Bus Lies – The Exhausting Truth

A wise blogger once wrote “…packing up for tomorrow’s short trip to Copacabana”. Surely only a fool would make such a statement whilst travelling in South America?

We got to the bus station at 7.30am for the 8 o’clock bus to find that the office was closed. Someone from another office told us to wait and eventually we were shown out to the area where the buses leave from. We were taken – tantalisingly – past a nice, big comfortable bus to a run down piece of junk whose seats were narrower than a human being and which was freezing cold. The bus finally left at 8.30 – only half an hour late – but after a 5 minute wheeze up the hill we stopped at the side of the road til 9 for no apparent reason. After a quick U-turn, we lurched back down the hill, past the bus station and up another hill where we then stopped twice in half an hour to corral locals into coming with us, waiting for 20 minutes each time. Somehow, we did eventually manage to bounce our way to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, after an insane water crossing in which the passengers all alighted and took a speedboat whilst our knackered old bus was rolled onto a large, wooden raft type thing and slowly ferried across. Having nearly left two passengers behind who had to take a later speedboat, we eventually huffed our way into Copacabana at 12.30 – a mere 4 and a half hours after our scheduled departure time. Not bad for a journey we were told would be on a nice new bus and would take 3 hours!

Thankfully, Copacabana was a lovely little town on the edge of the lake and our hotel was one of the nicer ones, if a little expensive. We took a very brief (as we were late!) boat tour to Isla del Sol – the legendary Inca creation site – which was nice but exhausting, then found somewhere for dinner. As it turned out, Annika had been to the restaurant we chose 13 years ago with another (less brilliant) man. The food was superb – some Titicaca trout – and we met a really nice German couple who amused us for a couple of hours before bedtime.

Next day was the second leg of our one-ticket bus trip to Cusco, in Peru. We found the predictably shabby bus and boarded along with half of Israel and their enormous packs. The Israelis do not travel light and, when in large groups like this, demonstrate how much they have in common with the US by shouting at each other from close range pretty much all the time.

Five minutes out of town and we had to dismount to do the border formalities to enter Peru. Job done, we all clambered back aboard the bus and set off for the (apparently) 8 hour journey to Cusco. We knew we had to change buses in Puno which was fine, if a little hectic but, when I overheard someone saying they thought the bus was due in at 11 or 12, I began to lose the plot. We were told we’d be there at 9.30 but then we’ve been told a lot of things by bus people on this trip and the amusement factor is beginning to wear thin now. With precious little food or water, and the bus getting colder by the minute, my body began to shut down around 8 or 9 but optimism returned around 11.30 as I hoped against all hope that we would soon arrive. We were taunted, Holy Grail style, by a brightly-lit town soon after but it was not to be and we finally arrived at our destination at half past midnight – four hours late. I’ve had enough of these buses now – can you tell? We survived an attempted taxi rip-off and slumped into our freezing, heating-less room at 1am, exhausted and hungry.

Cusco is a beautiful looking place in a valley with narrow, cobbled streets and lots of cute little shops and market stalls. It is, however, the most touristy place I have ever been to! If you are not selling things to tourists in Cusco, you’re a tourist – massages, tours, restaurants, photos with llamas, hats, socks – it’s endless.

We collected Annika’s mum from the airport next day to discover that the airline had lost her bag. It turned out that it hadn’t made the connection in Madrid for the flight to Lima. Now, two days later, after having been promised that it would be delivered to our hotel, it has still not arrived and so Lee is now sharing clothes with her daughter to avoid having to wear the same stuff every day.

We’ve had a nice day and a half together without doing an awful lot. Lee has so far added a new dimension to our travelling which amuses in large amounts.

Tomorrow, both Annika and I are off on the three day trek to Machu Picchu which begins with a 70km downhill cycle ride from 4300m to 1600m. However, after day one, Annika is going to return to Cusco and accompany her mum on a few tours, whilst I trudge up to Aguas Calientes, the town at the bottom of the famous Inca site.

For now, it’s cold and I need some sleep before it all kicks off.