Starship Troopers and Snake Oil Salesmen

I mentioned earlier that our number one mode of transportation on our Peru trip was bus but this seems like a good time to elaborate on our strategy before I get into the most harrowing bus adventure of my life. We had originally bought round trip plane tickets from Lima to Cusco in back, with the intention of splitting our time between the two cities. However, after realizing there wasn’t much to do in Lima, and reading about how cool the rest of southern Peru was, we decided to forfeit half of the round trip ticket and instead take buses from Cusco across southern Peru and back up to Lima.Having already completed the Cusco to Puno leg of our trip, and spent our time on the islands of Lake Titicaca, it was time to head to Arequipa. Because we had spent the previous night on an overnight bus, we spent that night in a hostel and instead opted for an early morning bus ride. Since we assumed the day time trip would be a breeze compared the earlier nights theft bus from hell, we cheaped out on our bus tickets.The first sign that things maybe weren’t going according to plan, was when we tried to board the bus for which we had purchased tickets. Instead of being allowed to board, we were instead diverted to another bus for another company. It seems they undersold both buses and were combining them. Although it seemed a little strange, we had the entire top section of the bus to ourselves with the exception of a few very nice Israeli guys. It was a sunny day, so I took a row to myself and got excited to spend the morning napping, reading and looking out the window.

According to my calculations which involved looked up the distance in the lonely plant, converting that distance to miles, and then dividing that by our assumed MPH rate (60 seemed reasonable), I thought the ride would take about 3 hours. So I was pleasantly surprised when we started to pull into another town after about an hour of peaceful driving. After all, it was possible I did the math wrong (Later we would find out I had DEFINITELY done the math wrong). However, after consulting with the Isreali guys, we determined that we had actually gone an hour in the wrong direction to pick up people from the larger nearby city of Juliaca. And pick up people we did. The entire bus filled up with Peruvian locals and their luggage. Huge boxes and bags full of who knows what. We all scrambled to rearrange in a row next to each other and settled back in for the remainder of the ride.

After that, things got kind of miserable. And by kind of, I  mean I want to take a fork and gouge my eyes out. My normal go to on buses (as well as planes, trains and automobiles), is to fall asleep and hope we are there when I wake up. However, this plan was squashed when they began playing (as it turns out on repeat) Super Troopers in Spanish on full blast.

Not one to be dissuaded, I put in my headphones and cranked up my iPod. Things were better for a while until the temperature started to climb. It quickly got to the point of super uncomfortable and stuff, and not to be rude but my fellow passengers weren’t the most fragrant bunch. The windows wouldn’t open, and our only choice was the close the curtains to block out the sun. My main method of entertainment gone, and sleep out of the question, Spanish Super Troopers was looking more appealing.

At around the four hour mark, the bus pulled over to the side of the road. At this point, we had grown seriously concerned that we were not going to Arequipa.  Especially when everyone started getting off the bus at what appeared to be a random field. We stayed on the bus, looking around frantically for a road sign that would assure us that we were as least on a road to somewhere. At this point I notice that all of the people who departed the bus where urinating in the field next to the bus. I wasn’t wearing a skirt like the other women on the bus, so there was no way I was doing that. Plus, like all of the other distance buses, there was a bathroom on the first floor. We hypothesized that they didn’t like the smell. Weird.

Another hour into the ride, the super troopers tape had finally stopped. I was relieved because my iPod batteries had died and I was ready for some silence. The temperature of the bus had climbed to the point where sleep was impossible, but I could at least read quietly. However, about five minutes into this silence, a man stands up and begins speaking loudly in Spanish. I assumed he was just making an announcement and that he would sit down soon. Thirty minutes later, I wasn’t so sure. Based on the few words of Spanish I knew, AF’s translation, and the signs he held up, I determined that he was in fact selling some kind of snake oil which could cure any number of ailments, many of which are too delicate for mention on this blog. I did find out that the recently decease Farrah Fawcett, would not have died had she just used his product… well so says he.

An hour later, the man was still talking and the mystery of the bus side restroom stop become clear. We realized (with horror ) that the restroom on the lower level of the bus was locked. So to sum up current situation:

1. Have to pee
2. Balls Hot
3. Man talking loudly in Spanish about colin cancer
4. On bus in middle of nowhere

This is where it became beneficial to my vision future that I did not have a fork handy.

At this point, we turned to our Isreali friends who were able to pry open the bathroom with a screw driver (until this moment I have never questioned where they got the screw driver from). There were several cans of gasoline being stored in the bathroom, but that did not deter us in the least from using it. I am sure we got many many disapproving looks from the other passengers, but again, past caring.

Arequip (a) ! Finally!

But like all good things, and all horrible miserable things, the bus ride finally game to an end. Eight hours from leaving Puno, we were finally in Arequipa.

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