Chile Bus Horrorshow…

Chile, sometime around the turn of the millennium, I’d gone out there with Craig Jarvis to travel around for a few months and see what we could find in the way of surf. We’d found some epic waves with no one around but us and the ragtag crew we’d assembled.

After a good month exploring the wondrous sand point breaks of south central Chile by 4x4 I needed to head north, the mysto reefs of Iquique and Arica beckoned.
I wanted to see the desert: the Atacama, the driest place on earth and the heaving reefs of the isolated desert outpost towns. I’d sussed from an ASL issue that featured Margo and Magoo De La Rosa surfing a square right slab that it had to be one of those joints.
Jarvi didn’t want a bar of it, he was ensconced in his own private little heaven in Pichilemu with two sweet left points, cheap rum and coke, hot chicks and a hotel room that cost £3 a night.
The night before we left he also got a vicious bout of wrong guts. He couldn’t sleep an hour without having to do a bolt to the bathroom to unleash something from some orifice. We were aggravated that he kept waking us up but we couldn’t help but chuckle as he Technicolor yawned what was left of his burritos.
Served him right for bailing on the mission north. Sure it was a 1000 mile trip and two days on a coach but hey that’s what we’d come for: to explore Chile.
The coach ride from Pichilemu back to Santiago is no picnic. It’s a good six hours. No bother we thought. We got to Santiago at lunchtime but even with our Kiwi mate Terence who spoke fluent Spanish we couldn’t find the right bus stand for the bus north. Top tip if you are travelling in South America- having someone along that can speak good Spanish is a real help as people rarely speak English, especially on the coast, and the Spanish they speak is such a backwards version of the language even Spanish PhD Dr Terry had trouble understanding what the hell was occurring a lot of the time.
Eventually after a lot of waving of hands and shrugs of shoulders we figured out there were two central bus stations in Santiago … and we were at the wrong one, so we had to yomp a mile across town with coffin bags to get to the right one. Which kinda sucked balls.
Anyhoose. A lot of cursing and sweating later we got to the right bus depot, coughed up £40 for the trip north and waited for our departure.
The coach was awesome, well kind of, the big reclining seats were a big plus, it wasn’t super full, we’d get food and the occasional stop to stretch the legs and hopefully not get left behind. On the downside the bathroom was pretty grotty. The bus had a man, kind of like a ticket inspector/host he gave us a little speech that our man Terry translated as best he could, in essence the bog was for pissing in only, no dropping the kiddies at the pool/laying cable/snapping off King Kong’s finger etc. Which seemed harsh but fair seeing as we were in the cool kid’s seats at the back of the bus by the bog.
So off we went driving through the awesome Central Valley of Chile wending our way north to the southern edge of the Atacama, an area so devoid of life that when Darwin traversed the area in a few weeks on mule back the only evidence of life he say was some lichen on the bones of a vulture.
Come 6 of the clock the hosty dude brought around a little in-flight style meal. Drink, biscuit and a “burger” (and yes I am doing that rabbit ears ironic quote sign when I write that).
Everyone else looked at it and wisely opted not to eat it. It looked like the worst kind of donkey burger you expect to get at third division football grounds or in tramp ridden coach stations in the shitey parts of England.
Maybe it was too much travel, or lack of sleep but I somehow forgot the common sense that everyone else was sticking too even though they were hungry, and ate the thing. I had bombproof guts anyway, years of surfing in raw sewage in Aberystwyth and a youth spent messing around in unsavoury rivers had given me enough bouts of gastroenteritis, giardia and other comical stomach ailments to make my digestive tract a no-fly-zone for stomach bugs. I was immune.
Or so I thought.
An hour or so later my guts did that dropping thing. One minute you feel like you’ve got a big, nutty fart brewing, next minute the bomb doors are tweaking and you know you’re in big, urgent, poo-shaped trouble.
I had to break the code and do more than pee in the toilet.
I was not at all well. It felt like my insides had liquefied and headed south, was it possible to get Ebola from a dodgy donkey burger? I didn’t think so but it certainly felt like I had some rad new to science disease that was turning me to mush inside.
Of course with ‘no pooing’ as the rule there was no bog roll. After ten minutes turning myself inside out I had to remedy this. Thankfully there were some torn, slimy tatters of a wet newspaper in the bottom of the bog’s bin … any port in a storm eh? And thankfully the bog featured a massive sliding window so I could actually hang my upper half out of the coach and get some welcome fresh air because I was sweating like a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest.
After twenty minutes of hell I returned sheepishly to my seat and let my crew know what had been occurring and to avoid the bog if they valued their olfactory system. At this point Terence waved the fresh, full, quilted, luxury, emergency bog roll he had in his backpack.
That hurt. A. Lot.
Things then got a bit worse as the hosty guy proceeded to catch a whiff of the lingering stench and had a big, angry shout about not pooing in the toilet again. With arm waving. Staring at me the whole time.Not too embarrassing. Honest.
On the plus side at least I only had another 30-hours to deal with on the bus.
At least Jarvi found it funny when I caught up with him back in Santiago a few weeks later*, ‘Karma bru, that’s what you get for laughing at others misfortune.’

*Batty and I flew back from Arica to Santiago. Way easier and less deadly burgers.