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marge & ian’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 21 Jan 2006

Location: *Santiago to Cusco in Peru*, Peru

MapSantiago to Arica (CHILE) 21/01/06 - 22/01/06

If you looked at a map Chile is a long thin country. Santiago is halfway up and Arica is at the top. The last town before crossing into Peru. Basically a very very long way. We got on the bus at 10am on 21st and would not arrive until 2 in the afternoon the following day. It was the only option as a flight would be 400 squid each and we had to be in CUSCO, Peru two days before we did the Inca trail (which was closing for a month in Feb) so we could acclimatize to the altitude of 3200m above sea level. We were in a hurry !!

The journey turned out to be as boring as we expected and a nightmare, as you can imagine. The only three highlights were:-

1. Ian´s face when after a whole nights journey he was presented with a biscuit for breakfast (see photo).
2. My face as the bus went along perilous roads with 500m drops in the Atacama desert. (The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world and the scale of the views to the mountains behind was breathtaking).
3. On the final stop before Arica, we got off the bus to stretch our legs along with a few other people in a remote desert town. The driver said something to Ian in spanish which must have been to the effect of "you wait here for 10 minutes while I go and get the next meal from the bus depot". Obviously we didn´t understand this. So you can picture Ian´s face as he ran after the bus banging on the side telling the driver to stop!!! All the spanish speakers thought this was highly amusing!

The trip was so bad that I made Ian swear that he would never make me do a 28 hour bus journey ever again.

We arrived in Arica 20k from the Chile/Peru border on time. The Lonely Planet said that travellers had to find a "collectivo" (an unmarked taxi) to cross the border. Guess what we couldn´t find any. Eventually I spot some westerners walking across the bus station and decide to follow them, coz they might know what they were doing. We were led into a "tourist information" shop where we were offered a combined ticket across the border and going directly to Cuzco that would only take 14 hours. Not knowing any better we decided to just pay the money and get out of there.

The two westerners, Dave an Ozzie from Canberra and his girlfriend Lianne from South Africa, decided to do the same. We were led out to our taxi which was the biggest heap of crap going (see picture).

The border crossing was easy with the taxi driver guiding us to the front of the queues. On the Peruvian side the taxi driver just had to show his papers to three blokes sitting under a tree, who had a rubber stamp each.

We got dropped off in the bus station in Tacna to realise that we had been done because we had to wait for 4 hours, instead of 2, for the bus, and the journey time would be nearly 24 hours instead of 14. You can imagine my distress that I was on another 24 hour journey only 5 hours after swearing I would never do it again. Worst was still to come as the journey was to be on a bus with less leg room than a baby in a womb!

Despite the most uncomfortable night ever spent, with the shittest toilet, that was a hole where you could see the road beneath you, we did have one highlight and one defiate lowlight.

The highlight was that we felt that we were seeing real South American´s for the first time, as the Peruvians often wear traditional dress. In particular we enjoyed meeting the Peruvian mother and her daughter who we befriended. The mum made scarves out of Alpaca wool for a living and the little girl was really cute. She really enjoyed listening to my ipod.

The lowlight was that we were almost brought to the point of vomiting in our seats by a Peruvian guy who consistently brought flem up from the back of his throat and spat it on the window and then proceeded to rub it around with his fingers. When he could no longer see out of one window he would move to another seat (as the bus was fairly empty by this point) and repat the process!!!!! We were unsure whether this was something that all Peruvian men did, after being in Peru for over a week and a half now, we can confirm that "spit the dog" was the exception rather than the norm. Hgggght Phuuuut! ( should know how this translates!).

Oh we nearly forgot the scenery of high green mountains with agricultural terraces was exactly what we imagined Peru to be like.

We arrived in Cuzco knackered after what was a total of 54 hours continuous travelling on some of the worst transport that we have been on so far.