Friday, December 18, 2009

Catching the bus to Arequipa

Pounding footsteps, big backpacks and frantic askings of directions - it was a scene straight out of The Amazing Race as we tried finding our bus station with 10 minutes to spare before it left us behind in the dust and dirt of Lima.

We had begun the day with a search for a headphone splitter, an item that we predicted (rightly) would be immeasurably useful on the journey.  We wandered the streets for a shop and when we finally bought one (for the mean price of 3 US dollars), it was 3:30 and we had an hour to get halfway across Lima and catch our bus.  We flagged down a taxi and, in addition to our driver seeming confused about where our destination was, he promptly got a ticket for picking us up in a bus-only zone.  But it was all good - within minutes we were speeding along at 5 mph in the expressway traffic jam, between throngs of people trying to sell everything from ice cream to cowboy hats.

This is what rush-hour looks like in Lima.

We decided to pay our cabbie the 20 bucks for his ticket, and with 15 minutes to spare he dropped us off next to the bus station.  Or so we thought.  We looked around and quickly realized that we were still about a mile away from our destination.  What happened next is a testament to the effectiveness of Lima's bus system.  We approached a bus travelling in the correct general direction, yelled out the name of the street we wanted, and when he nodded yes, we got on.  We moved for what seemed like barely a minute before he told us we were there, and after a few more minutes of asking for directions in our pidgin (but seemingly intelligible) spanish we arrived at the station - only to find out that our bus got cancelled anyway!  But we got free tickets on a better, faster bus which left an hour later, so it worked out amazingly well in the end.  The new bus was an "Imperial class", which meant bigger seats, free meals and the finest in Cruz del Sur promotional video playing on the TV - not a bad deal for 16 bucks each.  And we had an hour to plan our next move while we waited:

Be sure to check out the timeline of the bus to Arequipa as well.

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