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Published: August 20th 2013
Mark and I decided to head into the jungle straight after our Salkantay trek, so on what seemed like endless early morning starts here in South America, we found ourselves once again, sitting on a minibus in the dark. There was an eerie sensation as we drove into the jungle as a thick mist was blanketing the forest and large trees with moss covered branches hung above us, threatening to take anyone that did not belong. The jungle was alive and it knew we were there. After about two hours driving into the mist we pulled over to the side of the road to our carefully selected lunch spot – which was just the side of the road! There we stood eating the most delicious rice and chicken in the drizzle! As we made our way toward our lodge, the mist lifted and unveiled mountains and valleys covered in thick vegetation, as green as anything I have seen before. We spent the afternoon driving slowly into the jungle, spotting birds and monkeys and by the time dusk rolled around we were close. The only thing that stood between me and a bed was a zipline and a nest full of giant
ants. I managed to hold my composure when I whispered to Mark ‘I think there are ants in my pants’!We hiked a little further in the dark and once I had rid myself of my pants and the ants, Mark began to sing ‘welcome to the jungle, welcome to the jungle’…. He seemed to think he was funny!!
The next morning we visited a family who rehabilitated injured and neglected wildlife and we were able to get up close with animals that we would otherwise not have the opportunity to. I was able to hold a five month old sloth and Mark made friends with Stewart the Capybara. There was also monkeys, macaws and something that resembled a racoon, to name a few. By lunch we had arrived at what would be our home for the next three nights. The next couple of days was filled with hiking, bird watching, learning about all the various bugs, snakes and spiders that could either kill us or cause serious injury, and then hiking some more. Luckily for us, this is an activity that we recently discovered we both enjoy immensely. By day four we had exhausted the good hiking
spots near our lodge and since there was only a Swiss backpacker, Celine, Mark and myself left (the rest of our group did the four day jungle tour, we did five) we asked if we could forgo the scheduled hot spring visit for some more hiking, only this time further up the river where the jungle was greener and promised more than birds.
And it certainly provided more than just birds. Within ten minutes Mark had spotted a family of monkeys playing in the trees, but it was the butterflies that made this part of the jungle special. You might not think that butterflies are all that impressive but the jungle was full of them. There was orange and brown butterflies, blue and red butterflies, white butterflies, red butterflies, green butterflies, butterflies with transparent wings and of course, the ever impressive five dollar butterfly. The five dollar butterfly is much larger than the other butterflies and is vibrant blue with a black outline on its wings, it is stunning and if you are able to catch one you can get $5 for it. It glided by us when we had stopped to watch the monkeys and I was transfixed.
It flew around us but did not stop. The same thing happened when we stopped at a waterfall for a rest and to take some photos. Countless butterflies landed on the rocks around us, flaunting their beauty and allowing us to photograph them. Mark noted that it was as though they wanted to be photographed because the numbers appeared to grow when we pulled the cameras out. Not the five dollar butterfly though. It flew past us a number of times and each time I grabbed my camera trying to capture its beauty, each time I failed, until I finally yielded and put the camera down. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there are moments in life that are not meant to be captured or viewed through a lens, they can only be fully enjoyed by being present in that moment. I would like to think that the five dollar butterfly shares in that knowledge and by not stopping for the photo, was teaching me to love those moments, for they are the truly special ones. Or perhaps it just knew there was a price on its head.
You can never have too many bus stories, or at
least that is what I keep telling myself. After we finished in the jungle, we decided to get an overnight bus to Puno on Lake Titicaca – where we had booked a tour to say overnight with a family on the floating islands. Unfortunately we never quite made it. We boarded our overnight bus to find the tickets that we thought we had purchased for the comfy oversized reclining sleeper chairs were not the tickets that we actually got. We were seated in reclining chairs but they were certainly not oversized or comfy! I was fairly annoyed but there was not a lot we could do and I was tired so I didn’t really think it would matter. As it turns out, I was right.
It was about 2am when our bus stopped. We had been travelling for about three hours so we were still quite a way from Puno. The lights woke me, but Mark was having trouble sleeping and was already awake. The driver came up the stairs and said a few things in Spanish and then disappeared. It was two hours before another word was said. One lady at the front of the bus began to
speak loudly in Spanish and it was quite obvious she was pissed off. This seemed to be the spark that started the fire because before we knew it we were surrounded by a bus full of pissed off South Americans, and still we had no idea what was going on. Mark went to investigate and after speaking with some helpful Italians, we were acutely aware that the bus was broken, it was 4am and there was a bus strike in Cuzco which meant that there was no bus coming to collect us.
The locals had arranged a mini bus to collect them and before we knew it, the only people left on the side of the road were tourists. This made me a little uncomfortable. We were left with two options, wait with the big broken bus which was accountable to the tour company or try our luck in a mini bus that the bus driver arranged. The bus driver had not exactly been helpful up until this point and there was some whispers amongst the group that he may have been part of the strike. The Italians took photos of all the drivers and made them sign a
contract (which isn’t worth the paper it is printed on but they were pleased with themselves) and before we knew it we were crammed into two minibuses heading to Puno. If there was any doubt about the validity of the strike in Cuzco, it was dashed as we drove past a road block where there were large stones and broken glass was strewn across the street. Angry men threw tyres at the minibus as we passed.
About fifteen minutes into the trip our bus pulled up in the middle of nowhere, right where a car heading in the other direction had and our driver jumped out. Following some confusion by all the passengers another man jumped into behind the wheel – a man who we dubbed Santa because of his distinctive head wear. We were on our way but after another 30 minutes into the trip we stopped again, this time to put some type fuel into the car. It was funnelled in from a bucket through a stocking and I was too tired to care that the minibus was still running while all this was happening. Onward we pushed but it wasn’t long before we were stopped again.
This time for some police who appeared to be detaining the driver of another vehicle. For a reason that was not obvious, the driver that the police pulled over jumped into our already full minibus and we took him to the local bus station while the police drove his vehicle into the closest town. It was at this town that we had another stop, our final stop before we arrived in Puno. It was this stop that the two minibuses became one. The people from both minibuses crammed into a slightly larger minibus, there were people sitting on the floor and on crates in the isle. After 14 hours of a seven hour bus ride, we arrived in Puno, exhausted.
Because we arrived so late we had missed our island tour and so Mark and I made the decision to push on to Copacabana, Bolivia (not the one from the song) where we would be able to chill out for a few days. With the help of our Italian friends, a local bus and an additional three hours we made it with little dramas. Copacabana is a very pretty place even if there is a fair bit of rubbish
lying around. The water of Lake Titicaca is so incredibly blue and every evening the sun sets over the lake, lights the sky with pinks and casts a yellow runway onto the water. Mark and I like it here, everything is so cheap and the people are so incredibly nice. Even the people who are trying to sell us weed are so friendly and polite when we say no!
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