Lima, Peru
Friday, January 11, 2013

I sat down at the 3rd Flores bus station in Lima (there isn’t a central terminal, each company has its own and the biggest have a few) after putting down the phone and leaving a message on the answer machine of Mary & Francisco, my friendly faces in Lima.

It was all a bit of a mare. The only advertised bus onto Cusco was at 2.30pm, so after getting in around 11am, and knowing I wasn’t staying the night in the Capital, I went ahead and booked. I explained to M & F on the phone, and we agreed it was a shame that timing had prevented us from meeting up.

The more I thought about it though, I tried to work out a resolution, and walked from company to company to find a later bus. Found one leaving at 6.30pm, managed to organise an exchange, and then went to call M & F once more. This station had no public phone so, because it was the only one I had seen that day, I returned to the original Flores station to use the one I had earlier.

And this was where I sat down, dispondent at not being able to get through and tell M & F my revised plans and that we could, after all, meet up. Another day in the waiting room appeared to be on the cards.

But then someone asked “Excuse me, are you Sam?” and I look up to see Mary & Francisco, who had decided anyway to come into the city and see me. It took me a while to get over the strange coincidence, and once I gave them the low-down of the changed buses, we agreed to head and get some lunch.

Now, back in England I had a few (though I can tell not enough) Spanish lessons with a Peruvian lady called Rocio. Her sister (Mary) still lives in the country, about half an hour out of Lima. With my route passing through the city, we thought it might be nice to arrange a meet up.

I was thinking that perhaps if M & F had a spare half an hour, and needed to go into town anyway, we could meet up for a drink by the bus station, then I could be on my way.

But in fact, I was met with utter kindness from these (technically) strangers, as we drove back to their apartment, lunched (in Spanish, “lunch” is a verb) and then went for a driving tour of the city.

Francisco is learning English, so helped him out a bit by describing what was going on in the Beatles’ songs that were on the radio. In return he offered up the “chicken finger soup” description from 9.1. We found common ground by discussing economics (classic), and I leafed through a Spanish version of one of my old textbooks.

Lima was an interesting city, and we got see the beach, financial district, and downtown; which housed the President, in the Peruvian equivalent of Buckingham Palace.

We then said our goodbyes, and I got sorted for the next stint of the journey: Lima to Cusco (a 21 hour ride by bus).

It ended up taking 26.

At 4am we had stopped, and half dazed I remained seated and dozing. When I checked my watch it was 6am and we hadn’t moved, so got up and had a look what was happening. The stretch of road was particularly steep, winding, and (because of the conditions) icy.

There was a backlog of about 50 buses on this cold and frosty morning, with many of the passengers seeking higher ground. Somewhat numbed to problematic journeys, I took in the view. It was lovely.

An opportunistic old lady living in a nearby house came down the buses with some food and drinks. As tempting as they were, and despite not yet being caught ‘without a paddle’, I have a staunchly risk averse stance when it comes to foreign foods on long bus journeys. I stuck to bottled water and biscuits.

Once the road thawed, we continued a hairpin route through the mountains all the way to Cusco. In charge of entertainment was our rather camp bus attendent, Lucas.

His mixed bag of DVDs included Adam Sandler films, and some particularly graphic Latin American thrillers that were sat through by the many young children on the bus.

We were treated to ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentaries following Beyonce and Katy Perry (I guess they have replaced Madonna as ‘icons’), although the KP one was stopped early when it got to the stage when she broke up with Russell Brand. I guess Lucas couldn’t bear to see it all again.

For all-round entertainment, the highlight of the day’s viewing was the documentary tracking the Victoria’s Secrets models. This literally took three of the middle-aged men out of their seats to get a fuller inspection of the scant-clothed supermodels. There were calls from the back for them to sit down, but they stood resolute. It was only a particularly sharp corner that returned them to their seats.

In fairness, the program was in English so they must have needed to concentrate particularly closely in order to appreciate exactly what was going on. Yep, that was it. Yep, yep, yep.

As the sun began to set (for the second time) there was some more great views to be seen.

When we got into Cusco, it was dark and raining. Had to do a few loops of the taxi rank in order to get an acceptable fare to my hostel. My driver was Frederico, and we discussed name variations on the short ride.

As we got to the front door for my base in Cusco, I paid, we shook hands, and he wished me well: “Adios Samwell”. “Goodbye Fred”.

Mary & Francisco

Coach hold up

Mary & Samwell

Dramatic landscape #1

Dramatic landscape #2

Tour of Lima #1

Tour of Lima #2

Tour of Lima #4

Waiting for the bus

Early morning bus queue

Dramatic landscape #4

Translating lingerie walk commentary…