September 14th, 2008 – by: genkeeper
Drive from Lima to Nazca. People are living on just sand, sand and huge sand dunes.
1:30 am September 14th, I am on the phone with my mom who has been on the phone with my doctor, because of my now nasty sinus infection I can't fly to Cuzco. The flight from Cuzco goes from 1,000 feet to 10,000 + feet in 45 minutes and I'd blow my ear drums out. Fantastic. So, at 7:00 am I call the GAP Adventures Lima office to tell them that a) I will not be flying with the tour to Cuzco and b) to have our Lima contact get to the hotel early so we can figure out how to get me on a bus. Of course, the woman doesn't show up until 10:00 am. I explain to her that I've been grounded by my doc, but there's no need to worry I just need a bus to Cuzco. Well, after much calling around she finds Kristi and I seats on Cial, as we soon would find out is the worst bus line in Peru.
At the Cial bus station we bought VIP seats (the more expensive seats), which are the seats in the bottom back of the bus that recline (the bus is a doubledecker). As VIPs, we were able to also sit in the VIP lounge upstairs that had it's own VIP stairs to the bus. After a quick run to the super market for supplies (where we finally found out what all those weird eggs we were seeing being sold on the street were - Grouse Eggs), we hopped on board our bus ride from hell.
Not too long after the bus headed for Nazca (yes, we were just there yesterday), Kristi asks "Does it smell like gasoline to anyone else?" Our new Israeli friend next to me said "Yeah, it smells a lot like gasoline in here." Quickly we deduced that when the bus driver turned on the AC it smelled like gas in our little compartment, which meant that gasoline was leaking into the AC system and we were all being slowly poisoned.
Our VIP compartment in the back, bottom of the bus.
To make matters worse, we were in prime location for bad motion sickness - back, bottom of the bus on a drive that as soon as it turned toward the Andes became endless switchbacks and curves. The one toilet in the bus was covered with unmentionable grossness and the attendant never came down to check on us or listen to our pleas that the movies were so low we couldn't hear the sound.
At shortly after midnight the bus stops and 15 minutes later there is a flurry of commotion and flashlights outside the bus. With camera in hand I creap out of the bus to find most of the passengers from upstairs milling around outside with flashlights. Near one of the back wheels the bus attendant and a scruffy looking man, who turns out to be the bus' mechanic, are cutting up what appears to be the rubber from a spare tire.
Breakdown number one. There is a third guy IN the wheel well,
They are making a thinner belt out of it. Then they go over to the jacked up tire and pass it to a guy who is INSIDE of the wheel well. Now Peru has a bit of a problem with bus night hijackings. Kristi and I were a little leary to take the all night bus to Cuzco, but we had little other choice so we sucked it up and went. Not only did we take a night bus, we took a night bus that broke down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere just waiting for the hijackers to come and pick us off. It took the bus guys about an hour to "fix" the bus, then we hit the road again this time with a destinct ker-chunck every time the second to the back tire rolled.
We rolled along till 2:00 am when again the bus stopped followed by a load crash from outside.
Breakdown number two. The wheel is off to my right with the bus attendant currently sitting on it. The small pile of pulvarized metal is by the end of the pipe, under the wheel shaft.
Again my camera and I go out to investigate. This time I found the whole tire off and lying on the ground, pieces of metal and nuts and bolts spread everywhere and a pile of pulvarized metal under the shaft of the wheel. There are two other girls outside with me from France, so I ask them in French what happened. They and our bus attendant had a short conversation in Spanish before they replied to me that the rotator had broken and the mechanic had gone to find the itty-bitty-town-we-were-stranded-in's mechanic. Not one hundred percent sure that it was a rotator that was broken since things were being translated from French to Spanish back to French, but something had definitely crapped out in the wheel and was off being fixed.
The bus attendant said we would be stranded for at least a couple of hours!! I figured the tiny, poor, one block long town we were stuck in couldn't be too bad since off in the distance I could see the dim glow from the mechanics shop where our bus mechanic was fixing the broken part.
Luckily the part was fixed, the tire was put back together and back on the bus and off we went, to again try to make it all the way to Cuzco. Once the sun came up, the drive through the Andes was pretty and we did eventually make it to Cuzco in 24.5 hours (it was only supposed to take 20) with quite the strange story to tell and a warning to stay away from Cial!