After buying my sombrero de paja toquilla in Cuenca, I took a bus to Loja, then another across the border into northern Peru, Piura, and another on to Chiclayo. The buses are decent, super cheap considering the distances we are covering. The AC works to the extent that it’s really cold when it’s cold outside in the morning, and really hot when it’s hot outside.
Watching the world go by through the windows is part of the experience, so much richer than travelling by plane. As we left one bus terminal, there was an horloge fleurie on the grass bank, a small reminder of Geneva. Further along, a row of restaurants, each with a whole pig dangling from a peg at the entrance. Well the first one was whole, the rest were in varying states of undress. Not such a familiar sight in Geneva. We passed a gold mine on the right, sugar cane fields on the left. And one moment we were driving through fog, the next we were high above the clouds, just like the magic of going skiing in the mountains of Switzerland.
The entertainment on board leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not enough just to play music, they also show films at the same time. On one bus, they played Flight. The sound was so quiet that even if I could have understood the Spanish dubbing I couldn’t hear it. I gathered the gist of the story: Denzel Washington was high and drunk when flying a plane, became a hero when he landed the plane in a miraculous crash landing (thanks to our bus driver, I had a proper simulation of the crash landing experience) with the death of just one flight attendant, then cracked under the pressure and went to jail when he admitted his sins. Next, Hijos de Mafia – the perfect film chosen especially to suit the two young children sitting in the front, watching attentively. This one I really enjoyed: they all ended up shooting each other, and there was poetic justice at the end when a young man shot his old mentor. Ah the mafia. And finally The Terminal with Tom Hanks. For this one, the monitor was behind me but the Spanish voices blared out from the speakers right above my head. It seems you can have picture or sound but never both.
On the last leg to Chiclayo, I had the company of a Dutch guy who had also been on the same bus as me the day before. We had bought our tickets separately but were given seats 3 and 4 at the front of the top level – the tourist seats? – and had great views of what turned out to be one long, straight, road, the Panamericana, with desert on either side.
Paul from Holland was studying medicine and had taken five months off to travel, following a similar route to mine, though also popping over to Colombia. We had a lovely conversation until he asked:
“How old are you?”
“Erm, well, how old do you think I am?”
“Well you’ve done a masters, and you’re working, so… at least 25?”
“I just turned 30.” (Okay so I turned 30 seven months ago. Shh.) “How old are you?”
Sheesh. Way to make a girl feel old. I almost pointed out that women have their sexual peak in their 30s, men at 18. But I thought that might be a bit forward given we’d just met.
On a side note: Following my ‘lone traveller’ post, you’ll all be happy to hear that I invited two English boys to my table for dinner yesterday and afterwards we had a beer together. So I wasn’t alone last night.