A Monologue

or

A Lament

or

An Opera in Many Acts.

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Nice blanket!

1497 km to go. That’s the best part of 900 miles! The sun is shining intermittently through the clouds. Repeated announcements accompanied by videos brief us on safety procedures, but as they’re all in Spanish, I don’t pay attention. It’s not like I’m on a plane. My iPod is filling my brain with Paul Van Dyk’s For an Angel – nothing like a bit of classic trance to help pass the time. I’m going to experiment with writing as we go on this one to see what happens on the other side. I think it has promise, you may disagree!

*

Reading material, check.
Reading material, check.

They’ve just put a movie on. It has been dubbed into Spanish so I return to writing. We appear to be following signs to Puerto Inca, which sounds exciting, especially since our ultimate destination is Machu Picchu. We won’t get there for a few days yet though. My helpful maps app now reads 1422km to go, time to read a bit I think. Helena has given me Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard which has so far enticed the reader with a clandestine sex scene, hints at an affair, an impending court case and potentially a murder. Well done Ms Doughty, good hook.

*
1330 km – I haven’t read anything yet. I’ve been usefully clearing out space on my iPhone – ooh look, another Apple product! The sun appears to have gone down, but that can’t be the case as it’s only 4:24 pm. Grey skies ahead cast only gloom on the road and surrounding landscape. The film is still playing but I doubt many people are watching it. Helena is sleeping by my side; I might have to try and recline her seat a bit because her head is lolling around. I wonder if I can do it without waking her?

*

Bye bye Ecuador...
Bye bye Ecuador…

Unfortunately, I failed on the ‘not waking Helena’ front. Dusk has definitely fallen now; our view from the front row of the top deck will soon be limited to lights flashing past in the darkness. The Spanish film finished and then Jurassic World came on, mercifully in English this time. I have only been watching it out of the corner of my eye though as we saw it in our Quito hostel on a lazy evening last week. We’ve been on the bus for four hours already, but still have 1295 km to go – at least now we can say we have less than a day left!

...Hello Peru!
…Hello Peru!

Strangely, we appear to have just left Ecuador and crossed into Peru. I’m sure we have to go through some sort of immigration though – everybody off the bus! Fun times. At least they may provide us with dinner once we all get through, I’m beginning to get a bit hungry.

*

Toilet paranoia has set in; this is not a good sign. Immediately after getting off the bus I spotted and visited the baño for what turned out to be almost no reason.

Documents please.
Documents please.

Now I’m sat beside the bus, waiting for the remaining passengers to clear immigration and I’m wondering if I should go again. We’re also eyeing up the snack shop as although food should be arriving soon after we re-embark, there is, as ever, no guarantee. I think I may visit the loo to distract myself.

*
We’re back on the bus and moving. They’ve put the movie back on but turned the lights off. This does not bode well for getting fed.

*

A Brave New 'Packaged into far too many containers' World.
A Brave New ‘Packaged into far too many containers’ World.

They’ve backed us into a dodgy looking yard and closed two heavy metal gates in front of us. It’s the kind of set you’d expect to see in one of those Nicholas Cage movies; I would specify but they are all pretty much the same, aren’t they? As it happens, this is where we are to be presented with our dinner that looks like it has come dressed up for a Tupperware party in the eighties. It could be worse though; it is identifiable as beef with rice and vegetables. And the shortbread cookie for dessert was pure delight. 8:45pm – a good time to eat.

*
1258 km to go; movie number three has started and would you look at that, Nicholas Cage is the lead. I don’t know what it’s about, but he’ll probably steal some cars, speak in a gravelly monotone voice a lot and break out of a maximum security prison at some point.

*
It’s 10:17 pm – here comes movie number four. Inexplicably however, they’ve decided to screen something that is in neither Spanish not English but is subtitled in both. That’s it for me; Cage’s dubious moral dilemmas have worn me out, I’m tucking in for the night. Curtains ahead have closed out the view, Florence and the Machine’s stupendous Lungs is breezing into my ears to drown out the movie soundtrack. Hopefully when I wake up, we’ll be a lot further down the Panamericana.

*

The spottiest of all spot checks.
The spottiest of all spot checks.

10:23 pm – (yes, only six minutes later) we’ve stopped and the lights are back on; a bemusingly huge 1178 km from Lima. The movie is some kind of zombie apocalypse meets Gulliver’s Travels. Who comes up with this stuff? It turns out we have to get off again for a customs spot check – oh joy! It’ll only take a few minutes though and then we’ll all re-board the magical mystery tour. Just enough time for a pee.

*
Never do long bus ride maths, it’ll only make it worse. We’ve just arrived in Mancora – 368km from our start point in Guayaquil. It’s 11pm. 368/1.6 = 230 miles/9 hours = 25.5mph average speed. I could weep.

*

At least it's fairly direct.
At least it’s fairly direct.

After a few rounds of Florence and a brief Hotel California moment, I have gone back to the trance album. It’s now past midnight and I can’t sleep so I’m sitting with my reading light on finally getting into that book. Things are hotting up and I’m only on page 94 – I wonder where this will go. 1111 km to go.

*
8:23 am – I must have slept, although I don’t remember doing it. We’ve just been handed our breakfast. Plastic has been replaced by polystyrene as we are served a ham roll/cookie combo followed up with a lukewarm coffee. I’ll take it though; the reopened curtains reveal a dry and barren landscape, it doesn’t look like there is much water around here. There are also tuk-tuks on the road playing a game of life and death chicken with the buses and trucks lumbering around them. Have we taken the bus all the way back to India? An encouraging 561 km to go, good work Mr Driver, good work indeed!

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When did we drive into the desert?

*
Eva Cassidy’s Autumn Leaves soothes my brain as we drive ever further into the Peruvian desert. Huge sand dunes are rising up on either side of the road. They’ve put a comedy on now, in English starring Miranda Hart and Jason Statham – weird casting – but I’ve been getting further into my book so I’m basically ignoring it.

The contrast between the dry and irrigated earth is extreme – we even drove past some rice fields a little while back. It’s not the most ideal place to grow rice I’ve ever seen. Thinking of food has made me wonder about lunch, who knows what they have in store for us this time. It’s 12:44, we’re coming up to the 24 hour mark which actually seems to have flown by. Only 362km left.

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A refreshingly artificial (toxic?) looking beverage.

*
The Pacific Ocean just appeared out of nowhere to our right. I was too stunned to take a photo – plus I was eating lunch: chicken, rice, veg, and some sort of super sugary rice pudding. Not bad. The sight of the desert descending into the sea though … just fabulous. This is the sort of stuff you don’t get to see from a plane. Drinks have arrived – Coca cola or Inca cola. The Inca cola is yellow and tastes like Irn Bru. It’s an obvious choice surely? The map reads 320 km – 200 miles!

*
The bus rolls on. The road stretches out ahead, deserted. Hardly any traffic anywhere. 149 km left – you really wouldn’t know we’d been on this bus for almost 26 hours. It sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? But the scenery just drifts past, the movies play on and on, (I’ve lost count now) and the time ticks away quite happily. I’ve even managed to get the wifi working on my iPod so we’ve found a hostel to try when we arrive. Hopefully it’ll have a comfier bed than this seat! Having said there’s no traffic, we’ve just stopped at a set of traffic lights. The absolute definition unnecessary out here!

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Can you spot the ocean?

*
The shadows are stretching out across the road before us once more. Can it be time for the sun to set again already? We’ve also just descended an incredible section of the Panamericana which has been cut into the side of a giant sand dune. It snakes down, curving left and right, gradually dropping down to the sea below. I can’t believe it actually works; it looks like the entire road should just slide down the side of the dune into the ocean. 39km, not far now. My eyes are feeling heavy.

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So near yet so far…

*
10k to go, I could run it from here. Might be quicker with the state of Lima’s traffic. Oh, to be back on the open road with the pointless traffic lights! We’re also now running late, 45 minutes late so far. No big deal on a 28 hour ride I suppose – although it’s getting later and we still have to find somewhere to sleep. I feel a taxi ride coming on.

*
We made it. My toilet paranoia paid off leaving me able to avoid the ‘squeeze into a tiny toilet in a moving vehicle and try not to pee on your own feet’ scenario for the remainder of the trip. My biggest problem is that my lower spine appears to have set in one immovable position that has rendered me almost incapable of walking. If I could just … stand … up … maybe I could get out of here.

*
So that was it, 29 hours later, we were in a Lima taxi looking for accommodation. Not too bad really. I suppose the only problem is that we go again today at 2pm for another 21 hours. I may need a paramedic to get me out by the time we arrive!

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A pic from the start of the trip at the end of the blog, all smiles 🙂
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3 thoughts on “28 hours on a bus

  1. What a journey – I feel exhausted just reading it but it must have been amazing to cover that distance in one go. I certainly would share your toilet paranoia! Good luck for the next leg of this epic journey. We’ll be with you every minute of the way!! Love Mum xxx

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    1. Thanks Mum! Glad you liked it! I’m usually blogging about something that happened ages ago so I thought it would be interesting to write on the move. Ironically, I’m writing this comment in response from yet another bus! x

      Like

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