La Doña Anita opened the door in a pink, silk dressing gown and beckoned us in with her cigarette.
She looked older but just as glamorous as her website profile as she shuffled along the fifth-floor corridor in white slippers.
‘How long are you staying in Tarija ?’ she asked in a throaty, husky voice; her accent was strange, very unBolivian.
‘We leave tomorrow for Cochabamba on the bus’
‘OH NO! Not the bus,’ she rasped, dramatically placing her unvarnished left hand over her mouth while waving her perfectly manicured, red-nailed cigarette-hand in the air.
She looked me gravely in the eye; I couldn’t help wondering about her bloodshot eyes.
´It must be a night bus. you see, they drive by night so they can see the lights of oncoming cars. That mountain road is not wide enough for two cars. ! And tomorrow there is another storm, a red alert.
She paused to let her words sink in, then inhaled deeply on her cigarette, puffing plumes into the smoke-filled apartment.
´Be careful, Bolivian roads are terrible. I am Brasilian, not Bolivian’ she proudly declared.
Our bedroom was unique; a cornucopia of clutter, home to collections of old watches, model aircraft, spectacles, belts and worringly, wall-mounted rifles and samarui swords.
Nan rolled into a ball on the bed and cried about the bus journey, Darragh and I felt sick.
We had arrived very early that morning in the midst of a rainy season thunderstorm.
Both the weather and the noisy, crowded bus station were a culture shock.
Station criers screeched ‘Bermejo , Bermejo!! ‘ advertising the next departure.
Our first job was to buy bus tickets for a sixteen hour trip to Cochabamba to visit the Christian Brothers in Centro Hermano Manolo.
The first grubby ticket desk was fronted by a lady, with her head on her arms, snoozing.
We moved to the second and interrogated a reluctant sales lady about her bus.
Does it have a toilet?
Do you have a photo of the bus?
She proudly pulled out a beautiful, glossy bus brochure.
Three of us looked suspiciously at each other and her; we had no other option and bought the tickets.
We had our choice of seats; we were the only three passengers booked aboard so far.
La Doña Anita had only confirmed our suspicions.Our spirits were already low after the night bus, the 3am border crossing, the lashing rain and the zika virus threat.
‘My travelling days are over ‘ Nan announced in our ashtray bedroom.
‘Not for a while’, I moaned, looking at the rifles on the wall, ‘we first have to get out of here!’