Friday, 20 February 2015

Peruvian ways (Peru)

February 2015:  Unearthed my journal from my first trip to Peru in June 1986, and these excerpts (in chronological order of occurrence as we travelled from Lima up to Cuzco) just make me chuckle:

Excerpt 01:  Pisco.  We packed and bought tickets for the 3.15pm [long distance Pisco-to-Ica bus].  The wall chart at the bus terminus says 3pm and 3.30pm, and then the bus left at 2.40pm!  I suppose this is how you filter out overcrowding — by wrong-footing the passengers with crazy, shifting time-keeping!

[NB: Being a long distance bus service, they wouldn’t have had a bus leaving at 3pm, one at 3.15pm, one at 3.30pm, which is too frequent at 15-minute intervals, so it must've been purely the Peruvian fluid time-keeping. ed.]

Excerpt 02:  2.5-hour journey [from Ica] to Nazca.  Well, add to that an hour late in departing from Ica.  The driver then stopped for lunch about half an hour out of Ica despite protests from passengers.

Excerpt 03:  Nazca.  The two strange American chaps (one doing weights, the other very dark skinned with greyish hair) were leaving for Chile via Tacna.  Their bus was something like an hour late — we should’ve booked the 7.30pm instead of the 9.30pm then for Arequipa!  Sure enough, our bus came at about 10.30, and then we found two women in our seats.  The driver finally got a chap with an empty seat next to him to move to the back.  I’m sure two other chaps also got moved off the bus to make room for us but maybe I was wrong.

Excerpt 04:  Cuzco.  Arrived from Juliaca after sundown.  Collected at the train station by mini-bus, 10 of us tourists packed in like the locals are, and driven through unlit streets.  We were told that we were going this way into town because the direct route had suffered the effects of an earthquake.  At one point, the driver turned left into another unlit street and I saw the headlights of two mini-buses coming towards us, side by side.  It was one overtaking the other just before the junction!  I let out a long and low, “Ohhhhhhhhh…!” and the other passengers laughed at me.  Somehow, in a Peruvian sort of way, we managed to avoid a headlong collision.  With nine gringos in the bus, it was laughed off — the locals would probably not even have noticed it, let alone bat an eyelid.

[Gringo: what Peruvians call (usually white) foreigners — one version says this is from when the latter first arrived and, homesick, used to sing around the campfires, Green Grow The Rushes (in their own homeland).  You can google for more precise versions.]

Excerpt 05:  Cuzco.  Outside the [hotel] bathroom window which overlooks the Indian shacks by the Machu Picchu railway track under the bridge, the train was leaving noisily for Machu Picchu, hooting its way out of town like it does into town.  I remember the TV series Great Railway Journeys of the World — the one on Peru was about the world’s highest railway:  as the train was getting out of town, it had to hoot continuously because there were people selling, working, resting on the tracks.  People gathered up their things and chickens, and one peasant had a goat which refused to budge, so the train had to stop until the animal could be persuaded.

Excerpt 06:  Cuzco.  Tried to look for the Viasa office to change date of departure from Peru from the 20th to the 27th, giving us one more week to enjoy Cuzco.  It turned out to be a nightmare — everyone (including the traffic policeman in a little kiosk in the middle of the long road where the Viasa office was meant to be, according to the guide book) giving us wrong directions rather than saying they didn’t know.  

[ed., 2015:  This was something the guide book did warn us against:  Peruvians, or maybe all South Americans, will just give you any answer rather than say they don’t know.]

Excerpt 07:  Cuzco.  The man at the camping equipment hire shop said we could go back the next morning to collect the equipment, saying that they open at 9.  I said, “So we’ll see you at 9.”  He said, “No, come at 10.”  I said, “I thought you said you open at 9?”  He said, “Yes, 9, 10, something like that.  Come at 10.”

(Peru, 1986)