Waiting for a Jungle Bus at an Abandoned Petrol Station

I once spent an entire day waiting for a jungle bus. Most of the day was spent sitting in an abandoned petrol station in a small town called Salvaccion, in the Manu National Park, in Peru, in the Amazon Rainforest. Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s a picture of a lorry in a river:

Lorry in Amazon River

Actually, that’s not a river. It’s a road. The road the bus had to travel to come fetch me, my co-volunteers and our guide, and take us to wherever it was we were going. We had no idea if the jungle bus was going to make it. We were quite content with that; “maybes” and “might dos” and “if you wear this goat’s tooth amulet and swear to the monkey gods of Razek then there’s the slight possibility that you’ll get out of this alive” are commonplace in the jungle.

Abandoned Petrol Station and Lorry

So we got comfortable under a former petrol station now abandoned. It was basically a roof on four pillars and the five of us made the most of it.

Miguel, Lionel and Alessandra went for exercise and dance (to this day I have no idea why). I played cards with Alix, using my 14-year-old pack of cards from a family holiday to Mallorca when I was seven.

Playing Cards at Petrol Station

It rained intermittently, and I’m not talking a light London drizzle. It never drizzles in the jungle. If it’s raining, it’s pouring. It’s wonderful to look at and listen to. Our petrol station became our solace. We’d run back to it through sheets of rain after being caught out with a brief visit to a local store for snacks. The smashing on the corrugated iron roof was deafening.

We passed about three hours like that. In England or in America or anywhere western, people would get bitchy and whine about how they can’t wait this long because they have to go and get their nails painted or have something important to do like eat cream cheese bagels and watch crap TV. But in the jungle it made no difference. No one was listening. If you expected a bus to arrive on time, more fool you. If you had a specific schedule and no plan B, more fool you.

For us, we reached a point where it was no longer worth waiting there; the river was too high and we had no way of contacting the bus for “traffic updates,” so we left our petrol station. Miguel had managed to contact a contact of his on someone’s radio (he wandered off for a while and when he came back he said, “Okay, we go now”).

We met Miguel’s friend, whose name I forget, and we were led out of Salvaccion and through a jungle trail. The rain seemed to have abated for a while.

This is where we ended up:

Rafting in the Jungle

We hadn’t ended up where we wanted to be. But the Amazon Rainforest is full of surprises so long as you’re open to new things. In the end, we spent a few hours at the end of the day messing around on these wooden rafts. It made the waiting around at the abandoned petrol station worth every minute.

Wooden Raft in Amazon Rainforest


[some names changed – I apologise to “Lionel” for calling him Lionel]

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Packs of cards are like favours, you lend them out you expect something in return


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Can’t actually remember what happened to them…?


  2. I once spent 3 days sitting on an island pier with nothing to eat but sardines in the Darien Gap, Panama. For the record, there is very little worse than having to relieve oneself over the ocean in a concrete porta-thing after 3 days of eating canned sardines in spicy tomato sauce. It was alright though, because the previous 3 days I’d spent with a family in a little cut off Kuna village a few miles south. How to wait is perhaps the greatest lesson travel has taught me. While travelling I have found that nothing can bring greater rewards.


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Wow, that makes my experience sound tame. It’s sad that so many people want everything “right now” regardless of how asinine and pointless it is.


  3. Pranav says:

    Nice post. 🙂


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