04 September 2012

Northern Peru: getting there

Cusco's symbol, on a wall at Cusco airport
The flight from Cusco to Lima went smoothly. I saw more snow-capped mountains than on my previous flights, presumably due to the time of year. It is rugged landscape – these are the Andes, after all! – and, with the rainy season just about to start, it was brown, brown, brown. The roads are interesting when viewed from on high – they curl back and forth, winding back on themselves in order to negotiate the steep terrain, the lines scarring the landscape to create Nazca-like designs. I’m sure I saw the head of a duck, a very stylised condor, the legs of a deer. Would aliens think the roads were offerings to some sky-living gods, I wonder?

Sorry, I have no photos from the flight. The windows of the Peruvian Airlines plane were too scuffed and dirty to make photography possible.

From Lima airport, we caught a taxi across town to the Cruz del Sur bus station. It always feels a bit odd being back in a big city after living in Cusco. Busy motorways, skyscrapers, huge electronic billboards all seem a little strange at first. The drivers are even more crazy than in Cusco, missing other cars by mere inches as if they have an in-built proximity alert sensor.

Cruz del Sur is probably the best bus company in Peru. Their motto, El placer de viajar en bus (the pleasure of travelling by bus), is accurate and well-founded. There are two options on their buses, which are almost all double-deckers. You can choose the cheaper, semi-reclining seats upstairs, or the almost fully reclining, plush seats downstairs. For the 12-hour overnight journey to Chiclayo, we chose downstairs and it was definitely worth it. You also get a hot meal (or box lunch or breakfast, depending on what time of day you travel), pillow and blanket, and there is a bus attendant to cater to your needs. There is also video entertainment – tourist videos, followed by movies, but you can easily switch those off and just snooze away the miles.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As it was only 3pm and we had 4½ hours till our departure, we checked in our bags, had some lunch at the good bus station café, then went wandering to find Museo de la Naciόn, Peru’s National Museum. It’s only about five blocks from the bus station so a good solution to kill some waiting time.

It’s a huge, cavernous building, with as much empty as exhibition space and little signage to direct the visitor but, what we saw of it, was interesting. There was a photographic exhibition honouring the negro people of Peru, remnants of the African people brought here to work in mines and plantations by the Spanish colonials; there was an exhibition, and sale, of contemporary crafts and furniture; and there was a fascinating display of finds from local archaeological excavations. Then we were kicked out!

A replica bust from the Peru archaeology exhibit

Although the sign at the front door said the museum was supposed to be open till 6pm, the staff herded up the few visitors and kicked us all out at 4. Perhaps they’d collectively decided to have an early finish. It was disappointing, and many Peruvians were visibly annoyed and vocal about it, but that didn’t make any difference.

A huge Japanese-style vase in the grounds of the museum

So, we wandered back towards the bus station, stopping at a McDonalds – Sarah first-ever visit inside a golden arches establishment – for a drink. At the bus station, we killed time watching TV and people and reading and then, before we knew it, it was time to board and settle in for the journey north.

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