Yes, I know it’s Monday. I had a bad connection weekend and it dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. But here I am…

I had a break in December, but back with Travel Tales with renewed vigour.

Peru again, this time another extract from my grammar book. We are taking the bus from Lima to Pisco, doesn’t sound very exciting, but read on.

Chapter 2 – The Bus

The bus was due to leave at 10:30am, in ten minutes, which, in due course, left me wondering why I was still waiting an hour later. I had discovered another aspect of Peruvian life, that phenomenon known simply as “hora del Peru,” that element of flexibility that goes someway into explaining the Peruvians inability to even remotely adhere to traditional time scales.


ormeñoartvusFinally, ushered through the door (I had deposited my bags earlier) I was confronted by a behemoth whose mid-section resembled a piano accordian. This monster swallowed us all and backed away from the terminal. Underway at last. Out on to the busy Lima street and, to my surprise, immediately turned back into the next gateway darkening any hope of an imminent departure.


Expertly the beast wove its way through the nether regions of the bus depot, various makes and models of bus at diverse stages of being disembowelled or reassamebled, either way, it was hard to tell the difference.


Then, miraculously, we were back on the street, but stationary. The nose of the bus protruding over the footpath and a couple of non-descript characters descended and began yelling, “Chincha, Pisco!” repeatedly. Locals appeared from nowhere and clambered aboard. Some even appeared to be just strolling along the street, and, succumbing to the frantic urgings of the yellers, climbed aboard on a mere whim to either Chicha or Pisco. Strange…


The driver climbed aboard, and once in his rightful place our flexible chariot jolted forward unsteadily to negotiate the Lima traffic until we were safely on the Panamerica Sur.


Once on this multi-lane highway and free of the city congestion we settled down to what appeared to be a comfortable speed. A glance over the driver’s shoulder revealed the speedo needle flickering precariously between 120 and 130kms/hour.


4261-21861I glanced at both sides of the highway taking in the view as we careened sweetly along. “Pueblos Jovenes,” the young towns, a euphemism for the slums that were perched and scattered on the high sand dunes on the left. On the right, the same sight with less sand dunes. Poverty made its sad impact as I wondered how people forced to live in such squallid conditions coped. Trying hard to equate my comfortable first world upbringing with the tortuous daily struggle faced by these artless squatters with none of the familar amenities.


Now that I was at ease with our driver’s ability to control our speeding behemoth, especially after the tactics he used to dodge, swerve and keep us safely from harm as a truckload of foam mattresses exploded all over the higway as a restraining rope gave way.


The scenery changed, the backdrop still essentially the same dull sky and never-ending dunes, we passed frequent beach resorts and the occasional abandoned agricultural project, desserted chicken farms, fields of drying or dying vegetaion, neglected for a myriad of reasons.


Horrible grey sand dunes slipped past under the still horrible grey shroud, all permanetly depressing.


cottonflowersFinally, relief, vegetation, sun. Paddocks of green, fields of cotton punctuated with yellow blooms, acres of asparagus fern, corn fields, casava crops and citrus groves were among the many identifiable crops. The muddy irrigation ditches outlining and dividing the parched soils.


Great canals lined the road, naked children leapt from the banks with delight into the dirty cool waters, their gleeful screams lost as we hurtled past. Mothers labouriously washed clothes in the same water and piled them high, the nearby bushes bloomed with the strange fruit of sun-drying clothes. Daughters dandled nappied babies on their laps on the grass beside their toiling mums. These scenes continued as we sped on toward Pisco.


Soon we were rewarded by our arrival at the mysterious Chincha. A largish town, roads choked with traffic mainly in the form of motor-rickshaw type taxis, that buzzed everywhere like bees. Circling the square with its stalls selling the local produce, wines, spirits and port, and of course that famous local product; Pisco.


inka kolaStationary in front of the depot, the doors opened and the bus was flooded with boys and girls, men and women. Everybody was selling something. Newspapers, chocolate and tepid fizzy drinks, including that diabolical Peruvian invention “Inka Kola,” a bright yellow concoction that looked like horse pee and tasted like bottled bubblegum, even now I shudder at the thought.


With a change of passengers, the chaotic exit of the sellers, the bus was ready to go only being prevented from moving by a relic of the US auto-industry’s heyday. A battered, almost beyond recognition, early ‘60’s Dodge (definitely well past its validity date) was parked driverless in the middle of the road while its driver was away on some unguessed business. A couple of locals recognising our plight, reached in relaesed the handbrake and pushed it out of the way.


A lurch and we turned tightly out of the square. The driver had to be commended for his ability to manouever this outsized piano accordian in seemingly impossible situations. Weaving through the chaos back to the safety of the highway, even though it had for some time been reduced to a single lane.


After a journey of four hours it was with some relief that we turned off the main road toward the coast and the final few kilometres to Pisco. Negotiating the narrow streets the driver again displayed his skills with horn blaring to hurry along the slow buzzing motor-taxis, we arrived. Safely inside the bus depot, gate closed, a final lurch and were at a standstill. Once off the bus we were able to claim our baggage.