In January this year, Dana and I boarded a dirty Greyhound bus to get from Austin Texas to Los Angeles California.
Collectively, the ride took over 37 hours. And honestly, it was probably one of the worst experiences of our travels overseas.
We boarded a bus that was already mostly full of people, as it was already en route from somewhere else. It was late at night, so any seats that were spare were sprawled across by bags and greasy food wrappers and legs. Dana and I walked all the way down to the back of the bus before we realised we weren’t going to get a seat together, and by that time, people had already piled in behind us, so we couldn’t try sitting closer to the front.
I sat next to a middle-aged lonely looking man. He was nice enough, and as morning broke, I made polite conversation with him. There was such a sadness in him that I couldn’t place.
Dana had to wake up two young women asleep on the back row of seats, and was showered with a storm of abuse and all of the bad words I know. One of them was heavily pregnant, and the other was very gaunt. They were both snorting cocaine on the back seat, and were selling it to other passengers at the rest stops.
The night was long and uncomfortable. Traveling on Greyhound is quite an experience. I realised that the bag I placed at my feet had about $4000 worth of camera and computer equipment, not to mention money and passports. So there’s not much sleep to be had.
Throughout the night, as we were nearing the Mexican border, we were pulled off the bus a couple of times by butch-o border security.
I felt like saying, “Yes sir, my Australian husband and I are travelling through Texas in the hope of being smuggled into Central America.” “What?! That’s not allowed??”
Anyway, I’m sure we indulged their secure-border-bravado by being very nice and polite instead.
When we arrived in El Paso, we were given a one hour stop over. As we stepped out of the bus, we were greeted by a stark winter sun, and as crusty as it was (and as scared as we were of being stabbed and raped and pillaged), we made the most of our visit. We walked through the town and we felt like we had hit a warp in the space/time continuum. Latino music was blaring through large street speakers, but the town was mostly scarce of people.
We found our way to a small restaurante and cowered in a booth. OhGodSOHungry. We were warmly greeted by a little man probably in his late sixties. He spoke only in Spanish, as did the menu.
I smiled and nodded, not having a clue what he was saying. And without thinking, I spouted the only words I could confidently say, “Pollo y frijoles, por favor señor.”
(Chicken and beans, please Sir.)
He smiled and patted me on the back and said something else in Spanish, to which I responded by laughing.
I even fooled Dana into thinking that I knew what he was saying to me.
By the time we finished our food, we had to sprint to get back to the bus terminal. Obviously we made it in time, but a word to the wise, if you scoff down a Coke, and a plate full of chicken and refried beans, try not to run immediately after.
Red Dead Redemption: