Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Lousy Bus Trip

Our trip from Arequipa to Puno was unforgettable, in the worst sense.

Arequipa Bus Station

We would have normally booked with Cruz del Sur, but by the time we figured out when the strike was really going to be over in Puno, the Cruz del Sur bus had no seats left. So we booked on Cial, a 2nd tier company. It was on the top of the 2nd tier list.

The bus was OK--a shabbier version of the Cruz del Sur buses. But we knew we were in trouble when we started climbing the first hill out of town, and the bus was crawling along at 10 MPH. We knew we were REALLY in trouble when we we finally going DOWN hill and the bus was still crawling at 10 MPH. Finally, at the checkpoint just before the turnoff to Puno, the bus pulled over. This is the in the middle of a wasteland. A few hovels on the side of the road, and otherwise, miles of nothing. It was so much in the middle of nothing that our cell phones didn't have any signal. (But, fortunately, there was a wired phone at the tienda).

The bus driver told us that the radiator was blown, and a new bus would come from Arequipa in 2 hours.

We had already taken 2 hours to go only 1 hour of the 5 hour trip. 3 hours later... the replacement bus finally arrived. We finally got going again at about 3pm. (we were supposed to have been at our destination by then).

Most of the day was driving across Peruvian wilderness... dry and mountainous.

We got to the small town of Juliaca just at dark. We only had then about 30 KM to go... we figured a half an hour at most. But then we arrived at road under repair. In the dark, our bus driver couldn't see where exactly to go (no lighted signs or even reflective cones, and a momentary lull in traffic). So he pulled into the wrong track and promptly got stuck. After futzing around for about 10 minutes trying to get unstuck, they finally told everyone to get off the bus. With the load lightened, he finally rocked the bus free.

Getting the Bus Unstuck

The road continued as a rutted track for another mile or so... 15 more minutes...

Finally arrived in Puno at 7:30 pm, 11 hours later. (for a 5 hour trip). Yes, the bus ride from hell. (no lunch, either).

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