This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Long Road - Vilcabamba to Cuzco

Making a  B-Line for Cuzco

It is near the end of April and we are sitting in Vilcabamba with not much to do and our Ecuadorian visa about to run out. We know we are headed to Peru and make the big decision to get down south to Cuzco and Machu Picchu as quickly as possible before high tourist season kicks in then we'll slowly work our way back up to Ecuador. The problem is that we are really far away from Cuzco. My rough, and probably inaccurate, estimate is that we need to go 1940 km (1205 miles).

For an intriguing take on Vilcabamba, Ecuador click here

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We leave Vilcabamba at 8:00 PM for the city, Loja to catch an 11:00 PM night bus that will take us to Piura, Peru. We get to the border at 3:00 AM and quietly cross without any hassle getting a 90 day visa. At this crazy hour I feel like a smuggler or better yet, Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter.

We arrive at Piura at 8:00 AM a bit strung out from the night bus and disorientated because sometime during the night the landscape changed from green mountains to desert. Being Semana Santa with Easter around the corner, Monday is the earliest that we can get a good priced bus to Lima so we decide to just stick around Piura for the weekend and get acclimated to the nuances of a new country.
A night procession on Good Friday

Riding Business Class

Peru has many different bus companies of varying quality and service. For our 16 hour ride to Lima we choose a good one. Our large seats - three to a row - recline 160 degrees. There are headphones (so we are not subjected to listen to the driver's movie and music selection), meal service with vegetarian option, tray tables, bingo led by the purser, and wifi. Depending on the route there are even fancier buses that have seats reclining into a 180 degree bed with individual tv screens.

Only 16 hours to go...
Also, bus security appears to be better in Peru. We get tickets for our luggage and before entering the bus bags are searched, people pass metal detectors and everyone is filmed. The buses do not stop either to pick up random people. There are two drivers who take four hour shifts and adhere to the speed limit.

Our bus to Lima also has something that we have never seen on board a bus in Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand. I think they called it a "seat belt." The purser even passed by and made sure that we were using this strange contraption.

Even in the lap of vehicular luxury 16 hours is 16 hours and I am glad when we finally arrive to Peru's capital, Lima.
Sign up for the frequent rider program 
Quickly in the Capital

We spend a three days in Lima almost never leaving Miraflores - a nice neighborhood. It is guaranteed that we'll be back in the city some other time and will do all of the touristy stuff then. So all I will say for now about Lima is that the food is great. Though having come from Ecuador, the lunch menu at a school cafeteria in the USA would feel like a foodie's dream. There is even one restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, in Lima that has just been named the 42nd best restaurant in the world. With entrees around US $20, it seems like a bargain. We try to get in, but they are too full for last minute reservations. Maybe when we return to the big city.

Back to Economy Class

In Lima there is not a central bus station so you have to go to each company's office to ask about tickets. It is a bit annoying, but at least we learn how to manage the city's public transportation system which will come in handy next time we're there. We buy our tickets to leave the next morning on our 24 hour journey to Cuzco.
Trapped for 24 hrs in this beast
 We choose the wrong company and this longer bus trip is much worse than our last one. The tv has no picture, only sound. So we have to just listen to hours of Spanish. Then they put on music DVDs and we get pictures with no sound. The toilet is gross with water problems. We are only allowed to pee, no #2. We get food, but no tray tables so we have to eat balancing food on our mid-sections.

Our seats are large and recline back 160 degrees, but I only sleep about an hour. The passenger behind us has smelly feet too close to our armrest. The obese guy on my right is snoring up a typhoon all night and someone in the back is coughing up his lung. At around 4:00 AM a woman begins complaining loudly in Quechua to her husband about the snoring, fat guy. In the morning we make one pit stop to stretch our legs, brush our teeth and to go #2 for those so inclined.

Gracias a Pachamama, finally we arrive to Cuzco. If I were a bit more dramatic and a bit less anal about contracting some icky germs I would have kissed the ground at the bus terminal.

The International Rambler Travel Tip: In Peru do not skimp on night buses longer than 10 hours. If you absolutely cannot afford to ride in a nicer bus buy yourself some earplugs.

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