Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Taxis and Buses

My last week in Peru was definitely filled with adventure.   Me and my 2 friends were on the go the whole time.  We spent 2 days traveling to the small islands on Lake Titicaca. 

Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

This lake is the highest navigable lake in the world and is home to Peru on one side and Bolivia on the other.  We took a boat to some manmade islands called the Uros Islands. 

Floating Islands and Lake Titicaca

These were little islands that the local people make out of the reeds in the water.  They tie them together and then build little villages on them.  We had a little history lesson about the culture and how the islands were made. 

Our history lesson about how the small islands are made.

They last about 20 years and the families are always making new islands so they will have somewhere to move to when needed. 

After the tour of the manmade islands we went to a natural island in the lake where we spent the night with a local family.  The family was great.  There was a husband and wife in who were 32 and they had 2 children. 

Sonja - the host mom we stayed with

We stayed in their house and they cooked us 3 meals. 

The very basic kitchen they cooked all their meals in.

It was a really nice experience and I was able to practice my Spanish a bit.  While we were there, we hiked up the highest hill on the island and we wanted the sunset. 

Sunset view from the tallest mountain on the island

The next morning we went on a tour of another island before heading back to the mainland.

View from the highest mountain on the island

Once back on the mainland we caught a night bus (which was supposed to be 10 hrs but turned into 14 hrs) towards the coast.  We were headed to a town called Ica. 

Town of Ica which is in the middle of the desert

We got to Ica after a dreadfully long night on the least comfortable bus possible and were pleasantly surprised and more than elated by the amazing sunshine, beautiful blue pool and pool side bar.

Our pool right next to the sand dunes Right behind the hostel were these massive sand dunes where you could go sandboarding. The hostel also had cute parrots that hung around the pool all day. Me and the parrots.

Ica is a well known region for wine and Pisco making, so we figured “When in Rome…” right.  Off we went to try some wine and Pisco.  I learned that although I love wine, I do not love Pisco.  It is really strong and there is actually a strategy the locals use to drink it. Take in a deep breath while smelling the Pisco, hold your breath, take the shot, swish it around your mouth for a second or two, swallow and then breath out.  Although this strategy makes it more palatable, it still didn’t do it for me, I think I’ll stick to beer, crown, rum, vodka and everything else!  But for all of you who have tried it let me know what you think. 

This is the bamboo stick they use to get the wine/pisco out of the vats and into your glass.

We decided to spend 2 nights at this hostel relaxing and soaking up the sun rather than rushing to Lima to hangout in a big city.  Little did we know that there was going to be a massive strike that would not allow us to easily take the bus to Lima which was our final destination……

Before we found out what kind of adventure we were in for...

We had bought tickets on the 9th for a bus to take us to Lima at 6:00pm on the 10th.  We would spend one night in Lima and then have all day on the 11th to check out the city before our flights late that night.  We arrived at the bus station to find out that there was a strike and two of the roads the bus needed to take to get to Lima were closed.  They told us that we could wait it out and possibly the strike would end and the roads would open, but they couldn’t be sure as to when this would happen, maybe 1 hour maybe a few days.  So we waited…..and we waited….and we waited.  At this point we had claimed our territory on the floor of the bus station to which it seemed most people were a tad bit jealous.  About 15 other people and us ended up spending the night in the bus station since we didn’t want to lose our spots on the next possible bus to Lima.

At 5:00 am the bus station re-opened and a whole new slew of people came to the station to discover that they too were not getting to Lima that day.  We had heard that we could possibly take a taxi to where the road was closed and walk 2 Km across, then catch another taxi to the next road block, then walk again, and then catch a bus to Lima.  We had heard mixed thoughts about whether this was safe.  I guess everyone has a different definition of “safe”.  Some said that they were burning things and throwing fire and rocks at cars/buses/people who tried to cross, while others shrugged it off as just another nuisance on the main road.    We debated and kept asking around before finally making a decision.  We had stopped some police officers and asked their opinion about 3 gringas with 20 kilo backpacks walking across the strike zone.  They said “it’s more or less safe”.  At this point a Peruvian woman came by to talk with the police and she said that she had decided to walk if we wanted to go with her.  After a lot of talk and deliberation we decided to take on the adventure since we weren’t able to switch our flights and we would at least have a local with us.   

So the adventure began.  We got in the first or many cabs.  About 10 minutes into the drive we got a flat tire. 

The first mishap...a flat tire.

So we had to pull over and get it fixed.  I am pretty sure that in a first world county if the tire needs to be patched 3 times and has already been patched ~10 times, they would likely just get a new tire.  Nope, not in Peru.  So after the cab driver made us pay upfront (so that he could pay for the tire repair) we were back on the road.  We drove for about an hour before hitting the first road block.  As soon as we all got out and picked up our bags the cab driver told us to pick up a rock “just in case”. 

The only picture I could get of the police in the streets with guns, shields and helmets.

 

Thank goodness that at exactly that moment a nice man pulled over and asked us if we wanted to ride with him because he was “pretty sure” he could drive around the road block.  It would take 1 ½ hrs but we wouldn’t have to walk.  So we all jumped in.  We literally drove through the desert in some of the worst looking parts of the world I have ever seen where poor families were trying to make a few extra soles (Peruvian dollars). 

The mud swamps we had to drive through during the road blocks

They would set up their own road blocks complete with massive boulders, wood and burning tires and make us pay to get though.  Some held machetes for increased intimidation (didn’t get a picture of this) and told us to pay more if they didn’t like what we were originally offering.

This was the horrible desert we drove through. I can't believe people live out here.

We finally made it through this and came to yet another road block which we thought would be our last.  We thought we would be able to walk across and get on a bus to Lima.  But turns out they had decided to set up yet another strike zone (we later found out that it was the cotton production workers that were striking to make more money).  So off we went to find another taxi to take us around the road block and to the next city where we could catch a bus.  This leg lasted about 1 hour and the car was barely big enough for all 4 of us (plus the driver) not to mention the 15-20 kilo bags we each had.  It was a long 1 hour to say the least.  We finally made it to the next town at 3:00pm – just in time as we found out that the last bus to Lima was leaving at 3:20 pm.  We bought our tickets and hopped on.  We rode this to the bus station and at this point we had 30 soles left between the 3 of us.  We found a taxi driver who was willing to take us to the Lima airport for this amount of money and we were golden.  So 26 hours after we thought we were supposed to leave it felt really nice to finally make it to our destination. 

A few hours to chill out and relax in the airport before boarding a flight to LAX.  I arrived in LAX and took the bus to the train station, where I caught the train to San Diego.  All in all my return to North America took me 43 hours, may not have been the safest,  but what an adventure it was and now I am chilling out and relaxing with friends.   

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“Toes in the water, ass in the sand…Life is good today”

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2 Responses to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Taxis and Buses”

  1. After all this ordeal I’m so glad you made it to San Diego — your last stop before home! OMG! one whole year traveling the world!

  2. Welcome back to the states Jess! So glad you made it around the world and are back on US soil. Missed you tons and can’t wait to hear all about your adventures. Thanks for sharing all your stories with this blog…it was great to travel the world with you.

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