pallet-sized catering packs to save 2c per metre. I saw it on Today Tonight so you know it’s a watertight fact. He seems like the sort of bloke who you’d run into at a party and immediately regret running into at a party.
I violently digress.
When you talk to many a joe-blow traveller on the gringo trail, you’d be forgiven for thinking overnight buses are a hellish cesspool of unwashed locals and seats covered in bodily fluids. Not true, dudes.
I write to your eyeballs from the top of a double decker coach worming its way through the northern plains of Argentina. To my left is Siz, reclined 160 degrees, wearing a bus-provided blanket and pillow ensemble that would make that fella from the shouty mattress ads jealous.
To my right is my little brother Peckers, surrounded by his own sumptuous leather recliner, headphones plugged into the surround sound enjoying a movie. Granted, that movie was in a 10-pack that included 7 Adam Sandler flicks and cost $3, but nonetheless it is entertainment. I assume the plot is something along the lines of ‘bad actors can’t get work and this is a succession of their horribly failed auditions’. I may be wrong.
As for me, I’m connected to the Wi-Fi busting out this pile of shit while the others aren’t particularly talkative.
I’ve found overnight buses somewhat cathartic. Generally there’s no use dicking around on your phone. Working Wi-Fi is unquestionably the exception. Reading, writing and sleeping can soak up time, but if you’re in for 20+ hours of non-stop sitting you can’t keep them in constant rotation. That means a good old fashioned ‘look out the window and ponder life’ is in order.
In this crazy mixed-up world there’s now a novelty in just being. I’m pretty sure my Great Grandma’s bread and butter was ‘looking at nothing and thinking about stuff’, but now the overnight bus is one of the few places I’ve been able to get that.
Don’t get me wrong, 20 minutes in catharsis seems like a crock of shit and I’m quivering thinking about my Facebook feed. You can stack on as many pairs of rose-coloured glasses as you please – fact is Great Granny’s downtime would’ve been boring as batshit. But in those beautiful moments, when it’s just me, a bus window, and the open road, I feel a little bit of Zen.
The long-haul bus is also essentially a free tour. I see a lot of people on Facebook are quite keen on the airplane-wing-on-fluffy-cloud aesthetic, but a sheet of white is a sheet of white. You can say you’re flying over France, but I’m just as easily convinced you’ve cleverly dispersed a sizeable pack of cotton balls on your kitchen floor and done some excellent aspect photography with a Kinder Surprise toy.
Seeing the countryside from the countryside is mint. I come from a place that is home to a little gem called Mount Remarkable. As it happens, South Australia’s remarkable scale is quite different to the rest of the World’s. You could piss over Mount Remarkable if you had a stern bladder. Cruising through terrain like the Andes is, in two words, fucking I-don’t-even-know.
If we got halfway and then turned around for bad weather, I’d still give the driver a ‘cheers chief’ and a firm pat on the arse.
Call me nuts, but I’ve really warmed to a good longhauler. Where else do you get to sit in a Lay-Z-Boy, switch off entirely and have the world just pass you by.
You heathens can keep your economy seated, overpriced, size 14 carbon footprinted buses of the sky. I’ll be down here enjoying the slow jiggle of a Greyhound trying to work its way over speed humps, gazing out the window wondering what viral content I’m missing on social media.
Just like Great Gran.