23 October 2012

Maria had a little lamb


Alarm – eeek!
Shower, dress, pack, check out – adios, La Cupula!
Bus office: forms, forms, forms: bus manifest, Bolivian Customs, Peru immigration – check!
Slight delay: unkempt young travellers running late.
Crosses on roof ridges on Bolivian houses: most simple corrugated iron designs, but some more intricate, with wreath designs and replica reed boats.


15 minutes’ drive then stamp, stamp: adios, Bolivia!
3 minute walk then stamp, stamp: bienvenido al Peru! 90 days, but I won’t need them all.
Sheep grazing. Llamas grazing. Donkeys pulling ploughs and carrying brightly coloured bundles. Pigs grazing and wallowing – multi-taskers – or should that be multi-tuskers? Ha!
An army base – looks run down, with glass broken in every window of the biggest building – but, no! Soldiers guarding the gate and the red and white flag flying high.
Blue bay of multi-striped small boats and fish farms.
Green toilet country. Blue toilet country.
Two kids flying gaudy plastic kites – great breeze for it. Laughter!
Working bee building house foundations: women carting large pails of water, men struggling under the weight of large boulders.
Brown toilet country – they’re new since last year.
Snoozing … zzzzz …

5 minute changeover at Puno, then …

Last views of Titicaca, highest of the big lakes.
Wide landscapes of patchwork crops and wetlands.
Big skies! BIG skies! HUGE skies, with cotton-wool clouds.


1st stop: Juliaca, hellhole of Peru.

New companions: tired-looking mother, tired-looking young son and their lamb, in its very own plastic carrier bag. Cute but, oh, that rural smell of shit! I pick my overnight bag up off the floor and onto my knees – in case of, you know, accidents. And, yes, accidents do happen! I open the window. The lamb bleats and looks at me with huge eyes.
Plains: few signs of life. A river runs through. Crumbling adobe-brick ruins that once were houses dot the landscape. Golden grass.
Lamby is hungry and, mistakenly, nuzzles my leg. Next it tries to nibble my pants. It tries to eat my button. I tell its mother the lamb is hungry. She shrugs. She looks hungry too and pulls out some bread for herself and the boy.
Snoozing … zzzzz … but the smell of pee in my nostrils wakes me and again I let the breeze in.
Young Mr Cool, of the rolled up jean legs, single braid in his hair, cool sunnies, turns up his music. A generalisation: Peruvians love noise! A tall tourist gets up, goes over, tells him to turn it off. Perhaps, intimidated, Mr Cool obeys.
More snoozing …
A police stop! On come the Men in Black, looking for contraband. Checking under seats, they spot a bundle of cartoned somethings and start to cart them off, only to be verbally assaulted by a local woman, claiming the goods and haranguing the police until they back off. Go girl!
Snoozing again …
The bus stops and the food arrives, courtesy of a local woman carrying a big multi-striped bundle on her back and a large plastic pail in her hand. She unwraps, shouts out the menu. Tourists cluster over her, peering for a look at the offerings. What is it? Cameras click, movies are shot. A cleaver appears and the woman begins to chop, with large savage blows. The tourists back off. The woman stuffs plastic bags with joints of meat and potatoes, and serves.
It smells good! Tempting, but potentially trouble. Tummy rumbling, I open the window.
Once more with the snoozing …
Another stop, more entertainment … or not! A travelling salesman, Peruvian style, stands in the aisle, spouting his spiel for a good 15 minutes. Something about all sorts of different types of food and drink causing stones but not if you drink his special magic potion three times a day and it only costs 30 soles for a month’s supply. But he’s picked the wrong crowd … these are mostly poor passengers and that’s a lot of money. Not a single sale the first time around, so he tries again.
Trying to snooze …
Snow on the mountains!


Passengers getting restless. Are we there yet?
The lamb bleats and pees. I open the window, even though it’s raining a little.
I remember this is the night for the Orionids and, here in the countryside, it’s dark. I look to the east and, as if sensing my intentions, the driver turns the lights on. Another stop. Passengers pile out to pee.
Again with the snoozing, and I’m not the only one … snores from all around.
Finally, finally, finally, city lights ahead … and soon I’m home, drinking a hot cuppa and munching on an empanada from my friendly local baker, who wants to know where I’ve been ‘cause he hasn’t seen me in weeks. He likes to exaggerate! I’m glad to be home but I can still smell lamb pee.