Saturday, 3 March 2007

My ongoing battle with the buses of Peru

The other day I got caught in the Cusco rain (I'm here during the rainy season, the clue's in the title), slipped over on a wet cobblestone and hurt my back. Then I went back to the hostel, hung up my raincoat in the bathroom and went to bed. In the morning I discovered that the coat had fallen off the hook and one sleeve was hanging in the toilet bowl (why oh why didn't I put the seat down?) so it was sopping wet.

I'd grown tired of the endless pointless flat searching (well, I'd looked at a couple of places) so I'd decided to get out of town for a few days. Most of my stuff was packed already, so I didn't really have a choice about wearing the coat without a major re-pack, though I did roll the soggy sleeve up.

In the course of doing this I realised that the flush on the toilet probably wasn't the most efficient in town, because my sleeve bore the faint but unmistakable aroma of urine.

So I headed off for my bus, which should have been five hours but turned out to be eight, behind the obligatory screaming baby ("Sounds like he's just tired" "Yes, well, screaming solidly for four hours would be enough to wear anyone out. I suggest he takes a break before his lungs start bleeding"). I was also sitting next to someone who smelled like a chap of regular and voluminous bowel movements, but who didn't like to waste his money on fripperies like toilet paper. Or soap. So I wasn't in the best mood throughout the journey, through the mountains with the windows open.

To be fair, though, he probably spent eight hours thinking I stank of p1ss.

I'm now in Puno, which is on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which is apparently not the highest navigable lake in the world, despite what some people might tell you. I mean, it's not something I've ever felt strongly about myself, but I've read it and been told it quite a few times now, so I thought I'd share that piece of non-information with you.

When I got here last night there was some kind of carnival celebration in full flow. They'd turned the main square of town into one giant foam party, and there were a procession of bands and dancers in the streets. I think there's been a celebration of some kind every week since I've been here, so either this is the time to go to Peru for street parties (it's all about planning and research for me), or these crazy kids just do this all the time. I know what I suspect.

There have also been a few political demonstrations, but I haven't known enough Spanish to know what they were about. I hope they weren't on behalf of the "Let's kick out the gringos" Party, but you can never be too sure. On the whole they love tourists here and welcome them with open wallets, but I'm told not everywhere is the same. One girl was telling me how beautiful Bolivia was, but she did say that you often see "gringos out!" and "tourists go home!" painted on the walls in Spanish, and at one point someone spat at her in the street. I told her that if I wanted that kind of hostility I'd go to Wales. However, I might well go to places like Copacabana and La Paz, which are incredibly close here, and about as tourist friendly as they get. I mean, they even let Barry Manilow write a song about Copacabana.

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