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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

34 hours across the Andes

PERU | Wednesday, 2 January 2008 | Views [1083]

Today was the beginning of an extraordinary bus journey from Huancayo to Cuzco: 34 hours in total with most of it along the sides of mountains! At 7:30, the bus ride was underway. With the exception of me, Andres, and the couple from France, it was all locals. I gave a piece of gum to a local boy who was maybe 12 or so, and he liked it. I enjoy sharing food that I bring from home with the locals. As we began the drive, the ride was bumpy and I slept for a short while, but when I awoke it was a whole different story, and I was awoken because the bus filled up and I had fallen asleep across two seats; you have to be prepared for that sometimes. The Andean landscape is so dramatic!

These are beautiful mountains that I could write a thousand poems about. For a good portion of the journey, we were driving on the side of the mountain along a mighty, muddy river. The landscape is ultimately beautiful and I could spend a lot of time here! There was a couple sitting behind me speaking Quechua: an indigenous language that’s widely spoken by Andean people in Peru and Bolivia. They were dressed very creatively and they allowed me to take their photo. I should try to learn a few Quechua words before going back home. I kept snapping photo after photo while admiring the world’s longest mountain range. Mr. Hanley emailed me last night telling me that the Andes have the highest relief of any mountain range. A disadvantage about this bus is that there are no bathrooms, so it was a good thing I didn’t drink a lot of water this morning. At about 1:00, we stopped at a small restaurant right in the middle of a mountain pass. I sat with my new friends and ate trout, French fries, and rice for only 7 soles ($2.33). However, they cook the trout whole with the head and everything (of course I cut off the head). While eating, I shared travel stories from Australia and my other trips. I love it all so much that I can’t stop talking about it! It’s no wonder why my co-workers pick on me! After a half hour, we were ready to continue the journey although Ayacucho was still very far away. I was enjoying every moment of driving through the Andes while snapping many photos. The saddest part of the journey is when we saw a bus that had fallen on its side. Hopefully nobody was hurt, but I did see a lot of people sitting on the side of the road. Another thing I admire out here is the mud brick buildings. They take a lot of time and effort to build. Up the road we dropped some people off and a police officer humorously pointed out that I was a gringo, probably because there are almost none in these parts of the country. I yelled to him about the bus wreck we saw, but he seemed to know about it. It’s important out here to watch your driving, especially if you’re on the sides of mountains. We drove through another small Andean town and we reached Ayacucho at 4:30.
This journey was complete, but they longest leg of my journey had yet to begin. I said goodbye to Andres, Erika, and David, and I got their emails. I stopped at a food stand for a Red Bull and some Ritz crackers. A young man named Alexander was going on the same bus ride to Cuzco, so we decided on going to the bus terminal together. We took a moto-taxi, which looks like a little toy car. They are a lot of them in Ayacucho. The ticket was 30 soles and we had to come back in 1 ½ hours. I’ve spent more money here on transport than anything else, but it’s nowhere near as bad as in Iceland where a 6-hour bus ride cost $100. We then walked to an Internet café and I got an email from Nora. She told me that I shouldn’t be angry if people don’t email me but it’s very frustrating when I think of my friends all the time and they don’t seem to think of me. I always make sure to write my friends back. After a half hour, we walked over to this open-air market. They were selling clothes, movies, shoes, and everything you could think of. It was beginning to rain, so we decided to take a moto-taxi back to the bus terminal. We had to hang around for a bit, but at 6:40 we were on our way to Andahuaylas. The bus is a double-decker and Alexander and I got the privilege of sitting all the way in the front on the upper deck. One thing I can say about Alexander is that he asks a ton of questions, but he’s given me information about Cuzco. He’s worked as a tour guide, so he knows a lot about this place. It was dark and the roads were unpaved with a lot of it literally dug out on the sides of the mountains. One wrong move and we could have all been gone. After falling asleep for a short while, at about 10:00 I awoke when the bus got stuck in the mud. There was nothing I could do to help, but I had a chance to stretch my legs. It was freezing out and there were absolutely no lights around us. The stars looked beautiful! It was a wonderful feeling being high in the Andes at night. We were only stuck for about 15 minutes while people filled the mud with rocks to get the bus unstuck, but thankfully it wasn’t longer. I’m thankful that I chose to cross the Andes to get to Cuzco because I’ve seen more than I would from an airplane. I just relaxed as the Andean night had the energy. I occasionally pulled out my Nintendo DS or my Peru guidebook every now and then.

Waking up at 4:00 this morning the bright lights of Andahuaylas were before me. It seemed like we were close enough to touch it but it still took another hour to get there. It felt good to stretch after the long bus ride but I still had to take one more bus to get to Cuzco. This is a bus ride for the most hardcore travellers like myself! I got a cup of tea for breakfast and then washed up. I took some pictures, including one inside a moto-taxi. There's an interesting old church situated on the hill above the bus terminal, and the bell was ringing at 6:30. Our last leg began as we were headed to Cuzco. I only slept in small increments last night, so I was tired and there were no front seats. Before we left though I met a pretty Argentine girl named Celeste. She told me I could stay at her house when I go to Argentina someday. On the bus I fell asleep for awhile but when I awoke the scenery had changed dramatically! There was green all around and we drove through the clouds. We were in an area of the high Amazon. From a distance I could see Abancay through the clouds and I kept snapping photos trying to nail a postcard shot. We continued to drive down the mountain and I kept feeling like I was in the deep jungle. It was noticeably more humid, that's for sure! At 11:00 we stopped for lunch and I had this unique soup; it was quite good! Inside the restaurant was this beautiful green parrot. The rainforest has so many unique species. In fact, half of the world's species inhabit the Amazon rainforest. I got a picture with Celeste when she asked me when I was coming to Argentina; I hope to go soon. I might "live" in Ushuaia for like two months to see if I can jump on a last-minute Antarctic expedition, because I know someone who did that and they saved a ton of money. As we were driving out of Abancay we kept starting and stopping for some reason and people were getting upset. I was still tired and I fell asleep again along the way. This bus journey has gone really well. The best part is seeing the Andean landscape! As we were getting closer to Cuzco, the roads were very winding and we were ascending higher. I could see snow up on the mountains. At one point we were stuck for like 10 minutes due to several large boulders in the middle of the road so it gave me a photo break. In a landscape like this I could easily take a million pictures. The combination of snow on the mountains and the lush vegetation made the scene even more spectacular. Mighty rivers flow through the valleys created by the Andes. We continued driving for another two hours until I caught sight of Cuzco at about 5:00. I could see the entire city! Cuzco was the ancient capital of the Inca civilization until they were wiped out by Pizarro in the 1500s. We were at the bus terminal at about 5:20 and I was relieved to be here this evening! What a ride! 34 hours in total in buses across the top of the Andes! This isn't a trip for the faint-hearted but you won't regret it no matter how many times you have to look down into the mighty canyons below. Dinner at Bembo's (Peru's equivalent of Burger King) and a deep-tissue massage felt great after checking into my hotel. 34 hours across the Andes is sweet, but tomorrow I shall explore Cuzco and then I set out for the Inca Trail in a few days!

 

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