Greetings from Peru...

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
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Trip End Dec 23, 2006


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Monday, November 6, 2006

Hola. Just arrived from my 35 hour bus journey to Lima. In the airport now waiting for my quick flight to Arequipa. A quick recap starting with my final day in Quito...Saturday the 4th.

Saturday: Spent all day doing basically nothing. As you can imagine I had a sever case of the Chuchaqui (hung over) given the events Friday night. At 8AM (effin early) my mother (Ines) starts banging on my door saying she needs to talk to me. Given my state I only caught about 60% of what she said...but it was basically that she was going to be gone all day with her boyfriend AND that there was another student arriving tonight and I needed to be packed and out of the room by noon. Given I had planned on sleeping til noon..we had a problem. Instead of arguing with her for a) waking me up with the mother of all hang overs and b) just now telling me another student was arriving, I shook my head saidĻ"no hay problema" and went back to sleep. I eventually got up, made it to the Internet cafe to book my flight to Arequipa and update my blog. Also made it to the big shopping mall here for a new soccer jersey and lunch at Taco Bell (sad...I know...but itīs like a drug). Made it home and finished packing for a bit. The new student arrived around 5PM...Becky (I think) from England. Turns out her staying with Ines was very last minute so I guess my mother only found out about it today. The new girl spoke barely any english so I got to play translator between the housekeeper and her...she told me my Spanish was great which felt good (side note: my spanish sucks...but to people who donīt speak it, itīs ok I guess). I sent one last text message to my Quito friends from the phone I bought here as after tonight it belongs to Ines (I sold it to her...beats hanging on to it). Diane called me around 7PM from Santa Domingo to say goodbye...that was nice of her. Around 7:30...it becomes clear that Ines isnīt going to make it back in time to enjoy one final dinner with me...sort of pissed me off. I had to leave for the bus station at nine, so I waited and she finally shows up at 5 til 9. She apologizes, thanks me for the flowers and chocolates I bought her and Diane, takes a couple photos with me and gives me a small gift that was appreciated. The bus station is very close to my house so off I went. The bus was huge and we were supposed to depart at 10PM. Turns out we have to wait for some late arrivals so itīs closer to 10:45 until we leave. I make sure to get a window seat on the right as I heard that is where the best views are on the 36 hour voyage. A young girl sits down next to me but not a word is spoken as we are both exhausted and quickly asleep. Given the opening and closing of the luggage compartment several times, Iīm a bit freaked out about my large backpack. In the cabin I have a smaller one and I loop my leg around it before passing out. Buenos Noches.

Sunday: Woke up and shook off my Ambien buzz...fortunately no one managed to unloop my leg from my smaller backpack under my feet. I am probably overly paranoid...this is a pretty nice bus and itīs full of people all going to Lima...itīt not like people are jumping on and off at every stop...THERE IS ONLY ONE STOP...LIMA! Still sort of worried about my large backpack under the bus...but Iīm sure itīs fine. Started chatting with the girl next to me in Spanish and it ended up being a good thing. Her name is Lareine, sheīs 23 and works in an Internet cafe in the Galapagos. Sheīs headed to Lima to visit family and she assures me the bus is safe and so is my stuff...good to hear. At the breakfast stop I have a cup of coffee and something strange and it costs all of $0.80. Everyone on the bus did there own version of a sink bath and back onward we went. Around 1PM we reach the border with Peru which started two hours of a fairly strange process. The exit point from Ecuador is 3KM north of the actual border. The entry point to Peru is 3KM south of the border. Everything in between is sort of one big town and a free for all. I was glad I didnīt try to do this on local buses...driving thru the big mess between checkpoints was a good thing. Our bus was so big and the streets so narrow that we knocked over at least one street vendors umbrella. At the exit point we spent about 45 minutes to get everyone through. It seemed to be easier for me to leave the country than it was for the locals. I was done quickly, went over to a roadside stand and had my last cerveza in Ecuador (sniff sniff). We made it through the mess in the middle, crossed the actual border and reached the Peruvian checkpoint. Here it was more chaotic...but faster...go figure. We were all done and back on the bus in 15 minutes. The first 100 or so miles in Peru were great and Iīm glad I got that window on the right side. The Pan American highway essentially hugs the coast for the majority of the trip to Lima. We passed by quaint fishing villages, isolated bungalows for rent, boys standing 200 yards off shore fishing, flocks of pelicans in perfect formation, etc. I wish I had my LP for Peru so I could see the names of the towns. The sun came out on queue and we had a good ride for a while. The water and road were so close to each other that certain stretches of the Pan America highway were actually washed out forcing our bus to do some serious off roading. Our bus driver was defying logic with his ability to keep us firmly planted on the road while at the same time damn near breaking the sound barrier. After 150 or so miles into Peru, we stopped at what I thought my me dinner...but turns out was a inspection point for drugs and weapons. We were all funneled into a small room with a cafe and random bags were pulled off and searched. I was sort of hoping mine was one of them just so I could see it again (severe bag separation anxiety). Back on the bus Lareine and I practice some more Spanish and then she took a nap. I started working on my journal and then found something else besides my bag to keep me worried. I had booked Saturday a flight from Lima to Arequipa at 2:15. My bus was supposed to arrive into Lima at noon...but given our late departure, spending over an hour at the border and now a random drug inspection...I was starting to say adios to my flight. We had movies onboard the bus and the first three were some old Jet Li movie, Predator and Night of the Living Dead. Our bus also had a toilet...but the way our driver was flying, you would have to be an acrobat to use it. Around 6PM we stopped at some ocean side diner for dinner. Earlier Lareine had given me a Totuga key chain from the Galapagos and as a gesture of thanks back to her, I bought here a cerveza and shared some fries with her. I also had a really, really good fish dinner that had to be freshly caught that same day. Total bill for two liters of beer and a damn good fish dinner with rice...$6. Back on the bus and the driver says our next stop wonīt be until 11PM or later that night...oh joy. One more old Jet Li movie and then the Patriot with Mel Gibson. We stopped at 11 for a quick bathroom break at what appeared to be a roadside truck stop. By this time I had been onboard for over 24 hours and things were starting to feel a bit funky. Feel asleep thanks to Dr. Ambien.

Sunday: Despite the half-tab of Ambien, I had a pretty restless sleep...so did Lareine. Who cares...itīs my last day on this damn bus! Actually it hasnīt been that bad. Woke up around 6AM and watched the land pass by and some small shanty towns that had long since been deserted. For this point in the journey we were more inland in what appeared to be a desert. Seriously...miles and miles of sand. At 7AM we stopped for breakfast. It was a chaotic stop for the poor waitress. She told me in rapid spanish that I had two choices...chicken soup or some meat/rice plate. Neither sounded good so I asked her in Spainsh "Tiene Huevos"..."Do you have eggs?". She said yes so I ordered a couple with bread and coffee. When the others in the bus (I am the only non Latin American person on the bus) saw what I was eating, everyone wanted them...that felt sort of good to see locals eating what I was eating because I was brave enough to order off the menu. Paid my bills ($1) and took my second sink bath in less than 12 hours. I was taking a couple pics of the bus when the driver came over to ask me about my MP3 player. We ended up talking for a few minutes about my player, the safety of the bus, his return trip back, etc. and I surprised myself by understanding 80% of what he said. Then he told me heīs from Venezuela so I had to ask him what he thought of Hugo Chavez...it turns out heīs not a big fan and neither are a lot of Venezuelans. For locals VZ is ridiculously expensive....for example, I liter of gas costs less than a liter of water. It was an interesting conversation to pass the time away. One good thing I learned is that we are only 2.5 hours from Lima!!! Woo Hoo! Iīm going to make my flight with no problems. Back on board the stink-bus we pass through terrain that looks like it belongs in Iraq, watched some Mexican movie with a nun in it that everyone on board thought was hilarious. We also went on probably the most dangerous road I have ever been on. My pictures don't do it justice...but some of those drop offs into the ocean were huge...and no guardrail. We eventually reached Lima around 10:45 AM on Monday and the driver tells everyone that we have two stops in Lima. Lareine asks for me which is closer to the airport and we hear that they are basically the same. The some guy behind us says the first stop is a little more dangerous...so the second it is. At the first stop Lareine sees someone outside she knows so she decides to get off. As we are getting ready to depart, she runs back on and tells me this stop is much more closer to the airport...so off I climb. I hand the driver my luggage ticket and he opens the storage compartment...no bag. He says something to the other driver and he runs around to the other side and there it was...no problems. I very nice lady at the bus stop made it very clear to me (5 or 6 times) that I should NOT pay more than 10 (diez) soles (about 3 bucks) for a cab to the airport. I made it very clear I understood but she still thought I needed help so she flagged down a cab for me and negotiated the deal. I chatted with the driver for a bit and we reached the airport a little after 11. Check in didnīt start until noon for my flight and with no Admirals club, I found and internet cafe and did a bit of updating to this site. At noon my bag was checked, I had a chair massage for $5, quick lunch, change of socks/underwear/tshirt and then to my gate. Flight to Arequipa was uneventful and took all of an hour (would have taken 18 hours in the bus). Itīs important to point out now that I have no set plan for my trip from this point forward. The first 6 weeks I knew Monday-Friday I was in Quito...but starting today I have no clue where I'm sleeping or how long I'm staying in each place. Upon arrival into each city I only have a short list of places to stay and things to do. After that...no clue.

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