Through Hell to Cusco

Trip Start Mar 08, 2005
Trip End Mar 29, 2005

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

So when I signed off yesterday, we had the world in our hands. Things were really coming together and we were feeling pretty good. That's always when things fall apart.

The victory for the white kids was short lived. The super wow bus I referred to was actually called ¨Royal Class¨. AC, bathroom, double decker, smooth ride, food, and pretty much just for tourists. The woman that sold us the tickets showed us a picture of the bus on a poster in the station. It was an amazing bus. But that bus didn't pick us up. That bus may not even exist.

Our bus slowed down just enough on the highway to throw our bags on and let us jump in. As we walked in the darkened seating area, we noticed immediately that things were amiss. First of all, it smelled less than Royal. It smelled like sweat and feet and hard labor. All of which I have a powerful aversion to. As my eyes adjusted to the dark I noticed that there were a lot more people on the bus than I had expected. Mostly because there were more people than seats. Now I've ridden chicken buses in Central America. I don't have a problem with it. I just like to know ahead of time what I'm getting into. And after $20 for a ticket and being promised a king's chariot, I was less than thrilled with my ride. So as we walked back in search of our seats we found that they were already taken. By four people. I felt a little guilty as the woman who worked on the bus woke up the family camping in our seats and ushered them off to sit in the aisle in the back of the bus. But that went away as I watched the woman thoroughly dust off our seats after they moved. What was she wiping off? What did they do to our seats? And how long before whatever they left there burrowed its way into my body and nested in my small intestines? These are questions I would have 20 hours to brood over.

So it was 80 degrees outside. It was 85 inside. And every window on the bus was closed. I was baffled. And nauseated. And livid. So I opened the window next to me that I also shared with the woman sitting in front of me. The seats reclined nicely so I could see her and knew that she was asleep. I also knew how many moles she had, what her hair smelled like and was in the perfect position to perform dental work. She was so sound asleep that she was snoring audibly and in the pale moonlight I could see her mustache dance in the air exiting her nose. She was lovely.

Well as soon as I opened the window she woke up and closed it. I assumed she thought she had accidently left it open and the fresh air was disturbing her. Some people can only sleep well when surrounded by the smell of urine and rancid fruit. Well as soon as I opened it she closed it. So I explained that we were hot and opened it. She closed it. I opened, closed, etc. Finally I opened it and held it open while she tried with all her might and both hands to close it. She yelled at me in Spanish. I answered in half Spanish, 1/3 English, 1/4 French, and a touch of gibberish. I knew I was bigger and stronger than her and refused to let go of the window. She turned and glared at me and yelled what I can only assume were horrible things. Beverley pretended to sleep. So as she yelled at me I realized she was half my size, but also had half as many teeth. Somehow that gave her an edge. I shrank back and she cackled at me. She closed the window. The bus which consisted of 47 Peruvians and 4 tourists stared at me. I pretended to sleep.

So we went through this hellacious ride through the dessert, sharp turns, bumpy roads, stifling heat, oppressive smells. I slept 10 or 12 minutes that night. Finally at about 4:00 am I got up the nerve to complain to the woman working on the bus. I told her we had been promised a Royal Class bus. She smiled and said that none existed. I told her how much we paid, she laughed and told the driver to turn on the AC. So the bus had AC, but needed a request in order to utilize it. So they turned on the AC just as we turned and headed into the Andes. I woke up at 5:30 shivering. We had gone up a couple of thousand feet in elevation. It was cold. My teeth were chattering. And the woman in front of me had opened her window.

I spent the next 14 hours plotting her death. Out loud. She didn't understand me, but the Dutch guys on the bus did. They wouldn't speak to or look at Bev and I the entire trip. We were outcasts.

Well the bus ride was prolonged by several stops. We all got out at 6:00 am to pee on the side of the road. EVERYONE. Bev peed behind a rock that was entirely too small and forced us to be better acquainted than we ever wanted to be. Everyone else didn't seem to care. Public urination among strangers? No big deal.

I'll fast forward through the next 10 hours. 12 stops, 1 for gas, 1 for a meal, 10 to fix the bus. A little girl threw up 2 feet away from me. No one blinked. Vomit on the floor? No worries. Then they closed the bathroom because it smelled too bad. I demanded they let me in or I was peeing out of the closed window I shared with the toothless wonder. They let me in. It did smell too bad. And I got in there just as we hit a dirt road in the Andes. I peed everywhere but the toilet. I was all over the place. So I went back to my seat and changed shoes. And shirts. And hats. But somehow Bev and I managed to stay good sports about it the whole time. Very fortunate.

We made it into Cusco a little before 5:00 this evening. Cusco is the capital of the ancient Inca world. It's fantastic. The scenery coming in was phenomenal. The Andes outdo the Rockies, the Highlands of Guatemala, Scotland, everything. Just gorgeous. I'll upload pictures soon. Sorry to go on and on about the bus ride, but it went on and on, and it's all we did today. But, tomorrow is another day.
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