My legs ache for space, my backside throbs dully. I twist again and try and imagine I am vertical as my head props up awkwardly against a stiff headrest. Why did I agree to do this 143 hour journey by bus? Oh yeah, to avoid feelings of contradiction as I fly above the melting climate-warmed Andean peaks on my next adventure. The sheer devastating impact of flying means that choosing to fly when I have an option feels ever more like a choice to condemn the environment of my grandchildren or probably even my children. It is a contradiction that as a Brit in Bolivia is impossible to escape.
Yet in the day, aches and doubts dissipate and I settle back into the journey that has taken us through the whirling landscapes, climates and eco-systems of the Andes. The diluted light in the cloudy altiplano of Bolivia, the brilliant browns and gold hues of the dry coastal desert in Peru patterned by wind into intricate swirled designs, along thousands of miles of sea where early morning mist mingles with the wave crests, winding up lush-green countryside in southern Ecuador dotted with farmhouses strangely reminiscent of Wales, stirring in our seats as we are swept into the stream of lights that suck us in along with thousands of other vehicles into the megapoli of Lima and Quito.
One journey stands out: a long bumpy ride on a badly sloping seat from the industrial city of Guayaquil in Ecuador to the border with Peru. The journey is not remarkable for its beauty as it takes us past miles of monotone-green banana plantations and scrubby small towns.
Yet over 7 hours, a series of passengers enter the bus like part-characters from a Dylan Thomas play. The charismatic seller of herbal medicines who empties his suitcase of sachets with seductive words, the weary, sun-etched men with blunted plantation machetes who slump into seats, school children in smart uniforms who clutter the aisles with chatter, the street sellers who crowd the bus with the smells of warm corn and meat and then are gone, the women who enter the bus with mysterious purple-blue blocks which turn out to be live crabs, their tied claws vainly swaying, thankfully far enough away from my sandled bare feet.