The Start of our Nightmare

Trip Start Jun 25, 2009
Trip End Jul 05, 2009

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Warning: Lots of upcoming profanity below...  please excuse my French but I got very emotional thinking about this moment.

Pretty scary opening title isn't it?  It's actually pretty relevant.  One of the ways we planned to save some time (and cost) on this trip was to take overnight buses whenever we could.  This was one of those opportunities.  After arriving back to Ollantaytamblo via the train, we took a combi (mini-van) with a bunch of other people (Japanese tourists who talked non-stop and some non-discernable Europeans) back to Cusco.  From Cusco, we took a cab to the terminal de autobuses (bus terminal) to arrange an overnight bus to Arequipa, a city southwest of Cusco (our next destination).  When we got to the bus station, I headed over to the Cruz Del Sur bus company booth (as recommended by the guidebook).  After a little bit of Espanol, English, sign language, grunts, nods, we settled on a time

Here's where it gets interesting.  The Cruz Del Sur guy says, "there's going to be a transportation strike at 11PM, and because of this there's only one bus company running tonight... Puma."  Now throughout our stay in Peru, we would constantly hear about this so-called transportation strike.  I believe that drivers were going to participate in a regional strike against the fuel prices which were hovering about US$3 per LITER.  For people who haven't traveled much internationally, we Umericans have it super cheap even when it hit US$4/gallon in our shores.  Not really understanding the significance of this strike, we thought what the hell? and bought the tickets.

Puma is a lower tier bus company compared to Cruz Del Sur, so the other passengers around us were mostly other Peruvians with the exception of 4 other tourists.  Things weren't exactly plush with a broken front windshield and questionable seats.  One could've thrown chickens and pigs in there and the stench would've been unchanged.  But so what...  this was the real Peru we thought.  We were on our way... or so we thought.

At about 12AM, I was awakened by the conductor and some strange dude having a shouting match on our level of the bus (it was a 2 level bus).  The bus had stopped completely and there was a lot of commotion happening, inside the bus and out.  Apparently, we were stopped on a road where the strike was actually happening and the strange dude in the bus was keeping us from proceeding to our destination.  Rowena takes a peep outside the window and she sees Peruvians laying on the road along with purposely placed boulders to stop traffic.  It was a madhouse AND since we were in the middle of the arid part of Peru, it was fucking freezing.  We were stuck there for a good 2 hours.  Then in the same way we abruptly stopped, the bus engines were fired up, and we were on our way.  I wasn't going to ask any questions as long as we were back on the road.

At about 3AM, the bus stops again.  No, it wasn't another roadblock due to the strike but the bus engines crapping out.  FUCK!  We ended up coasting in a non-descript town where the driver and conductor uselessly attempted to fix the damn jalopy of a bus.  At about this time, in the middle of the fucking desert, ice started forming on the INSIDE of our windows.  It was that fucking cold.  30 minutes into it, and the natives started getting restless.  A shouting match insued in Spanish between the passengers and conductor.  Some of the passengers out of protest grabbed their shit and started walking off the bus.  I just thought, yea right, where the fuck are you going to go at this time of the night in the middle of the fucking desert, in this fucking weather?  I read on another traveler's blog that South Americans do this shit as a demonstrative protest when their bus breaks.  Fuck that, I was sittin'.  45 minutes later, and we were on our way again... for about 5 minutes!  The bus coasts to a complete stop... again.  Rowena and I were getting desperate.  This next stop, I took the opportunity to grab some weak ass jackets from our bags in the baggage compartment of the bus.  It was open, because some of the Peruvian passengers were doing the protest thing again.  About an hour later, a replacement bus was chartered to our location.

When the Peruvian passengers saw the replacement bus, there was literally a mad dash for seats on the new one.  I wake up Rowena to have her run to the other bus and save two seats while I get our bags.  After 10 minutes in the cold, the conductor from the original bus says they'll transfer all bags from one bus to the other.  FUCK!  I could've been on the bus already instead of freezing my ass off out here.  Now there was a line to get into the new bus.  Luckily, those who purchased Puma tickets in Cusco got dibs on seats on the new bus.  After waving my Puma tickets back and forth while shoving my ass through the crowd, I got on the new bus.  By the way, the new bus's front windshield was fucking cracked too like the old one.  I thought, if this bus breaks down, I'm going crazy Filipino/American on their asses.  And after I've killed them all (including the crazy Peruvian passengers), I'll blame it all on the side effects of the swine flu illness.

At 6AM, we made it to Juliaca, which was a transportation hub city between Cusco and Arequipa.  Our original transportation plan was to skip over this town and head straight to Arequipa.  When we stopped at Juliaca, more Spanish verbal abuse happens with the new conductor and the Peruvian passengers.  Apparently, some of the Peruvian passengers wanted to be dropped off at the bus terminal and not where we were situated.  We had stopped at some street in the city to do the transfer of Puma passengers that were headed to Arequipa.  Fuck it was annoying.  After about 20 more minutes, we were back on the road for Arequipa, still 4 hours away from Juliaca.  You heard that right, another 4 fucking hours in a rickety, piece of shit, bus... still freezing our asses off in the desert.  At about 11AM the next day, we finally make it to Arequipa.

Nose in the book, a short taxi ride from the bus terminal to the La Casa Del Melgar Hostel, and we were officially in Arequipa.  That folks is true, hardcore backpacking, Peruvian style traveling.
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