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The adventures of the Mel

Feeling philosophical in Peru

PERU | Sunday, 1 June 2008 | Views [874] | Comments [2]

Public transport is a fickle thing. Sometimes he works in your favour, organising first class buses to leave whenever you want, either with complete English translation or slowly spoken Spanish for easy comprehension, or the moody little bastard refuses to help you at all, not scheduling any freaking buses and going so far as to hinder you.

It’s always interesting trying to travel in South America – we’ve taken such a variety of transport methods which vary wildly within their own niche.

Take buses, for example. At one end you have the beautifully luxurious cama or royal buses where you can lie almost straight back, feet up and get fed, watch movies and generally feel like you should be paying a million dollars to be pampered. Step down slightly to semi-cama to much more comfy chairs than our first class buses and you usually see a movie and if you’re lucky, you also get fed. Economic buses have impatient locals that smuggle shit across state borders, no air conditioning and broken chairs, though still put your luggage beneath the bus and give you faith that you’ll see it again. Minivans can be commonly used to transport people in, tying your luggage to the top of the bus and making you only slightly anxious about its safety. Then there are the combi-vans that travel through the cities with no belts, a rusty door that doesn’t close, and a youth hollering out the window to where it is that the bus is going, slowing down and if you’re lucky, stopping momentarily for you to get on.

Taxis can be plush and with drivers that speak a small amount of English so that conversation is fruitful, or they can be rickety little half-cars that you’re not quite sure how are held together and you have to hold your breath as they swerve chaotically through the traffic. These taxis NEVER have belts, so you are always holding your breath and wondering how South Americans don’t crash more often, though they don’t tend to go quite as fast as our taxi drivers (most likely for the disparity in road conditions).

You may wonder what has brought on my pensive scribe on transport. I have to admit that it was a combination of things; a taxi driver who charged us 4 times too much, going from bus station to bus station to bus station to find a bus that would take us to Mancora; finding a bus that went to Mancora but arrived there at three in the morning; thinking if it’s that hard to get a bus into Mancora, how the f**k will we get a bus out; changing our minds and deciding to just get a bus that is cama all the way across the stinking border to Guayaquil, hassle free but with a catch…..it leaves at 3am. Sigh. So, I sit here, feeling philosophical about transport and killing time.

We’re currently in Chiclayo, a 100 000 strong coastal town in northern Peru, about 8 hours drive of the Ecuadorian border. We were supposed to visit a museum or something, but we have essentially done nothing since getting here.

Trujillo was more interesting. We visited two separate ruins equidistant from the city but in opposite directions. The interesting thing about these ruins is that they were both made from mud bricks. I think they were older than the Incan ruins, as at one the Incas came in at a later date, although like the Incas, the Spaniards spelt the end for these civlisations.

The ruins at Chan Chan looked fairly boring, but thanks to a vivacious guide we learnt quite a bit about the ancient fishing civilisation who decorated their palaces and squares with marine symbolism (fish, pelicans, fishing nets). We also visited the musuem of Chan Chan, which was CHOC-A-BLOCK full of school kids, which brought a lovely interesting experience to the otherwise boring museum. Whilst looking apathetically at the collections we heard the hushed excited whisper of 'Gringo!' We look down to a few pairs of big brown inquisitive eyes looking at us with a yearning apprehension. One boy stepped forward and said 'hello', a ripple of gasps and chuckles ran through the others. This young boy, Kenji, had been learning English for a few years and could communicate with us on a very basic level. A small distraction of a broken painting and Andrew danced away, but I lingered to try to answer their questions. We exchanged names, told them we were from Australia, to which the crowd replied with resounding awe. Their teacher smiled at me gently, enjoying his students' excitement. I chatted for a few minutes, then looked up to see Andrew looking across at me with a 'let's get out of here please' look on his face. I farewelled my tiny admirers reluctantly and continued on with the journey.

The second ruins, the temple of the moon, were more colourful as the civilisation painted the temple walls in red, black and yellow and carved their main god, ‘The Creator’ into these walls. Probably the most fascinating thing was that there were 4 separate levels, each one built on top of the other after it had been bricked in, either after a new dynasty (for want of a better word) or some natural disaster that the civilisation deemed the Creator had sent in displeasure and should rebuild to appease him. Thankfully this civilisation only sacrificed healthy young men who lost battles to appease their god, unlike the civilisation at Chan Chan who tended to sacrifice young women (generally virgins) and even small children. Icky shudder.

But as I sit here, I realise that this is my last night in Peru – tomorrow by about lunch time I will be in Ecuador, so it’s time for my completely biased and tacky country summary.

Bottom five:

4. Lack of vegetarian food.

3. Taxi drivers that rip you off.

2. Psychotic drivers that swerve/toot/ignore road rules and the concept of pedestrians...

1. Spending several hours looking for the right bus and not getting it!

Top five:

6. Struggling to think of bad things and as a consequence having to steal a bad item to place in the good list!

5. The really cool popcorn they have that is large, sugary, and doesn’t stick in your teeth. You rock, indigenous Peruvian women.

4. Llamas llamas and ducks.

3. Cheap everything – even policeman can be bribed for just $3. Just ask Mario.

2. The absolutely stunning scenery. Just breathtaking.

1. Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Clearly.

I will attempt to post before I do the amazing Galapagos Islands, because that will be a long mo-foing post.

Hope you all had a good weekend.

Peruvian photos for the padawans.




I just love the picture of you surrounded by inquisitive and awed kids and speaking to them. You rock Mel.

  Sally Jun 2, 2008 11:47 AM


I thought it was duck duck goose, not llama llama duck... MY WHOLE LIFE HAS BEEN A LIE!

And i could do sooo much damage if i had 3 dollars

  jordmans_quest Jun 5, 2008 1:55 PM

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