Published: August 5th 2010August 5th 2010
Well... Two days later here I am in the Capital of Peru. Not suprisingly, I feel a little dazed and sedentary after so long on a bus, and my conception of time feels a little warped. For example, I still am not sure exactly what day of the week it is, but I know the date! Other than that, the journeys went well.
It went a little something like this-
At the tip of another traveller, I thought if I checked around I might find a airline ticket from Quito to Lima for less than $150 bucks. No such luck. I made the decision that I would go with my idea to just bus-hop, and slowly but surely make my way to Cusco. Instead, I found a pretty good deal on a direct trip to Lima, involving two nights on a bus, someone from the company to guide us through the border crossing, and comfy chairs. I had the concept in my mind of ¨chicken busses¨, tightly crowded, dangerous busses that I would have to jump on and off. Not so. I am plesantly surpised by the organization, comfort, and friendliness of South American bus companies.
The only problem I had with the bus trip to Lima was the other American on it. The agent in Quito, out of friendliness, decided to put me next to the only other American, saying that he was in his 70s and couldn´t speak Spanish, hoping that I would be able to ¨help¨him. It turns out that he was a senior citzen in South America, intent only on tending his investments in oil and land, who made no effort to speak in the local language, and was incredibly impolite and complaining the whole time. Luckily, I was coming with a big dose of patience and mostly ignored his somewhat racist and objectifying comments about the nice people on the bus or in South America. Unfortunately, I had to ¨help¨ him accross the border, which included accomodating for his overpacking, his getting pulled into money-changing and taxi scams at the bus station, and his constant yammering about money and status. Yuck. I made it accross the border, and my only complaint is losing a couple of dollars to money changers that I was not ready to deal with. I didn´t do quite as good of a job as I would have liked with following the advice to wait a few minutes after getting off of a bus to do anything. Oh well, I know better now.
Anyway, from Quito to Huaquillas to Toubes to Lima. On the Ecuadorian side, TONS of banana and cacao monocrops, and tons of little shanty-towns. Once we were in Toubes, we travelled along the coast. The Pacific Ocean was tropically beautiful, with all sorts of beaches tempting me with their palms. There was lots of desert after that, with orange foothills and scrappy brushes. It looked almost the same in some places as Eastern Washinton. There were some places like oasises, with expansive rice paddies, and coconut-banana fields. I noticed a lot more one-room, concrete buildings, with kids playing out in the front. Something I got excited about was many walls made out of woven palm or other plant fibers, lots of thatched roofs, and many dried brushed and sticks woven into fences.
Something I did not expect was the huge amount of political advertising one sees in Peru, beginning right at the border. In a country where voting is legally compulsory, folks seem to make it personal, and endorse their favorite bill or politician all over their walls.
The bus ride was long, and, as usual full of American cinema, which has proven actually fairly helpful for learning Spanish phrases after it has been dubbed. Something I didn´t expect and still am not sure how I feel about was, around dinner time of the full-day bus rise, the steward came up to me and told me that the drivers wanted to talk to me. I asked if everything was ok and if hee was a problem, and he said no. He was waiting for me, so I grabbed my little bag and followed him from the second-level down to where the drivers were. There were two of them in addition to the steward, and I felt a little intimidated at first, like ¨what do these guys want, is this safe, am I going to be kicked out of the bus in the middle of nowhere at night, etc¨. But lo and behold, they just told me to sit down and we made small talk, about the better view out of the front of the bus than the sides, what I was doing in Peru, if I had a boyfriend, etc. By the way, none of the men I talked to in Ecuador cared if I was single, but apparently it´s a lot more interesting to Peruvian men. Pretty funny, considering that I´m not putting any energy into my appearance or flirtation. When I tell them I have a boyfriend, I´m inevitably asked if I have a Peruvian boyfriend. I just kind of have to laugh and say that one is enough. Anyway, so I´m upfront with these drivers, and they start offering me food, saying something about how the food up there is bad and so are the people, so they wanted to give me what they were having instead. Which turned out to be chicken soup, rice, egg, and chicken together, and a sort of peach-goo desert. So I went from feeling like they were trying to get me alone so they could drug me, to eating a fairly-yummy dinner together. Sadly, it seems that the only place to dispose of plactics is out the window. And thank goodness I´m not a vegetarian anymore, because that would have made it even more awkward. After a while and a lot of thanking, I went back up and slept. And a few hours later I am in Lima, after catching glimpses of gorgeous old buildings and incredibly unstable-looking shacks on the banks of plastic-lined rivers, never to meet the droning capitalist again.
I´ll be in Cusco by tomorrow, and am looking forward to a few days of hopefully chatting wiith weavers in markets, and adjusting to the altitude before language school next week.