Overland travel is always my favourite mode of transport, not only because I hate flying, but because I love to see the countryside. In this case, the downside of Peru was the scenery along the coast. It just wasn’t as captivating as I would’ve hoped and reminded me a lot of driving through parts of Sudan
During my research on Peru I was amazed by the luxurious state in which we would be travelling. Cruz del Sur, I suppose, is the most popular long haul bus company in Peru and they also cover international destinations. It’s easy to buy tickets (we bought ours in a big grocery store) and get from place to place. The buses are super comfy (or perhaps I’ve been out of the game for a while?) with spacious reclining seats, cup holders, drinks and snacks served, two toilets, air conditioning and the roads are equally as smooth and comfortable. My goodness, what I would’ve done for such luxury when I was a teen on the road.
The bonus? It’s affordable. It cost us $100 for two people to travel 17 hours on three luxury buses. To put things into perspective, you can’t even get one person from Amsterdam to Paris (3.5 hrs) by train, I would say that’s pretty cheap. But you can always go the other way and compare it to South East Asia prices…
The seamless black strip of tarmac led us through extremely hostile terrain, through the mountains and along the coast. Despite the smooth road and luxury bus, the driving was just how I remembered it from most of my travels. Buses unafraid to pass other buses or highly flammable gas trucks on steep up hills or blind corners. Just a tad of danger to spice up life.
I might have to backpedal a little bit and say that it was beautiful in an eerie way, especially the misty, dark clouds that were slowly creeping down between the hills. The piles of sand pouring over the street were also quite special.
Ten hours later our bus arrived on schedule in Arequipa at 1am. The late arrival didn’t prevent us from leaping out of bed with the sun the next morning. We had limited time to discover Arequipa and book a tour to the Colca Canyon, the main reason we’d come.
There are a million (not literally!) taxis in every city in Peru, many of which are unofficial. We were constantly warned about taking unofficial taxies, though how can you tell? Of course, we have taken rides from locals who are just interested in making a few extra bucks, so weren’t too worried.
I suppose we both knew when we stepped in a young boy’s taxi in Ica with his BLARING music, that he probably wasn’t legit. In fact, thinking back, I wonder if he was even old enough to have a driver’s license.
This kid’s giant speakers were propped up on the back seat, completely blocking his rear window, blaring unnaturally loud and painfully in our ears, it was no surprise that we got pulled over by the police.
The poor kid was taken to the police station and we were asked to get out of his taxi. Naturally, we didn’t have to pay our false driver and the police officer stayed to hail us a new cab. We didn’t mind because we actually wanted to ride in a Peruvian tuk tuk, so I told the cop to get us one and asked what the right price was. That must’ve annoyed our new driver, unable to cheat the cop.
We were staying in a hotel close to the main square and instantly fell in love with the city. Despite being the second most populated city in Peru, it certainly didn’t feel like it once we got to the main centre. The crisp air and mountains encircling the old-colonial, Spanish style city made it an escape to a different era.
Stepping into Arequipa’s historical centre I realized we were unintentionally hitting a lot of UNESCO sites on our trip. It was no surprise that it made the list.
Old ladies and children accosted foreigners with their little lambs and hawks in the square in front of the Cathedral. Falling prey to a soft white lamb, I couldn’t help but grab one out of their arms.
The humble setting and fountain with families and children blowing bubbles and feeding the pigeons made it such a peaceful place to spend an afternoon.
We ate breakfast from the second story balcony in one of many restaurants with a perfect view of the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.
Afternoons were spent on the rooftop drinking water (keep hydrated!) and catching up on some work. It was definitely one of my better offices. I loved the slow walks, huffing and puffing, that we took around town. The detailed carvings, masterpieces called doors and the churches we just stumbled upon.
Dinners were spent with equally perfect views, this time the historic centre was lit by romantic orange lights.
Arequipa was the last place we were going to risk the altitude. It was our last test before flying to Chile. Since we didn’t have a plan for after Easter Island, and depending on how we did with the altitude, we would reconsider doing the rest of our original plan to Bolivia. The other option we were debating was going to Galapagos Islands, but we were waiting to see if we could (fingers crossed) get a sponsor with just one week’s notice. I knew it would be a slight miracle if we could arrange everything for a trip to Galapagos Islands (flights, hotel, tours) with such short notice.
- Getting a bus ticket is very easy in Peru. Don’t stress about pre-booking, unless of course you’re on a super tight schedule.
- I can normally read on extremely bumpy roads, but in this case, I felt nauseous on the bus because it was too smooth, the tinted windows and air conditioning gives it a stuffy feel. I took Gravol for this long ride and had no problem.
- You can pay a few bucks extra to have “First Class” seats, but from my experience, having tried both, I would pay NOT to be in “First Class”. The best seat by FAR is on the top at the very front. Brilliant. Or behind the stairwell on the second floor.
Categories: Savannah Grace