. This interaction is communicated entirely through a series of honks and angry hand motions ending "for the most part" in the loser having to pull to the side so that the other driver can make the treacherous turn without shooting off a 15,000 foot mountain. Because the busses are on a time schedule the obvious way to make up time after having to pull over at every corner is to floor it on every straight stretch. Thus our easy 10 hour bus ride from Arequipa to Cusco involved a lot of gas, break, screech around corner…gas, break, wait for double trailer semi to pass. In the unfortunate event that you have to use the restroom (liquids only) you find out the real purpose for those handicap handles on the sides of the walls. Timing is essential. Once you hit a “straight stretch” hold on tight and hope the bus doesn’t hit a rock and fly off the mountain leaving you to perish in a disgusting soup. Flinging around like a rag doll you careen into the sides of the loo, for the first time thankful that the bathroom is too small to turn around in and thus you can’t actually fall on the ground. After precious minutes of struggle you are finally are able to unbuckle your jeans. You almost give up completely as you can’t figure out how to give loss of the door handles long enough to finish the business. Finally you succeed without even peeing on your shoes. The sense of accomplishment is along the same lines as that felt on graduation day.
Queasy and exhausted we finally arrived in Cusco
. After catching up on a few hours of sleep we headed to the airport to pick up my friend Jesse from the airport. We spent the next few days exploring Cusco. The city, as can be expected, is very touristy. It is hard to go more than a few steps without a six year old trying to sell you a bracelet or an old man begging you to join him on a trek to Macho Picchu. In total we spent about two weeks around Cusco. We used the city as our launching point for adventures to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. It was in Cusco that Jessie and Jesse had the privilege of enjoying their first guinea pig meal. Unfortunately for them the enjoyment was short lived and Jessie spent Halloween night back at the hostel in the loo. A few days later we also visited the Inca Museum. The museum is housed in an old colonial building and is pretty unexciting until you get to the last few exhibits. After rooms and rooms of pottery we were pretty bored but then we turned the corner and found a display of Inca skulls. Some of the skulls were deformed with enlarged parietal regions marking them as the ruling class. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the next room was full of mummies. Placed in the fetal position and wrapped in ropes or stuffed in jars these guys were also probably of royal blood.
After spending many other enjoyable experiences in Cusco we prepared to head off to our next adventure. We however, made one last stop be for we split town. While we were in Cusco we found out through a friend that the Neotropical Ornithological Meetings were being held in the city. Thus, postponed our travels long enough to attend a few sessions. Now those people do some cool stuff.
After five weeks of twenty-plus hour bus rides in Argentina we thought the ten to fifteen hour trips in Peru would be smooth and easy. We were wrong. Although, we made sure to ride with only the best companies (Cruz del Sur being our favorite) our bus trip from Arequipa to Cusco was rough. Despite the decent food, somewhat spacious seats, and rowdy bingo game Jessie and I could hardly wait to get off the bus. What we didn't realize at the time was that there are some huge mountains in Peru. The roads that cross those mountains are bad. Rather than cutting through the mountains like we do at home these roads switch back over and over again climbing up and over the peaks following every contour of the mountain. In a double decker bus these trips feel something like the fair rides I used to go on when I was younger, back before I realized making yourself sick in a spinning Disney cup wasn’t as fun as everyone said it was. The roads we traveled were so narrow and the turns so sharp that when our bus met other drivers on the corners one of the vehicles has to stop and allow the other to pass