In the last week I had three experiences on Peruvian buses worthy of mention. Up until that point, bus travel in South America had been a mostly tolerable, sometimes enjoyable method of getting from A to B. Up until then…
1. The first story involves a personal culinary hatred of mine (pesky pescado). On a local bus in the Sacred Valley we sat behind a mother and her daughter. After a while I noticed a disturbing smell emanating from their direction. When the girl turned to talk to her mum, I realised she was holding a potato in one hand and a small, dead fish in the other. There can’t have been much meat on the thing, because it was about the size of a goldfish.
She was chewing on the skeleton and then noshing on chunks of the potato, and as she talked, flecks of fish and potato sprayed the bus and collected around her mouth. I was glad she got off before us and took the rancid carcass with her!
2. On the way back from the Inca Trail we had a replacement bus service because of landslides on the train tracks. The bus was nice and comfortable, and we only had two hours to travel. Unfortunately for us our bus driver turned out to be a suicidal drunk whose insane approach to corners and overtaking was only matched by his complete obliviousness to the screams coming from his passengers.
At one point he hit a speedbump at 50 miles an hour causing everyone in the back row to fly into the air, at another point he swerved so hard round a corner a bag fell from the storage area on the other side of the bus and hit Jemma in the face, and in one particularly insane manouver, he decided to overtake a truck that was already overtaking another bus, uphill, on a blind corner. I have never felt closer to death!
3. Finally, on an overnight trip from Cusco to Lima, we got on a coach that was supposed to take 20 hours. It ended up taking 31 and a half hours because of so many landslides (again!). The rain overnight had caused so many rockfalls, at times we were passing boulders on the road almost as big as the bus! We waited for 7 hours at one crossing where they basically had to rebuild the road that had fallen away in the night. We also had to drive through several rivers in the bus, which is probably the closest I’ll get to knowing what it’s like to go tightrope walking. They ran out of food on board and we ended up surviving on a box of honey and oats cereal bars and Inca Kola, which fast turned out to be a sickening combination.
I wish I had taken pictures of some of these incidents, but my camera was either stuffed somewhere deep in my bag, or I was just to tired/terrified to think of getting it out. Either way they would not have done justice to the experiences above…