Why to never take anything that is free!

Trip Start Nov 17, 2006
Trip End Jan 24, 2007

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Special Update: Why to never take anything that is free!
Location: From Arequipa to Cusco, Peru
Date: December 2006

This story is a must read.

One of the ways we make conversation with other travelers is to find out places they have been, their recommendations and also any bad experiences they may have had during their travels and includes things such as theft either violent or non-violent. We met one particular man who had just arrived in Cusco (who asked to remain anonymous and we will call him Eric), and this is his story...

Eric decided to take the local bus from Arequipa to Cusco; for the experience and also to save a bit of money. The bus was a day bus from Arequipa taking over 10 hours to reach Cusco. It cost Eric 25 soles (AUD$10) in stead of somewhere between 30-40 soles for the nicer buses ($12-$16).

If you have ever taken a local bus (as opposed to nicer coaches which only wealthly locals or tourists can afford), whether it be in South America or anyother part of the world, you know they can be crazy, overcrowded, contain animals and all sorts of weird and wonderful things, and stop frequently. On this particular bus ride, there wasnt anything particularly unusual...

About halfway through the trip, a middle aged local woman came down the isle with some goods which she was handing out to people. Now it is not uncommon for vendors to get on and sell things on local buses. These goods were about the size of small block of chocolate and a bit thicker. they were covered in a yellow fabic or wrapper of some kind. Now the woman handed one to Eric and he was like - 'no thanks', he had all the food he needed with him. The lady was very persistant, and said - 'es gratis' which means its free.

Now Eric didnt want whatever it was, but the woman was so insistant that he eventually took it and they said, dont leave it out, put it in your jacket. Many others on the bus had taken the package, about 20 or so. Still a little annoyed, he did as he was told. He was a bit perplexed by the whole situation. Nothing is free in Peru!

About 20mins later the bus came to a stop - nothing too unusual about this, only this time it wasnt to pick up or drop anyone off. Police began to search luggage under the bus. Eric, with his broken spanish, asked the lady next to him what was happening and the lady said, they were looking for drugs...

Eric looked around for the lady who had given him the package but she was nowhere to be seen. A second later, the police boarded the bus and began to search through peoples hand luggage. One of them, seeing Eric on the bus, began to ask why he was the only gringo (westerner) on the bus and trying to stay calm, he said nervously, 'i am just a tourist, soy tourist.'

Eventually the police left having found nothing and the bus continued. It was only then that Eric looked beyond the yellow fabric to see some form of white powder. Thats right, Eric had been given around 0.5kg of cocain and had acted as an unwitting drug mule. Eric was extremely lucky. About 10 mins later the lady came round, and collected all the packages. Eric was only too happy to get rid of the package.

He said the funny thing was that all the local people were happy to carry the drugs in that it seemed like it was common to do it. Maybe they had some financial reward for it and perhaps the police were in on it too. Pretty scary stuff!

Moral of the story - avoid local buses where possible and never take anything that is free!
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